Kris's Reviews > Machine Man

Machine Man by Max Barry
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Sep 18, 12

Read from September 11 to 18, 2012

Barry's nondescript, over-starched prose does him some justice for the first time in his novels. In choosing a robot for a narrator, the detached prose helps to flesh out the character which he never seems to bother with in most of his stories. With Jennifer Gov't and Syrup, the lack of detail and narration makes for poor world building and the stories read like screenplays chalk full of dialogue leaving the reader feeling cheated of development. This doesn't make for an awful story and I don't necessarily feel it's poor writing, but the style is so minimalist it comes off lazy.

In the same respect, the objectivity and impassiveness of the protagonist makes for an uninspired read. Neumann is not an engineer, he is a stereotype as are all of Barry's characters and for that these novels fall short of their potential. To prove his point, Barry pushed Neumann's character traits to the extreme but the novel could have used some deliberation and human touch at least in the beginning. No, it is not necessary to make the reader sympathize with the protagonist to write an enjoyable story nor is it necessary to make a protagonist endearing (although it sometimes makes for a relatable story) . Ignatius Reilly of Confederacy of Dunces is a severely repulsive narrator, and that story is still fantastic. With Barry's Charlie though, I could not help feeling like Barry truly wanted us to sympathize with the tech-obsessed, aloof manner in which he lived. In that respect this story fell flat. Being so detached with maybe one or two flashes of true humanity throughout, the character felt flat drawing absolutely zero sympathy from the reader (and I'm an aerospace engineer) which bums me out because I keep reading Barry's novel and thinking this guy's got spark and story, so flesh out the characters.

Barry's got ideas but his ideas seem to suit Hollywood and I do believe he would make a decent screenwriter. This book was just average though.
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