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A Reader of Fictions: Mr. Roboto - Styx

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mr. Roboto - Styx

Machine Man

Author: Max Barry
Pages: 274
ARC Acquired from: Vintage Books via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
For want of a phone, a leg was lost. For want of a leg, a leg was built. For want of better parts, a man was lost. Dr. Charlie Neumann, an employee at Better Future, after worrying all morning about where his phone is, finds it in the lab, where he was not supposed to have taken it. In his desperation to get to it, he accidentally gets caught in a clamp. Goodbye, leg! At the hospital, he is presented, by the cute prosthetist, with a number of options for a prosthetic limb. Unfortunately, he can tell how much they all suck, since they merely mimic biology. He begins to work on a better leg and realizes that his biological leg will hamper its power, so that one needs to go too...

Machine Man is a weird and creepy story, but not the less believable for that. There are huge corporations that would no doubt support Charlie's scientific research without considering the ethics or the wisdom of such a project. Their line of Better Parts is incredibly terrifying, primarily in the temptation even the sanest of people would feel to obtain them.

What makes this work as a novel, for me anyway, is Charlie's logical mind. His desire to improve his body by removing and replacing it is logically placed before the reader. It is clear that, at least at the outset of the project, he is not suicidal or insane; he merely has a scientific, harshly logical mind that will not let pain stand in the way of solutions. While I myself could not do what he does, I do see where he is coming from. Actually, I'm more creeped out by Lola's attraction to people with prosthetic limbs and the reason why she has it than by Charlie.

I mentioned the fact that people might be tempted to obtain Better Parts, and you may think I'm crazy for saying that. Sure, cutting off your legs, or even having doctors remove them for you, may sound pretty nuts. However, consider Better Liver, which will clean up your skin and give you a healthy glow. This product has the power to turn pasty, zit-covered lab assistants into model level beauties. Who wouldn't want that after years of frustration at the lack of helpfulness of zit creams? Plus, you probably feel affection for your legs and arms, but your liver? Who cares?

I really doubt this book will be interesting to a lot of people. Those with highly analytical, logical minds will be intrigued by the ethical dilemmas and the way that Charlie's mind processes things. Barry also wrote Jennifer Government, which I've wanted to read for a while.

Rating: 3.5/5

"The problem's plain to see
Too much technology
Machines to save our lives
Machines de-humanize"

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