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Sofia and the Utopia Machine

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3.72  ·  Rating details ·  58 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Shortlisted for the 2017 Epigram Books Fiction Prize

“A bold and fantastical work that posits a new cosmology within which a science-fictional vision of Singapore is rendered in dystopian terms. It’s a work that would sit perfectly on any Young Adult speculative fiction shelf, with its fast-paced and childlike sense of adventure.” –Cyril Wong, author of The Last Lesson of
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Paperback, 344 pages
Published May 2018 by Epigram Books
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  58 ratings  ·  20 reviews


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Crispin Rodrigues
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Just completed Judith Huang's amazing novel, Sofia and the Utopia Machine. In most speculative fiction, the world-building is done within the author's mind, but in this world-within-a-world, Huang lays it all on the table in the most meta way possible. With references ranging from The Bible to Paradise Lost to Nineteen-Eighty-Four and even philosophers like Socrates, Aquinas and Descartes, she shows how stories form the foundations of our culture and give us significance. It is a YA novel in its ...more
J a u
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow, “Sofia and the Utopia Machine” just blew me away. Never did I imagine I’d read science-fiction woven into Singapore lore. There are passages in this book which reminds me that the pen is mightier than the sword. You can be an activist too without taking to the streets. This book made me laugh, cry and pump my fist figuratively going... “Yah lor!” My wish is for many people in Singapore especially young adults to read this book and to keep asking questions and challenging the Singapore myth. ...more
Joséphine (Word Revel)
November 20, 2018

Full book review is now up on Word Revel.

_________

September 19, 2018

Actual rating: 2.5 stars

Initial thoughts: Sofia and the Utopia Machine fills an important space in Singapore literature not only as a young adult book but as science fiction. Set in future Singapore, the culture and places are familiar, making it easy for locals to relate to. When I was still in secondary school, I wasn't interested in Singapore literature precisely because it was geared at adults. That's why I
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Jay
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sofia and the Utopia Machine is an accessible book for readers of all ages - older readers will pay greater attention to the parallels Sofia's world has with current day Singapore, while younger readers will be enthralled by the fantasy world which the story sets itself in. What all readers should pay attention to, however, is a letter in the book, exhorting Singaporeans to step out of their comfortable yet soulless existence to question the social contract citizens have with their rulers. It is ...more
Annabelle
Jan 19, 2019 rated it did not like it
Starting off, Sofia and The Utopia Machine had a really nice premise. Time has turned Singapore into a dystopia, and the middle-class Sofia must team up with the upper-class Julian to put things to rights.
Everything goes downhill from there.
For one, nobody in this novel is capable of keeping secrets. Everything from a clandestine project hidden for a decade to a mysterious heritage that must be kept hidden at all costs is revealed the instant Sofia asks.
The relationships make absolutely no
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Liana Christensen
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sofia and the Utopia Machine is an engaging and courageous tale (or tales, actually) from a born storyteller. From the microcosmic to the macrocosmic this nested set of stories tackles the big themes with gusto. It does not draw back from penetrating political commentary, yet also contains scenes of dreamy lyricism. A wonderful read for young adults who are curious to extend their horizons and pursue the deeper philosophical questions. I particularly like the insights it offers into a culture ...more
WF
This book has the flaws of most first novels - the slight awkwardnesses of a new though talented voice, with shades and echoes of established stories and authors, and a few small inconsistencies and rough patches. Having said that, this is certainly a young adult novel with big ideas and philosophical depth, told with a lot of charm and with promise of more delightful revelations in sequels.
Avery
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author has a way with words and is able to weave a riveting tale that makes this albeit a first novel a page-turner. The on-world and off-world accounts ala a parallel universe is finally resolved and it all makes sense eventually. Can't wait for her next book.
Berean
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Captivating and intriguing scifi. Believable. Great read
aqilahreads
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
i was lucky enough to get my hands on this book & honestly this is my first sci-fi YA read that was set in a singapore context! at first, it was kind of weird to read but along the way, i found myself starting to get more and more used to it. the story itself is split into 4 parts and some chapters are more interesting to read compared to the rest. overall, i felt that the flow of story could be improved but nevertheless, i still enjoyed it. really a great job done!
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Vic
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fresh perspective on the Science fiction genre, with an interesting retelling of South East Asian myths. A great showing on how a futurist South East Asia might look too.
Letitia
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Girl geeks and their daughters
Khin WT
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sofia’s dad, Peter, disappeared 7 years ago and neither she nor her mother Clare ever knew where he went. Sofia, girl living in a Mid-Level flat, meets Julian (a boy from the Canopies) online, and he tells her about the Utopia Machine. The machine piques her curiosity and she sneaks into her mother’s lab in Biopolis, and ends up activating the Utopia Machine, which brings her into a parallel universe in which she gets to play Goddess and shape it to her will. But activating the machine also ...more
Sharmilla
Mar 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This book has an interesting premise but appears lacking in the delivery of said premise. There are several pages full of lucid, insightful prose carrying underlying social and political commentary about Singapore’s questionable democracy, but beyond these, the reader is left alone in contemplating the full repercussions of the Evil Government that the book describes. The story itself starts off well but soon appears to be driven by the sheer, unrealistic luck of the protagonist and the people ...more
Hengky Tay
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joelyn Alexandra
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 100seasff
Torn between two worlds, Sofia discovers a whole new galaxy, as well as inconvenient truths about her past. When her mother runs into trouble, she realizes that she has to stand up and fight - in this world, her created world, and herself.

Weaving Sofia's mind and her reality (already an alternate version of the Singapore many Singaporeans know today) was a clever way to weave different styles of writing together. Despite this, it is still easy to keep to the story, the injected Sofiaverse lore
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Kes
I enjoyed the worldbuilding for this book - the future-tech version of Singapore. I loved the density of civilisation and the high-rise elements, while maintaining the Singaporean flavour / elements to the novel.

Sofia lives in the Midlevel; her father disappeared one day and her mother works in Biopolis. She decides to explore her mother's office, and thereafter has to flee to the Voids.

I quite liked how whimsical this book was, and I really enjoyed the Singaporean element.
Natalie Wang
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, sglitftw
I want to shove this wonderful Young Adult novel to every "precious" Singaporean child who thinks they're edgy just because they know how to rant about how awful the gahment is. The insights about political legitimacy, class stratification, and the very Singaporean belief in meritocracy is all beautiful articulated here in a believably futuristic Singapore.
Judith Huang
Aug 03, 2018 is currently reading it  ·  (Review from the author)
"What she allows to bloom in these pages is that sense of wonder so lacking in our prosaic, pragmatic lives. It is something worth holding on to, as we ponder how best we can, through our choices, make space for others in our society." - Olivia Ho, Straits Times (full review: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyl...)

"An impeccable local fable of authoritarian unimaginativeness....If indeed the beginning was the Word, the prime mover of this novel is a skillful wordsmith. Here, the prose bounds
...more
Tanvi
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sofia and the Utopia Machine is a great book to read. But it can be very confusing to understand. The text structure makes it confusing to read, but if you think you are reading for this challenge you can. In my opinion, it was a challenging book for me. It took me some time to understand the plot of the book. Otherwise, the author Judith Huang uses very good description skills. This helps you get a deeper understanding of the book. Overall, it is a very interesting book.
Isabell Chew
rated it it was ok
Jan 23, 2019
J Chong
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Jan 04, 2019
Douglas
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Jun 30, 2018
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Feb 19, 2019
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Judith Huang is a Singaporean writer, translator and editor. Her first novel, Sofia and the Utopia Machine, was shortlisted for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2017 and is available now. Named a Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2001, 2003 and 2004, her writing has been published in journals including Prairie Schooner, Asia Literary Review, QLRS, Asian Cha, Loreli, Ceriph, LONTAR, Spittoon, Stylus, ...more
“Upon you will be founded a city, a city past compare in riches and marvels and beauty,” she said. “But first, you must lose yourself, riding on the waves of seven oceans. Only at your journey’s end will you come to rest, and only then will the city rise. It will be a city of eternal summer, a land of surpassing beauty. Indeed, it will come to be known as the city of the gods.”

“Where must I journey? Where should I go?” asked the fisherman, staring in awe at her radiant beauty.

“Before, between, and beyond. Tomorrow night, take your boat and sail towards the rising moon,” she replied. “And you will find your destiny.”
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“The problem is, we really are an island. And the truth is, we really have been marooned. And to compound it all, that old myth is true: we really are sinking, just not in the way we've always been led to believe.” 1 likes
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