Review: Machine Man

Review: Machine ManMachine Man by Max Barry
Published by Vintage on August 9, 2011
Genres: Humor, Science Fiction
Pages: 277
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

Scientist Charles Neumann loses a leg in an industrial accident. It's not a tragedy. It's an opportunity. Charlie always thought his body could be better. He begins to explore a few ideas. To build parts. Better parts.

Prosthetist Lola Shanks loves a good artificial limb. In Charlie, she sees a man on his way to becoming artificial everything. But others see a madman. Or a product. Or a weapon.

A story for the age of pervasive technology, Machine Man is a gruesomely funny unraveling of one man's quest for ultimate self-improvement.

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.

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