John's Reviews > Machine Man

Machine Man by Max Barry
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Oct 25, 14

did not like it
bookshelves: science-fiction, mediocre-science-fiction

Cyborgs are one of the most recognizable tropes of science fiction, enshrined in the public imagination in films like "Robocop" and in television series like the "Six Million Dollar Man". Any diehard Trekkie or Whovian may speak eloquently about Borg drones and metallic Cybermen; deadly foes, respectively, of Star Trek's Starfleet flagship USS Enterprise and the Time Lord Doctor Who. It is no wonder then that Max Barry has offered his own contribution, a fast-paced Cyborg love story, "Machine Man". But his is a trite contribution best suited for the cinematic multiplex big screen, reading more like an extended Hollywood screen treatment than as an artistically decent science fiction novel (Not surprisingly, the book boasts that a screen adaptation is underway with Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan") chosen as its film director; cinematic trivia which will no doubt warm the heart of Harry Knowles of Aintitcool.com.). It is a fast-paced, rather grotesque, take on the mad scientist/inventor trope, with its protagonist Charles Neumann as a representative example of a self-indulgent narcissist all too willing to "improve" his body by destroying limbs and replacing them with artificial ones of his own design. He soon finds a kindred spirit in prosthetist Lola Shanks, who, like Charles, is a cyborg too; neither one is as intriguing as legendary characters like Molly and Case in William Gibson's "Neuromancer", whose very character flaws are the key reasons why they are so compelling as protagonists. Barry opts all too often for morbid humor instead of character development, resulting in a tale best suited as a short skit on "Saturday Night Live" or "Monty Python". If there is anything truly redeeming in Barry's novel, then it should be seen as a sterling example of a science fiction novel written by someone unfamiliar with this genre's rich literary legacy, a missed opportunity in writing a genuine literary classic of a kind comparable to William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling or Michael Swanwick's greatest works.
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Martin Brochhaus Very well put! Exactly how I felt about the book!


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