Lauren Molyneux curls up with a good book to review one of the latest best sellers
Machines Like Me
In an alternative past, Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles for power against Tony Benn, and Alan Turing has achieved a significant breakthrough in the development of artificial intelligence.
During the political fallout of an alternative 1980s Britain, Charlie finds himself drifting through life, avoiding full-time employment and falling in love with the girl in the flat above his, Miranda. When Charlie eventually comes into some money, he decides to purchase Adam – the most sophisticated synthetic human on the market.
Together, Charlie and Miranda build Adam’s personality and shape him into what they believe to be the perfect human. He is aesthetically beautiful, clever, strong, brave and moral, with some genuinely interesting insights into human nature, politics, science, literature and ‘life’.
With Adam acting as surrogate son, filling the space in their relationship and bringing Charlie and Miranda ultimately closer together, it isn’t long before the complex dynamics within the group begin to shift. When terrifying secrets from the past begin to crop up and a complicated love triangle develops, Charlie, Miranda and Adam are put under strain to confront a profound moral dilemma.
Wonderfully entertaining with the perfect balance of light and dark, Machines Like Me is a refreshing piece of subversive literature. At times humorous, at others ominous, the novel explores a wide range of concepts, from the broadly philosophical to the everyday human.
Riddled with an acute sense of the uncanny, Machines Like Me tells the story of Adam as seen through Charlie’s eyes. Toying with readers’ attitudes towards technological advancement and artificial intelligence by embodying such systems in a form that is so convincingly human, the end result of Adam progresses to become something that is wildly unsettling due to its familiarity. As Charlie learns to confront and explore his own attitudes towards ideas of sentience and consciousness, it’s difficult for readers not to put themselves to the same challenge.
Raising questions for the contemporary mind and presenting modern-day anxieties and complexities under the framework of a fictional narrative that is set in the past, McEwan’s new novel is a must-read for all who are obsessed with dystopian literature and science fiction, and the perfect book to read now that we’ve reached the spooky season. Far from tales of vampires, witches and goblins, McEwan’s ‘monster’ instils fear due to the assumption that, following the technological developments of the last two decades, its production could be underway before our time on this planet is up.