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The Machine Stops

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  8,898 ratings  ·  971 reviews
The Machine Stops is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review (November 1909), the story was republished in Forster's The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928.

After being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965, it was included that same year in the populist anthology Modern Short Sto
Paperback, 48 pages
Published April 25th 2008 by Dodo Press (first published 1909)
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Hristos Dagres This is a very interesting question. I was also puzzled by this.

I believe that this has to do with the de-materialization of human beings. Humans exi…more
This is a very interesting question. I was also puzzled by this.

I believe that this has to do with the de-materialization of human beings. Humans exist mainly as "avatars" communicating in an ethereal space - although they still keep their physical bodies, in isolated cells. Since humans lost their physical space and physical work is not required anymore, the only thing they produce is lectures and "ideas". Ideas are notions: the example of French Revolution is relevant.

Each intellectual and each generation "purifies" the facts and events of the past, turning them in abstract notions.(less)
Melissa A polluted earth. The story talks about the dangers of the air. Forster wrote this in the midst of the very grimy Industrial Revolution.

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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Jan 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uk, literature
I don't suggest beginning to read this without first looking at the initial publication date. I was several pages in and scoffing at the oh-so-obvious-it-isn't-even-symbolism-symbolism when I decided to back-peddle and see just how old this story is. My cheeks flamed up a whee bit as I realized that The Machine Stops is just over a hundred years old. *foot placed firmly in mouth* A HUNDRED YEARS AGO Forster was discussing the cyber-age...a hundred years ago when the camera was some sort of madde ...more
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cecily by: Apatt

Would you panic more at losing your wallet or your phone?

A few years ago, the question would be ridiculous, but now, it’s a tough call, and many of us fear losing our smartphone more, even with data synced in the cloud. Our world, and all our access to it, is there. I no longer know the phone numbers of my closest family.

We have outsourced our knowledge, and maybe ourselves, to our devices. Perhaps by recording my thoughts on this website, rather than trying to remember them in my head, I’m com
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
My first thoughts on finishing E.M. Forster’s brilliant novella The Machine Stops, is that I cannot believe he wrote and published this in 1909.

More of a chronological peer of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) than of modern day science fiction, this nonetheless is downright prophetic in its anticipation of a global dependence on technological communication and the ironic social isolation and alienation that results.

Forster, better known for his realistic and modernistic contemporary fiction s
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Machine Stops, E.M. Forster

The Machine Stops, is a science fiction short story by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review (November 1909), the story was republished in Forster's The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928.

The story describes a world in which most of the human population has lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual now lives in isolation below ground in a standard room, with all bodily and spiritual needs met
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british, sci-fi
Beware the New Scholasticism

The Machine Stops, written in 1909, is certainly a remarkably prescient tale of technological development. Like a proto-Cryptonomicon, it introduces ideas that we can now identify with the internet, the iPad, and even the 3-D production of goods, including food, from information. But its lasting value isn't about technology; it's about the mistakes we make when we start to think in a particular way. The biggest mistake is that of what we have come to call fake news.

Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
The Machine Stops is a Sci fi novella by the famous author of A Room with a View, A Passage to India and Howards End.
I became aware of this quirky, atypical work many years ago when studying Howards End at school. I made a note to read it then and have finally got round to it ........... 40 years later!
The story concerns Vashti, a woman living on her own in a hexagonal room under the surface of the earth. Everybody leads an isolated existence, in identical rooms, their every need catered for by
Kevin Ansbro
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kevin by: Apatt
"The saddest aspect of life now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."
—Isaac Asimov

This is a short sci-fi story in which English humanist author, E. M. Forster, astonishingly predicts the internet age way back in the early 1900s (when a selfie would have left you with a blast of magnesium dust all over your face).
In this dystopian future, people no longer get together for a chinwag over a mug of coffee; instead, they are hermetically sealed into rooms that res
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Jan 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dystopic, fiction
Leonardo da Vinci famously anticipated the advent of helicopters, scuba gear, and automobiles, and had well-laid plans for primitive versions of these things.

(Da Vinci also used mirror writing in his notebooks.)

The revolutionary astronomer, Johannes Kepler, similarly wrote of the invention of rocket ships traveling outside of the Earth and this was in the 1620's. This can be found in his novella The Dream, which is a work that is widely regarded by literary scholars and historians as the first e
Jon Nakapalau
Shocking in its predictions - a machine that runs everything and asks only that you live through it - even to blocking out the sun and any other stimuli that might place you outside of the control of the prescribed focus of virtual design (sound familiar)?
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I was straightforwardly gobsmacked when I first read this story last year. Wow. Here is our world, described one hundred years before it happens. These are just a few samples that particularly appealed to me. I don’t want to give away the story and there are lots of other interesting ideas about the future, including, indeed, the idea of the idea that I will leave you to discover for yourselves,

"Who is it?" she called. Her voice was irritable, for she had been interrupted often since the music b
Richard Derus
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.5* of five

COVID-19 UPDATE I re-read this tale in light of the frustrations of quarantine. I have to say that, while I can't oooch a scoche higher than three-and-a-half stars, I *can* round up instead of down because the experience of reading it is much more surprising.

The Publisher Says: The Machine Stops is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review (November 1909), the story was republished in Forster's
Leonard Gaya
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a three chapters novelette written in 1909 by the author of A Passage to India; probably one of the earliest dystopian works of the 20th century, before Brave New World or 1984.

It tells, in a few brush-strokes, the story of a son and his mother in a world, far in the future, where humans on the whole planet live in sterilised and isolated cells underground, that they almost never leave. They rarely and reluctantly meet each other in person and prefer communicating through a network
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazingly accurate prediction of today’s alienation from life and its artificiality through technology and the internet.

In E.M. Forster’s future society people withdraw from real life, spending their days and nights in a single subterranean room (which looks more like a cell or a honeycomb) surrounded by buttons to press and levers to pull and also some kind of communication apparatus to contact other people. Leaving one’s room is possible and not forbidden, but hardly anyone does it. Travel
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“You talk as if a god had made the Machine," cried the other. "I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but not everything.”
E.M. Forster could have been talking about Steve Jobs and iPhones!

I don't know how widely read The Machine Stops is but I think it ought to be required reading for all sci-fi aficionados. I don't know this for a fact but I suspect it is very influential; I can see echoes of it in sci-f
mark monday
Dec 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: after-the-fall
Future is now; future is then. Old Man Forster decries the cold meaningless of life in the age of the world wide web and automation and being repulsed by another human's touch. He shakes a well-manicured fist at the new millennium, at 2017, except he shook that fist over a century ago, while no doubt wearing an elegant three-piece suit, with ascot, as he held court in his finely wallpapered drawing room. Could Grampa see into now? It sure seems like it. I really get Gramps and his carefully word ...more
Bionic Jean
Where would you be without the Internet? Can you imagine your life? Can you even remember a time before personal computers?

"The machine stops."

Disaster! What a thought! Did you breathe a sigh of relief when the Internet seemed to carry on as normal after the millennium date? That computer technology had not broken down because of bad programming after all? Surely there had been just that smidgen of a possibility...

The Machine Stops is a remarkably prescient science fiction short novella by E. M.
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-shelf, sci-fi
I was honestly surprised as hell to learn from my GR buddies that this old classic fantastic traditional fiction author wrote an SF novella. EM FORSTER???

Well, yeah! Contemporary of Wells, this particular novel seems to be a rather delightful stick to poke at the culture that spawned it.

Fear of the Machine, perhaps only Bureaucracy, but probably a lot more as in the kind of AI the world has become, I was more impressed with the snide comments it had about eschewing primary sources over a consta
Dannii Elle
It is absolutely astonishing to me that something written over 100 years ago can have such relevance in today's society. Whilst short, this science fiction masterpiece manages to create a future society that is not dissimilar to our own, in many respects.

This satirical look at a world run by machinery feels like it could quite possibility represent our own bleak future, as we already have apps and technology to make every aspect of our lives easier. This only progresses our current state by maki
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2018
“Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element – direct observation. Do not learn anything about this subject of mine – the French Revolution. Learn instead what I think that Enicharmon thought Urizen thought Gutch thought Ho-Yung thought Chi-Bo-Sing thought Lafcadio Hearn thought Carlyle thought Mirabeau said about the French Revolution.”
― E.M. Forster, The Machine Stops

The first thing you will notice when reading E.M F
First published in 1909, this science-fiction novella by Forster is a futuristic, dystopian view of society controlled by a machine. Everyone lives underground, the Earths surface no longer habitable, and everything is interconnected by something that sounds like our computers and Internet of today. Forster is trying to tell us not to become to dependent on technology. I imagine he would be shocked at the "progress" we've made in 100 years.
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
After I'd read A Rebours last week, it occurred to me to wonder whether this well-known novella was yet another piece that linked to it. The main theme in Huysmans's book is the superiority of the artificial: the engagingly mad des Esseintes tries to construct an entirely artificial world to live in, and constantly explains how much better it is than the real one. For example, steam locomotives are much sexier than women.

Huysmans's presentation is completely deadpan, so it's difficult to kn
Steven Godin
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Did this really come from the same man who wrote 'A Room with a View'?. apparently so. Dipping his toes into dystopia/ sci-fi is something I never thought Forster would contemplate. But there you go, what do I know. One thing I am sure of, is that I didn't like this. Wish the machine never even started before it had a chance to stop. And glad it was a short story, any longer and I would have stopped myself. Good job I will remember him for writing about fine English women in tight corsets having ...more
Jul 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Written and first published in 1909, it is a slow, but prescient view of the future. So much is today, some whispers of what will be present in Brave New World, and some it yet to come.

"I want to see you not through the Machine," said Kuno. "I want to speak to you not through the wearisome Machine."

Can be read for FREE HERE
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Written in 1909, as I read this I couldn't help but thinking of the recent texting fad.

Even more horrifying than Bradbury's TV room in Fahrenheit 451, people live in their own room in a hive. They connect only through something very much like the Internet & are tended by The Machine. What incredible insight Forster had! Let's hope he's wrong.
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, fiction
Prototype dystopia story that, after a hundred years, reads as freshly, as prescient as anything that has come since.
Apr 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
4.0 to 4.5 stars. A classic, haunting short story (more like a novella) written in 1909. The story concerns a world in which humanity (long ago) lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth (through War, disease, etc.). Now each person lives in almost complete "isolation" below ground in a "cell" where all their needs are taken care of by "the Machine." The Machine is an advanced computer created by humans in the distant past to assist mankind and on which mankind continued to rely on mo ...more
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine a world -- one that could have been created by H.G. Wells -- in which people live under the earth in comfortable caves in which everything, from food to air to entertainment to sleep, is controlled by a vast machine:
Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the m
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
E. M. Forster's dystopian tale of human beings living beneath the surface of the earth, dependent on a large machine to serve all their needs. There is little or no contact between people other than through the phone (like Skype) where they see and speak with one another. Lives are inactive and purposeless.

What fascinated me the most about this story was the fact that it was written in 1909 and yet it foreshadows an overly dependent world of technology, that is sometimes all too real today. The
Peter Tillman
Classic proto-SF story, first published in 1909 and reprinted many times. Widely recognized for predicting technologies such as instant messaging and the Internet. And still a very readable story. It was selected for the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1973 by the Science Fiction Writers of America.

If you haven't read it, or if it's been awhile:
Public-domain copy available at
Highly recommended.
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“All unrest was concentrated in the soul”

Kuno the main character in the story is dying inside because of the way in which society lives under the rule of “The Machine”, and this is the essence of the story of dystopia. All dystopia strips man of his humanity and denies freedom (like organised religion, you could say). As with all good dystopia somebody breaks out, sees the truth behind the false wall, and as with all good dystopia, the system fights back (the white worms). The beauty in this st
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Edward Morgan Forster, generally published as E.M. Forster, was an novelist, essayist, and short story writer. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. His humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End: "Only connect".

He had five

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“You talk as if a god had made the Machine," cried the other. "I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but not everything.” 25 likes
“Few travelled in these days, for, thanks to the advance of science, the earth was exactly alike all over. Rapid intercourse, from which the previous civilization had hoped so much, had ended by defeating itself. What was the good of going to Peking when it was just like Shrewsbury? Why return to Shrewsbury when it would all be like Peking? Men seldom moved their bodies; all unrest was concentrated in the soul.” 14 likes
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