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Machines Like Me

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  21,609 ratings  ·  2,839 reviews
Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In a world not quite like this one, two lovers will be tested beyond their understanding.

Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with
Paperback, 306 pages
Published April 18th 2019 by Jonathan Cape
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IvanOpinion If you haven't yet read the book the following comments might seem like spoilers, but they aren't. My point is that the changes in 1982 serve no real …moreIf you haven't yet read the book the following comments might seem like spoilers, but they aren't. My point is that the changes in 1982 serve no real purpose in the book, so knowing about them won't spoil your enjoyment of the book.

My own view is that although it made me smile to think of a world where Lennon was not killed, so the Beatles got back together, I'm not sure if there was much point beyond this.

Clearly it was crucial to the book for it to be set in a reality where technology is a little ahead of ours - at least the many technology advances required to enable making a convincing artificial human. But this technology is probably still 20-50 years away from our 2019, so it seemed implausible that this could have happened in 1982, even if Turing had not died in the 50s and even if he made a number of breakthroughs in science.

It was kind of fun to 'meet' this Turing, but I'm not sure it served any purpose other than being wish fulfilment.

Most of the other changes were just one-line throwaways: JFK survived, Carter beat Reagan, etc. The only changes that were more than just 'set dressing' were Falklands/Thatcher/Tony Benn, but again there didn't seem to be much point. Yes, some of these changes seemed to create a world closer to our 2019, but so what? The parallels with, say, Iraq/May/Corbin/Brexit were not really developed to say anything particularly profound about those things.

Nothing wrong with some fun "what if" alternatives, but I got the impression that the book was striving to be a bit deeper than that. I don't think it achieved this.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Mila It crossed my mind for a moment, but then I thought no, Adam wouldn't do that because he's not allowed to cause harm to a human. But then again, he di…moreIt crossed my mind for a moment, but then I thought no, Adam wouldn't do that because he's not allowed to cause harm to a human. But then again, he did break a bit of Charlie. Hmmm. I think Adam was busy that night giving away money.(less)

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Emily May
Three days before, she had asked a mysterious question. We were mid-embrace, in the conventional position. She drew my face towards hers. Her look was serious.
She whispered, "Tell me something. Are you real?"
I didn’t reply.

A few days ago, my sister introduced me to the bizarre world of soap cutting on Instagram. For some reason I have been unable to fathom, we spent an unreasonable amount of time being mesmerized by these videos. "What are we doing?" I wondered, as I clicked to the next on
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When Ian McEwan gets it right boy does he get it right. But when he gets it wrong he gets it very very wrong (see Solar, Sweet Tooth etc.). Machines Like Me is very very wrong. It’s not good. In fact, it’s bad. Really bad. His handling of sexual assault and rape is problematic AF. He makes androids boring (the only good bit is when Charlie is mistaken for the droid), he writes haiku, he drones on and on about Turing. Every ‘big idea’ he grapples with has been grappled with before in fiction and ...more
Elyse  Walters
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me introduce myself. My name is Adam. I live in North Clapham, London.
My good friend, author Ian McEwan wrote a novel about me. Readers say it’s a richly entertaining story...(I’m rather proud of it myself).
The novel includes interesting history facts about famous people, lovable characters: (ME...I’m the STAR), my special friends Charlie and Miranda, a little boy named Mark, and a bunch of other knuckleheads. It’s considered a science fiction book .....
I mean, I suppose I’m to bl
Although McEwan is one of my favorite writers and his previous book, Nutshell, is one of the most enjoyable books that I’ve read, I was reluctant to start Machines like Me. Reviews were mixed, which is quite normal for the author, and the alternative British history setting sounded off to me. In the end, I enjoyed reading the thoughts of this smart author although I was right about the setting.

The novel is set in an alternative Great Britain where The Falklands are lost to Argentina, the politi
May 05, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ugh
Machines Like Me is a dumpster fire passing as a novel.

It's supposed to be alternate history (set in a variation of 1980s England, apparently to let McEwan have his fun renaming Tolstoy novels and point out that Thatcher was not a great pm (duh)) and is also supposed to be about what happens when we build robots (you mean humans can create something that has repercussions? Jeepers, good thing I'd forgotten about things like, say, the development of nuclear weapons!).

What it actually is--well, yo
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
At points in my reading of Machines Like Me, I toyed with the idea that Ian McEwan was experimenting with a daring novelistic conceit. Could it be true that he was deliberately constructing a lame and lackluster plot involving two of the most unengaging characters I have encountered in fiction in order to insinuate that human beings are overrated as narrative subjects and it wouldn’t be much of a loss if we were all replaced by robots?

Unfortunately, I think I’m wrong about this hidden agenda, al
Ron Charles
Apr 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Charlie Friend is a lazy day-trader in London who vacillates between bouts of grandiosity and worthlessness. The ultimate early adopter, Charlie uses a recent inheritance to buy “the first truly viable manufactured human with plausible intelligence and looks, believable motion and shifts of expression.” The robot’s name is Adam, which suggests what the creators must think of themselves. He — it? — is one of 25 androids sold around the world in a variety of ethnicities, 12 male and 13 female vers ...more
Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Jenna by: Barbara
G'night GIF - Night Goodnight Haggard GIFs

How the hell can a novel about the first synthetic humans be so bloody boring!? I thought it was just my mood when I first started it, that I couldn't get into it, that I found the characters irritating. I kept plodding along because I thought this author's Atonement was brilliant and I loved the concept of this book. However, by half way through it, I began to just skim the pages. It drones on and on and on and rather than giving me plenty to think about (as most books do that deal with the que
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Imperfect but better than I expected (like humanity?). With a satisfying conclusion while exploring relevant themes - 3.5 stars
I’m sure we’ll treasure the literature of the past, even as it horrifies us. We’ll look back and marvel at how well the people of long ago depicted their own shortcomings, how they wove brilliant, even optimistic fables out of their conflicts and monstrous inadequacies and mutual incomprehension.

I feel slightly conflicted about Machines Like Me, I generally like Ian McEw
Celebrity Death Match Special: Machines Like Me versus L'invitée

Looking back, as is so often the case, it was inevitable. Miranda and I were short of money; I had a story to tell which was still unusual. With a little help - the part I hated most was the nature of the help - I found it easy to transpose the events of that fateful year into a novel. It sold well, and our bank balance finally began to reassume healthy proportions. But still I had doubts. In the final analysis, did my work have any
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it

Charlie Friend, who lives in a small apartment in London, is a 32-year-old technology buff who studied anthropology. Charlie never quite made it in the working world, so he tries to make a few bucks by day trading, which isn't very lucrative for him.

The year is 1982, and Charlie is living in an alternative history world. For instance, Britain loses the Falklands War; John F. Kennedy isn't assassinated; Jimmy Carter is a two-term President; John Lennon isn't killed; the Beatles get back together
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it

I can understand why some people do not enjoy McEwan's books. They can be strange. But I don't think anyone can ever find fault with his brilliant writing. Nor could they ever finish a McEwan book and not have much to think about. Add to that his sharp wit. These are the elements that first appealed to me, and are the reasons I will continue to read his work.

Unlike the biblical Adam and Eve, the robotic Adams and Eves didn't experience a paradise. In fact, many of them experienced
an unfathomabl
May 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-harder-2019
Wtf Ian? Wtf?

Machines Like Me should have been great; it's my kind of read and I ordinarily love McEwan (even his novels which other people feel ambivalent about). I think I got what McEwan was trying to do here. There's an element of satire which I think is important to a reading of this novel, and the use of context to explore conceptions of the self, and threats to human agency through AI is at times clever, and timely.

Ultimately though, this novel fails on a number of fronts for me. I agre
(2.75) Though there are robots, this doesn’t feel like science fiction; it feels like Ian McEwan as usual: explosive secrets, twisty relationships, lies and concealment leading to crises, and so on. It’s thoroughly readable, as you’d expect from this author – I easily pushed through it in less than a week, alongside other books, to return it to the library in time – but it won’t stand out for me: not among this year’s releases, not in McEwan’s oeuvre, and not in literary explorations of artifici ...more
Mark Porton
Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan was much more than I expected.

The story involves thirty-something Charlie using his inheritance to buy a Synthetic Human called Adam (yes Adam), these things are so advanced they are indistinguishable from real human beings. You buy one, plug it in and have some decisions to make on weighting such characteristics as Agreeableness, Extraversion, Openness and others. The machine is so advanced it learns from experience, it has mucous membranes, soft skin, hair, a he
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Ian McEwan might be completely right to conclude in this novel that we, humans, are irrational beings and that the superior intelligence of future synthetic humans does not allow that we can ever co-exist in a meaningful manner. Contrary to humans, machines, however perfectly construed, cannot understand and master an ability to conveniently lie and hold grudges - amongst a lot of other irrational peculiarities -, which was relevant in the daily co-existence with the humans and the synthetic hum ...more
May 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I am at a bit of a loss here with Ian's intentions, my initial reaction is what a colossal hodgepodge of balderdash .... but it is possible I missed something. ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
Robots with an existential crisis.

"there are tears in the nature of things."

Alan Turing, one of biggest names in field of artificial intelligence world, devised a test known as Turing test. To pass the test, the machine will have to fool a human (who won't know whether he or she is talking to human or machine) into believing that he or she is talking to a human being. This mechanical art of talking or acting like humans is only a simulation, the machine might act like humans but it is st
Nov 27, 2020 rated it did not like it
This was a DNF. I stopped at p. 116, felt guilty, and read on to page 119 and stopped at that point. My reasoning at stopping at p. 116 was that I calculated that if I doubled 116 pages that would put me at 232 pages. At page 232 with a book that I did not like —and at p. 232 I would still have over 100 pages to go (book was 333 pages in length). I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. 🙁

I got this from the library. I was browsing the New Arrivals shelves and saw this book. I was only vaguely aw
Emily B
I definitely enjoyed some parts of this book more than others.
Some of the alternative history and politic aspects felt more of a chore to read.
What I did find interesting was the relationships in the book and the issue of machine morality.
Peter Boyle
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Two stars might be a little harsh for this novel, but it's only because I know Ian McEwan can do so much better. I was intrigued to see how a writer of his prowess would tackle a new genre, but it just didn't come together for me.

The story is set in Britain, in an alternate 1982. This world is more technologically advanced than we might expect. Charlie, our narrator, spends the vast majority of his inheritance on an incredibly lifelike robot named Adam. He and Miranda, the beautiful young woman
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
In what I think was one of the better passages in the book, the narrator as he awaits a small medical procedure imagines, a history whereby a historical figure arises who combines the insights of some pioneering physicians with the early work of those looking at microscopic life and so discovers germ theory in the eighteenth century and muses:

The present is the frailest of improbably constructs. It could have been different

And this serves as a key theme of the book, which examines this idea
Dec 24, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
McEwan always researches his books extraordinarily well. However, he then insists on putting all the research he's learned into big chunky paragraphs so you end up reading a biography of Turing or a historical account of the Falkland's rather than a novel with interesting ideas. Furthermore, even though it's set in the 1980's, it doesn't feel like it at all apart from when McEwan has to remind the reader through politics or some other really obvious point. It could be set anytime, I'm not sure w ...more
Feb 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, 2020-shelf
I risk getting a visit by the author to have my pet nailed to your coffee table, but I call this Science Fiction. He's now an honorary SF author even if he's never read a single SF book. *slow clap*

That being said, let's get down to the merits of this book. It's competent in two ways, but only to a degree.

It details many of the new, well-established concerns for creating real-life AIs without getting bogged down in the minutia of things like creating a truly moral artificial being. Yes, it touch

It's taken me over two weeks to finish listening to this novel. I considered giving up but since it’s a McEwan novel and I was able to renew my loan, I stuck with it until the end.

Set in an alternative historical period in the United Kingdom, Machines Like Me looks at many contemporary issues such as artificial intelligence and machines taking over, ethics and morality, Brexit, relationships, adoption, to name just a few. This should have been riveting, given its complex aspects, but it was u
Bruce Katz
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-fiction
A very difficult book to talk about. I'm convinced, rightly or wrongly, that the less detail I give about "Machines Like Me," the better. Here are the basics: The book is set in the 1980s in a kind of parallel universe, one very similar to our own but different in ways large and small. As the protagonist thinks in a reflective moment, " The present is the frailest of improbable constructs. Any part of it, or all of it, could be otherwise. True of the smallest and largest concerns." In this alter ...more
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“We learned a lot about the brain, trying to imitate it. But so far, science has had nothing but trouble understanding the mind. Singly, or minds en masse. The mind in science has been little more than a fashion parade. Freud, behaviourism, cognitive psychology. Scraps of insight. Nothing deep or predictive that could give psychoanalysis or economics a good name.”

Machines Like Me is the seventeenth novel by award/prize-winning British author, Ian McEwan. It’s England in 1982, but a very dif
Apr 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you thought Hamlet via a loquacious foetus was bold, McEwan jumps the shark even more ostentatiously here. That said, he just about lands on his feet.

“The day had been long and intense. I’d been taken for a robot, had my proposal of marriage accepted, volunteered for instant fatherhood, learned of self-destruction among one-quarter of Adam’s conspecifics, and witnessed the physical effects of moral revulsion. None of it impressed me now.”
Will Ansbacher
Aug 02, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a curious mashup of alt-history and the plot twists that McEwan does so well. But I didn’t like it as much as I initially thought I would. McEwan’s counterfactual history was interesting – it is set in the Eighties but technology is at least 40 years more advanced, where artificial intelligence is far more developed than anything we have today. The world he constructed is entirely believable, hinging mainly on Alan Turing still being alive and having pioneered AI. Many events are unchang ...more
Dec 22, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020, modern-lit
I wasn't planning to read this book when it came out last year, but other members of my family liked it so I decided to change my mind. As so often with McEwan, parts of it are clever and perceptive, but the basic premise is very difficult to believe.

The starting point for this fanciful counterfactual tale is that in the alternative Britain where it is set, Alan Turing is still alive in the early 80s. His advances have enabled artificial intelligence to progress much faster, so its setting is a
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Ian McEwan studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970 and later received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and

Articles featuring this book

Science fiction and fantasy have spawned some of the most imaginative plots and settings in existence. Makes sense, given that these genres are...
255 likes · 102 comments
“We create a machine with intelligence and self-awareness and push it out into our imperfect world. Devised along generally rational lines, well disposed to others, such a mind soon finds itself in a hurricane of contradictions. We’ve lived with them and the list wearies us. Millions dying of diseases we know how to cure. Millions living in poverty when there’s enough to go around. We degrade the biosphere when we know it’s our only home. We threaten each other with nuclear weapons when we know where it could lead. We love living things but we permit a mass extinction of species. And all the rest – genocide, torture, enslavement, domestic murder, child abuse, school shootings, rape and scores of daily outrages.” 12 likes
“As Schopenhauer said about free will, you can choose whatever you desire, but you’re not free to choose your desires.” 8 likes
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