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Tell the Machine Goodnight

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  3,535 ratings  ·  571 reviews
Smart and inventive, an emotional page-turner that considers the elusive definition of happiness.

Pearl's job is to make people happy. Every day, she provides customers with personalized recommendations for greater contentment. She's good at her job, her office manager tells her, successful. But how does one measure an emotion?

Meanwhile, there's Pearl's teenage son,
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published June 19th 2018 by Riverhead Books
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Kate Anderson I think these are all unnamed characters, vignettes of the people whose Apricity test results Elliot appropriated.
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Average rating 3.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,535 ratings  ·  571 reviews

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May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc

It feels so good to have enjoyed a novel so fully that I read it in a day and a half. What had me so keen on the premise ofTell the Machine Goodnight is a) the fact that the synopsis "playfully illuminates our national obsession with positive psychology, our reliance on quick fixes and technology" and b) Gabrielle Zevin, one of my favorite authors who excels with hersubtle little quips on our daily lives, blurbed it.

Pearl's job is to make people happy. Every day, she provides customers with
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt like this book piqued my interest but had no point. It was a masturbatory exercise that I enjoyed initially and thought was going somewhere but really had no point or purpose. I like my stories to make a statement, not just introduce me to cool words and unexplored concepts. I did give it a three, however, because I did enjoy a good amount of it and it is well written. The ending, however, was unsatisfying and then made me question why I had read it in the first place.
Jessica Sullivan
I really love speculative fiction, so this was right up my alley. Imagine if there were a machine that could tell you exactly what you needed to do to be happier. Pearl works for the creators of Apricity, a device that does exactly that, and spends her days providing people with this coveted advice.

Tell the Machine Goodnight is about Pearl and the people who are part of her life: her son, Rhett, who suffers from anorexia and stubbornly embraces his melancholy; her boss, Carter, who manipulates
Jul 02, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Multiple narrators, pointless detail, unlikeable characters, and a unsatisfying ending all added up to a waste of my time and made me grumpy. :-(
Aug 17, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Half star to one star rating.

Started out with some possibility of promise and then went downhill quickly from there. Characters unlikeable. The Story was rather boring and not exciting at all. The premise was how much control do we have over our own happiness and what if we could be pushed to achieve it by technology? The concept sounded intriguing but the execution fell flat.

In a future time, people will find happiness through a machine; a system. The main character, Pearl, is a happiness
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Eh. I get what this book was trying to do, but it was a little too “avant-garde” for me. Everything about this book had a sort of vibe. It was sort of a futuristic. It was sort of funny. It was sort of sad. It was definitely a commentary on our times. I sort of got it, until I didn’t.
The first blurb I've written in a while:

"Tell the Machine Goodnight is philosophical, funny, cleverly structured, unpredictable. The characters are recognizably humans, but not ones I have met before; the world-building is creative and completely convincing. I doubt I will ever read another novel with a more moving trip up a VR mountain."
I have no idea what the plot was.
The changing POV's and the half truths revealed were confusing.
It felt like I was reading modern philosophy rather than a story.
So why did I give it 4 stars?
I still have no idea.
The writing is amazing even if it doesn't make any sense.
J.C. Ahmed
Before reading this book, I expected a Utopian type story along the lines of Brave New World. It is interesting and thought-provoking at times, but the lack of a plot and the unsatisfying ending left me disappointed. It's a great plot idea. I wish there had been an actual plot.
Jessica Woodbury
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: speculative
Blew through this in a day, I love a thoughtful, character-focused speculative novel and this was right on target.

The hook of the story is the Apricity machine, and when you write a speculative novel that's set in the near future based on a concept that the reader just has to accept you're walking a fine line. Sometimes the reader still has too many questions about the concept and the world and how it all works. But Williams has thought this all the way through, she presents so many different
switterbug (Betsey)
What if you could turn happiness into a consumer product? What if a machine could tell you simple instructions to achieve it? “Eat tangerines,” “Arrange fresh flowers,” “Write poetry.” What if the pursuit of happiness became a guarantee? This theme is explored in Katie Williams’ debut novel, which takes place in 2035. The response from the public, surprisingly, is not unanimous. Sure, there are many individuals clamoring to buy happiness (if they can afford it), but there are people who are ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff
Glimpses into interconnected lives touched by the Apricity machine, which can read your DNA from a cheek swab and give you three recommendations that will make you happy.

On a sentence-by-sentence level, this is very nicely written, with a lot of clever turns of phrase and insightful descriptions of characters.

The jacket calls these characters 'endearing,' but Rhett and Val and Calla were the only ones that I wouldn't have happily thrown off a roof. It's deeply unpleasant to spend time in the
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing but ultimately disappointing and unsatisfying.
Jen from Quebec :0)
I thought this book was unique and awesome. My ISBN says that this is the hardcover edition, but it is actually an ARC that I won in a giveaway, and it is one of those rare giveaway wins that I will treasure + keep + sing praises about! *I will return to this post to sing the praises at a later date, as I am currently playing an Audiobook atm and simply cannot listen to one story whilst writing about a different story at the same time! Suffice to say for now though, that if you were on the fence ...more
Jacob Folkman
Starts strong with interesting characters and what one would think will become an intriguing plot premise, but then fails to ever properly develop. Meanders to an uneventful end.
Uriel Perez
Literary sci-fi/speculative fiction intrigues me, especially when it draws comparisons to episodes of Black Mirror and the Twilight Zone. TELL THE MACHINE GOODNIGHT revolves around a device (called an Apricity) fabricated to deliver “contentment plans” for users, ensuring enduring satisfaction and lifelong joy for those who adhere to the plan. At the center of the drama is Pearl, a technician for the company that administers the Apricity tests, and her son Rhett, a misfit teen hellbent on ...more
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This would’ve worked better as short stories I think. None of the plot lines really moved anywhere and the characters didn’t have much depth. Didn’t get much out of it and wasn’t particularly fun to read even though the premise was interesting enough.
May 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalleys
3.75 stars

This review is based on an ARC of Tell the Machine Goodnight which I received courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher (Penguin -- Riverhead).

It seems to me that the new novel trend is to write a book with seemingly no purpose, no real plot, and no real point. At least this has been the case with the last few new books I've read, and that seems to be the case as well with Tell the Machine Goodnight. Now, saying this does make me hypocritical, since I always think to myself how I would
Alex (PaperbackPiano)
This was a well-written and entertaining literary debut. I love a good dystopian future story so I was immediately captured by the premise of this one (it reads in a similar vein to 1984 and Brave New World but also feels more relevant to our current social climate). Drawing upon the current 'trend' in being mindful and taking whatever steps we can to be happy, this book takes a very intelligent concept and builds a compelling story around it. I was genuinely fascinated from start to finish.

May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Tell the Machine Goodnight was like one major thought experiment. I adored the multiple perspectives of this book, not only because we were able to see the story from varying points of view, but also because each of them tell a new story. They add to the world, they add to the themes of family and relationships, and they are wonderful to read.

full review:
“Tell The Machine Goodnight” is a pleasant tale that has the reader meditating over happiness. The protagonist, Pearl is a technician for the Apricity Corporation, and her job is to provide people with what they must do to be happy. This is a part science fiction in that the story takes place in 2035 and what Pearl uses is a small box that takes DNA from the subject and provides the answers in quick succession. Pearl’s job is to collect the sample and talk the subject through the results. And ...more
A smart, savvy, and funny novel about our culture's obsession with technology and happiness. Pearl's job is to run the Apricity, which doles out the steps one needs to take in order to become happy. Some of those steps are bizarre -- wear a velvet suit, cut off the tip of your right index finger -- while others are pretty benign -- write poetry. Then there are those who get advice which is so startling, it comes without a real list of steps to take. Pearl's son Rhett falls into this last ...more
Kim Lockhart
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took a little while to grab my full attention, but it really took off about halfway through. The author makes some very funny and poignant observations about the messiness of real life.

What I didn't like: careening ping pong use of multiple voice changes: third person omniscient, first person, and third person limited. It was distracting.

What I did like: there was very little emphasis on the speculated future reliance on machine-directed decision making. The major takeaway is that
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was a little hard for me to get into. There are multiple characters, all looking for some sort of happiness, and as long as the focus stayed with Pearl or Rhett, her son, I was focussed on the narrative. As soon as the author took me inside some of the supporting characters' lives, my interest diminished. What was clear throughout the story was everyone was searching for something, a recipe, a process, anything, to give their lives meaning and happiness. The use of a little gadget to ...more
James Balasalle
3+ stars. To be honest I wasn't super psyched about reading this one, but that changed in the first few pages. It was different, interesting, and not a little weird. I thought it ran a pretty wide emotional gamut: at times funny, poignant, surprising, bizarre, and even a little... I don't know. Difficult to categorize, for sure. Quick read, lots of discussion points.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I really enjoyed this book. I loved how all the stories were connected and how philosophical it was. This is a super intriguing read.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lots to ponder on this one. Like previous literary fiction I’ve read, I learn plenty of trivial information or bits that I pace been curious about but never pursued. This one involves pop psychology, linguistics, with a dash of pop culture. Pearl is an employee for a company that Invented a machine that can tailor happiness recommendations using a person’s DNA (I picture the device looking like those portable printer type). This novel has multiple perspectives with an interesting cast of ...more
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! It had an original story and lovable, relatable, realistic characters. While some of the reviewers have said the message isn't a particularly strong one, it hit me pretty hard at the end. I thought it was lovely the way it did hit me, because it was more like a "DUH!" and then a bit of feeling like crying because it should be SO obvious, but everything is so chaotic and messy that we forget. I say "Read it!" and I'll cross my fingers it hits you like it did me, cuz it'll make ...more
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Williams' novel is simply put both weird and wonderful. It's set in the near future and is centered around a machine that can give people specific recommendations to make them happier (oh if only this existed!). Although the book is separated into chapters, it actually felt more like linked short stories to me. I loved the odd characters and Williams' writing style is unique and captivating. I'm surprised this one hasn't gotten more love - I'm obsessed with the magical realism tone!
Aug 02, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Hard work. The story starts out ok, then branches out and loses focus. Uses that device where you have to work to figure out who is narrating various chapters - hasn't that been done to death? Story about Val seems a completely unnecessary diversion. Deeply unsatisfying read.
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Katie Williams was born and raised in mid-Michigan. She earned her BA in English from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and her MFA in creative writing from the Michener Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Katie is the author of The Space Between Trees (2010, Chronicle Books), Absent (2013, Chronicle Books), and Tell the Machine Goodnight (2018, Riverhead Books).

“In this overcrowded, underwhelming world, any gesture, no matter how slight, expressing that one person recognizes another person is a nice thing indeed.” 5 likes
“I let her clasp my hand and stare at me with her big, dark eyes. Because I know that when people comfort you, they're really just comforting themselves.” 3 likes
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