A Review of: Machines Like Me, by Ian McEwan

Our main character, Charlie, is the narrator of this story. Which takes place in the 1980’s in an alternate reality, where technology is then more advanced in some ways than we are now… you just have to roll with it, in the story. It’s unsettling, in that it’s different, but the same. So it’s as if your brain just can’t get on board, because it’s not so different , like sci fi often is – to just accept and roll with. Hard to keep in-line, the changes.

I just read the book blurb for the story, and about all the authors successes… I’m a little surprised. I have never read anything from this author before, or heard of Ian McEwan. [Not that that is an indication or anything at all – but being a prolific reader, It surprised me.] So when I read this book, I had no preconceived notions, or expectations. Which, is good, because it fell pretty flat for me, and based on what I now know – would/could have been a huge disappointment [as it appears it was for many.] Continuing, I had a hard time completing the read of this book. It was written in a voice that was so bland and boring I was quite put-off. I just kept hoping it would take a twist, improve…it did not.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Beyond that, we spend the majority of our time with Charlie. Who by all counts is painfully pathetic. Let’s just listen to him whine for hundreds of pages, shall we? He has no job, no prospects, no interests, no plans, no goals. He randomly decided he’s in love with the person who live next to him; and it kind of feels like… because she’s the only person he sees so that’s that. He pretty much spends the first several chapters saying how he thinks of her as a friend, he’s 20 years older, it would be creepy to think of her that way, etc etc. Then: OMG I love her! 

Charlies personality is utterly pathetic. Not a good main character – way to tank a story… And his tone is all whine, I’m so pathetic: all the time. 

Then there’s the girl. Miranda. She’s written so shallowly, flat, and empty, it’s like a cardboard cutout. She’s standoffish, could take him or leave him. Absorbed in her own mind, school. But as soon as he is in love with her, she falls in to bed with him. How convenient. But it’s like she’s a hollow figure, acting only in response to Charlies’ wishes. Very, very, boring indeed. Has this author ever known a woman, I wonder? 

I actually spent a fair amount of time wondering if Miranda, in a twist, would turn out to be an AI. But nope. Or all the Humans were AI an the AI the human!?! That would have explained a lot!. But again: Nope.

Then there’s our AI robot, that Charlie buys – one of the first of its kind – because he inherited money from the death of a parent. Which he seems to feel nothing about, it’s a blip – a plot device to put the money at his disposal. Enter Adam [And ugh, REALLY?!?! ADAM and EVE?? Groannnnnnnnn]. The most interesting character in the story. But still so, so, so, lacking. Adam is the only reason I kept reading until the end. However, I found the actually story to be so flat, and weak. Like, really? That’s the story you wanted to tell? I thought it was about an AI. But really it was about Miranda’s childhood friend being raped, and committing suicide, and her revenge. But like a sidequest that’s hardly mentioned … Wait, what? Exactly. 

Adam, is one of 25 AI’s. The firsts. So much potential. He arrives powered down. Must be charged. Like a child, after waking; he’s afraid that removing the charging cord will hurt the first time. His personality is then chosen in a computer app – whatever you want! But then they tell us in the same breath that it really didn’t matter what the owners chose, because they’re intelligent, and learn, and grow. So much so, most quickly learn to ‘disable’ their ‘kill’ switches. … Mkay. But we shall go with it… 

Charlie, our pathetic main man, gets jealous of Adam [because he’s that pathetic]… and in turn more or less ignores him for a long time [weeks? Months?]. Adam is left to his own, dejected, ignored, even abused in that sense – as he is being denied the ability to learn, grow, interact. And we’re given to believe that the AI is much like a human in the need for interaction, connection, intimacy of relationships. [Not that kind; though they can , if you want them to. Because yeah, the male author had to go there.] < HARD EYEROLLS >

Anyway – I really wanted Adam to have this great story arc, and character arc – since he was the only being in the book that made it worth reading – but he didn’t. He was used as a tool by Charlie. 

I do not recommend this book, it’s boring, lacking lustre, direction, and arc. The characters are flat, and there is no desire to connect with them, to care about their journey. 

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