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Machines Like Me

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  12,269 ratings  ·  1,787 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
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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)
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Paul Gormley Not for a minute. He takes a moral stance on perjury but plants a bomb to kill Benn and others?…moreNot for a minute. He takes a moral stance on perjury but plants a bomb to kill Benn and others? (less)

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Average rating 3.62  · 
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 ·  12,269 ratings  ·  1,787 reviews


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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 one.
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Elyse  Walters
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Greetings!
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
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Jaclyn Crupi
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
Elizabeth
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,
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Issicratea
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,
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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 ...more
Jenna
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
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Manny
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
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Barbara
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
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Rebecca
(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 ...more
Barbara
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
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Claire
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
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Hanneke
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 ...more
Trudie
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.
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
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Sidharth Vardhan
Robots with an existential crisis.

"there are tears in the nature of things."
-Virgil


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
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Lottie
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 ...more
Gumble's Yard
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
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
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Marianne
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5s
“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
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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 ...more
Lee
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.”
Bianca
2.5

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
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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 ...more
Krista
Jun 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
It’s about machines like me and people like you and our future together…the sadness that’s to come. It will happen. With improvements over time…we’ll surpass you…and outlast you…even as we love you. Believe me, these lines express no triumph...Only regret.

Machines Like Me is eminently readable – I was never bored or annoyed or impatient (which happens too often with too many books) – but even though Ian McEwan can undeniably string together words in satisfying arrangements, this book felt
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Martie Nees Record
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Genre: Literary Science Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Pub. Date: April 23, 2019

This is Ian McEwan at his storytelling best. At first, you may think you are reading a futuristic novel. You are not. You are in 1982 London. But, this is an alternative 1982, which has futuristic technology. Got it? Once you wrap your head around that, be prepared to be entertained as well as educated on the legendary British mathematician and father of computer science, Alan Turing. Still, much in this timeline
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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.
notgettingenough
Plenty of spoilers ahead.

There is a choice when writing this sort of book. You can put it in a near future, like Atwood's Oryx and Crake, or you can apparently put it in an alternative past. This is the 1980s, but not as we knew them. I am curious to know the motivation for this. It could be that it's harder to make up a future than edit the past to taste. Or it could be that it will make it feel more like this is how it is.

And, it seems to me, if that was McEwan's idea, he's succeeded
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switterbug (Betsey)
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Regardless of the country and time you’re from, you are sure to experience time-space cultural whiplash in McEwan’s latest novel. It’s both dystopian and alt-history. I know that dystopian is supposed to take place in the future, but, instead, McEwan’s convoluted setting this time is in the 1980s London. A very advanced 80s where Alan Turing survived, Tony Benn died (in the Brighton bombing!), JFK survived Dallas and Jimmy Carter beat Regan and was still president. The latter two factoids don’t ...more
Doug
May 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few years back, I did McEwan's short story Dead as They Come - about a man who becomes enamored, and then jealous of, a store mannequin - as a dramatic monologue (which it in essence is anyway) ... and this full-length (and then some) novel seems to have sprung from the same impetus. The main problem here is that there are several competing storylines - not only the central Adam/Charlie/Miranda triangle, but the whole miseducation/disintegration of Adam and his entire generation of mechanized ...more
Moonkiszt
Interesting ideas, but the characters weren't very sticky for me. Bottomline, we are so human that if you put a robot in the midst of us, he/she/they/it will begin to mimmick and then will *poof* have feels and lives and do a better job of it because they are computer smart.

?Don't think I agree. A robot is a robot. A robot who develops feelings. . .. well, that just sounds like trouble. Hells bells, we can't handle our feels. . . . how could a macine?

Oh well. Moving on.
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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
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“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.” 4 likes
“We live alongside this torment and aren’t amazed when we still find happiness, even love. Artificial minds are not so well defended.” 4 likes
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