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The Machine Stops

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,141 Ratings  ·  404 Reviews
"You talk as if a god had made the Machine," cried the other. "I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that."

E.M. Forster is best known for his exquisite novels, but these two affecting short stories brilliantly combine the fantastical with the allegorical. In 'The Machine Stops', humanity has isolated itself beneath the ground, enmes
Paperback, 83 pages
Published 2011 by Penguin Classics (first published 1909)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Feb 02, 2015 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
I don't suggest beginning to read this without first looking at the initial publication date. I was several pages in and scoffing at the oh-so-obvious-it-isn't-even-symbolism-symbolism when I decided to back-peddle and see just how old this story is. My cheeks flamed up a whee bit as I realized that The Machine Stops is just over a hundred years old. *foot placed firmly in mouth* A HUNDRED YEARS AGO Forster was discussing the cyber-age...a hundred years ago when the camera was some sort of madde ...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Sep 21, 2010 Joshua Nomen-Mutatio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, dystopic
Leonardo da Vinci famously anticipated the advent of helicopters, scuba gear, and automobiles, and had well-laid plans for primitive versions of these things.

(Da Vinci also used mirror writing in his notebooks.)

The revolutionary astronomer, Johannes Kepler, similarly wrote of the invention of rocket ships traveling outside of the Earth and this was in the 1620's. This can be found in his novella The Dream, which is a work that is widely regarded by literary scholars and historians as the first e
Apr 14, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first thoughts on finishing E.M. Forster’s brilliant novella The Machine Stops, is that I cannot believe he wrote and published this in 1909.

More of a chronological peer of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) than of modern day science fiction, this nonetheless is downright prophetic in its anticipation of a global dependence on technological communication and the ironic social isolation and alienation that results.

Forster, better known for his realistic and modernistic contemporary fiction s
Where would you be without the Internet? Can you imagine your life? Can you even remember a time before personal computers?

"The machine stops."

Disaster! What a thought! Did you breathe a sigh of relief when the Internet seemed to carry on as normal after the millennium date? That computer technology had not broken down because of bad programming after all? Surely there had been just that smidgen of a possibility...

The Machine Stops is a remarkably prescient science fiction short novella by E. M.
Richard Derus
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: The Machine Stops is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review (November 1909), the story was republished in Forster's The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928. After being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965, it was included that same year in the populist anthology Modern Short Stories. In 1973 it was also included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two. T
I was straightforwardly gobsmacked when I first read this story last year. Wow. Here is our world, described one hundred years before it happens. These are just a few samples that particularly appealed to me. I don’t want to give away the story and there are lots of other interesting ideas about the future, including, indeed, the idea of the idea that I will leave you to discover for yourselves,

"Who is it?" she called. Her voice was irritable, for she had been interrupted often since the music
Jun 09, 2014 Apatt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“You talk as if a god had made the Machine," cried the other. "I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but not everything.”
E.M. Forster could have been talking about Steve Jobs and iPhones!

I don't know how widely read The Machine Stops is but I think it ought to be required reading for all sci-fi aficionados. I don't know this for a fact but I suspect it is very influential; I can see echoes of it in sci-fi
First published in 1909, this science-fiction novella by Forster is a futuristic, dystopian view of society controlled by a machine. Everyone lives underground, the Earths surface no longer habitable, and everything is interconnected by something that sounds like our computers and Internet of today. Forster is trying to tell us not to become to dependent on technology. I imagine he would be shocked at the "progress" we've made in 100 years.
Dec 26, 2015 Vivian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Written and first published in 1909, it is a slow, but prescient view of the future. So much is today, some whispers of what will be present in Brave New World, and some it yet to come.

"I want to see you not through the Machine," said Kuno. "I want to speak to you not through the wearisome Machine."

Can be read for FREE HERE
Written in 1909, as I read this I couldn't help but thinking of the recent texting fad.

Even more horrifying than Bradbury's TV room in Fahrenheit 451, people live in their own room in a hive. They connect only through something very much like the Internet & are tended by The Machine. What incredible insight Forster had! Let's hope he's wrong.
4.0 to 4.5 stars. A classic, haunting short story (more like a novella) written in 1909. The story concerns a world in which humanity (long ago) lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth (through War, disease, etc.). Now each person lives in almost complete "isolation" below ground in a "cell" where all their needs are taken care of by "the Machine." The Machine is an advanced computer created by humans in the distant past to assist mankind and on which mankind continued to rely on mo ...more
Dec 05, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine a world -- one that could have been created by H.G. Wells -- in which people live under the earth in comfortable caves in which everything, from food to air to entertainment to sleep, is controlled by a vast machine:
Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the m
Lorena Rabelo
Dec 26, 2012 Lorena Rabelo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Seriously, wow. I have to admit I would never have picked this book myself, for I had never even heard about it. I had to read it for an English Literature test this week, and I’m really glad I did, because the book is impressive. I will not say it is a literary masterpiece, artistically speaking, but in terms of creativity and predictive ability it is huge.

The first thing you need to know is that this book was written in 1909. It takes place in a future era in which people will live almost
Aug 04, 2014 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing story of a near-future civilization, living below ground and connected by a vast network of video and audio. The people inhabit their own cells, rarely leaving these rooms. Their every need is met by The Machine. Anything they require, they just ask The Machine and it is provided. All forms of communication are through The Machine and all social interaction is through The Machine.

Wow, this story was written in 1909. What is scary is that this civilization somewhat resembles ou
Jul 19, 2010 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All dystopia fans!
It's Ur-steampunk! Can you still call a story steampunk when it was written in 1909?

I just about fell over backwards when I found out this morning that E.M. Forster (Room With A View, Howard's End, Passage To India) wrote a short dystopic story in 1909. Must. Read. Now. Luckily this story is available for free all over the internet, such as here:

Forster does an amazing job imagining an automated, mechanical future. He describes mass-market airships, even thoug
Petar X
May 05, 2015 Petar X rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
Prototype dystopia story that, after a hundred years, reads as freshly, as prescient as anything that has come since.
Jan 11, 2012 J K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

How can a book from 1909 be so accurate about the way we live our lives today? OK, so we aren't all trapped willingly in little cells isolated from the outside world and relying on a faceless machine of take care of our every need while we spout our opinions to the world from a screen...not ALL of us. Enough of us for this to feel very odd indeed.

Thanks to this uncanny accuracy in predicting the future, this is easily the most chilling dystopian future story I've read
This comes out of the same place as both Wells' The Time Machine and Wall-e: technology will enable people to become apathetic slugs, and boring as all hell. The structure of the story means there's no need to ever explain how this world is supposed to work (what does the Machine need all these people for?) It's interesting that Forster could imagine a world where women could pursue the life of the mind unimpeded by the demands of family, but not one in which people would touch for the sheer ani ...more
An interesting read quite different from Forster's other books. It speaks of a time when humanity isolates itself from physical contact with others. Communication is conducted through technology and that is how ideas are spread. People rarely travel as everywhere is the same. But among the bleak landscape there are glimmers of hope as some humans still strive for direct contact and to reconnect with the real world. My experience of the book was diminished slightly by the bad editing of this edit ...more
Dec 06, 2012 Misha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a deep and abiding love for Forster's novels about Edwardian societal mores and class struggles, and also having a deep and abiding love for science fiction I just about wet myself when I went looking for public domain ebook versions of A Room with a View and Howards End a few weeks ago and discovered Forster had written a science fiction novella (I'm not sure at 40 pages this quite qualifies even as a novella, but it was offered as a standalone work so it seems odd to describe it as a sh ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
A science ficton short story written by E.M. Foster in 1909. This tells the tale of a world where most of the population can no longer live at the surface and each individual dwells in a 'cell' below the Earth. Here all needs are met via 'the Machine'...
As the tale progresses the machine begins to mal-function...

The protagonists of the tale are Vashti and her son Kuno.
Nov 03, 2015 Ariya rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars, read-in-2015
E.M. Forster is my literary crush (obviously) that I could buy the printed Penguin Classics edition without a second thought even the edition contains only two short stories that only serves me as the appetite.

The first one is the title of the book; The Machine Stops. I read quite a while ago on the bus and became engrossed so easily. The setting is in the not-faraway future when humans merely interact through the machine which is predictably being corrupted against their creator. The concept i
Mar 12, 2015 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
This is utterly terrifying. It's chilling how incisively Forster foretells so many aspects of modern life - also further proof (not that I needed any) what a genius the man was... although this is rather different from anything else I've read by him! I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Renee M
Jan 26, 2015 Renee M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great granddad of The Matrix.
Forster's story predicts many aspects of our modern lifestyle. Delightfully readable. A scifi gem before it's time.
Viji Sarath (Bookish endeavors)
Frightfully predictive..

This novella is about a future society in which man has become completely dependent on machines. They are so disinterested in sensual perceptions that even the touch of other human beings seem irritating to them. Man is satisfied with the satisfaction of his basic needs,and that is provided by a universal,omnipotent machine. Everything is available in the flip of a switch,starting from seeing and talking to relatives and friends, and bed and bathtub. There is a constant h
Aug 13, 2010 Manny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
After I'd read A Rebours last week, it occurred to me to wonder whether this well-known novella was yet another piece that linked to it. The main theme in Huysmans's book is the superiority of the artificial: the engagingly mad des Esseintes tries to construct an entirely artificial world to live in, and constantly explains how much better it is than the real one. For example, steam locomotives are much sexier than women.

Huysmans's presentation is completely deadpan, so it's difficult to know
Sep 25, 2012 Gavin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an incredible, incredible allegory. Articulate, succinct, but most of all, eye-opening to a (literally) frightening degree. We, the reader, start by feeling sorry for Vashti, a future human with a body like "white pap" living in her own room in a subterranean honeycomb of luxurious isolation with every need instantly met by the push of a button. This system is called the Machine. The exchange of lectures and ideas through an Internet-like communication web (keep in mind this was written in ...more
Mallory Heart Reviews
Mar 25, 2012 Mallory Heart Reviews rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dystopian, Historical Science Fiction
Shelves: march-2012-reads
A saddening and melancholic tale of a all-too-possible dystopian future, of a world where all life is lived underground, below the surface of the Earth; where human contact is mostly confined to forms of video and audio communication; and where parents’ role in child-rearing ends at the moment of birth. Children are raised in “public nurseries” and later assigned living quarters, anywhere in the globe (as long as it’s underground). The protagonist, Vashti-whom I hesitate to call “protagonist” be ...more
Dec 17, 2015 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dystopian vision of the future, in The Machine Stops Vashti lives a normal life, for the future. She watches lectures all day, never touches another human being, and never leaves her room. Everything she needs is immediately brought to her by the machine, thus eliminating the need to ever leave home. When her son asks her to come visit him (via a 1900 version of the cell phone), she refuses, but eventually she overcomes her fear of leaving to visit her favorite child. After that, everything sh ...more
At first glance, this seems like pretty standard Golden Age or Cold War era fare.

Civilization has been driven underground by some sort of apocalyptic event, people communicate solely through videophone and video conference, and their whims are catered to by an impersonal Machine that (benevolently?) arranges every aspect of their lives - as long as their whims are identical to those of every other human on earth.

Sounds about average cold war era writing...
Except this was written in 1909!
Long b
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Edward Morgan Forster, generally published as E.M. Forster, was an novelist, essayist, and short story writer. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. His humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End: "Only connect".

He had five
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“You talk as if a god had made the Machine," cried the other. "I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but not everything.” 14 likes
“Few travelled in these days, for, thanks to the advance of science, the earth was exactly alike all over. Rapid intercourse, from which the previous civilization had hoped so much, had ended by defeating itself. What was the good of going to Peking when it was just like Shrewsbury? Why return to Shrewsbury when it would all be like Peking? Men seldom moved their bodies; all unrest was concentrated in the soul.” 7 likes
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