Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: Machine Man

I really wanted to like this book, it had an odd concept that seemed intriguing. A man loses a limb in a lab accident, gets annoyed at the basic prosthetics available to him, and luckily has an advanced research lab that he can start to build new, better ones. Fine, great. I can get behind that. Good premise that.


Unfortunately, Max Barry wound the plot around an entirely unlikeable character. I suppose in some ways that may have been inevitable, as the story requires someone strange enough to want to replace body parts with mechanical ones. But at the same time, what an absolute douche-canoe. I really wanted him to get his comeuppance at some point and I guess he sort of does but not in any satisfying way (basically I wanted him to die.)



I suppose the first signs were in that first chapter, when Charlie (the main character) is obsessively looking for his phone. So much he first walks around is flat naked, then goes to his car in his towel and almost drives to work like that. That’s not a reasonable trait in any human. But it gets a whole lot more silly from there on in.


And hey, I like silly. Silly is fine. But the silly is trod underfoot by the sheer annoyingness of Charlie and his obsession.


His personality traits are all cast in ‘typical engineer’ fashion – or at leat a caricature of that. This means he can barely function as a normal human being, has trouble talking to people and basically comes across as a complete asshole. This is a character who develops a way to suppress regret because he doesn’t want to have to deal with a terrible decision he’s made. LIKE WHAT.


As well, he’s so self-absorbed that when he has technology dangled in front him, he immediately forgets Lola. I don’t understand what she sees in him. Again and again and again he just does stupid things and she sticks by him. If it wasn’t for all the crazy and improbable technology being created as part of the plot, I would have thought that their relationship was the most implausible part of the book.


I think what is most annoying is the inconsistency with being smart and rational and then basically EVERYTHING CHARLIE DOES BEING THE OPPOSITE OF THAT. Pretty sure he would not have had the success he had in his scientific career being awful and idiotic all the time.


Even though science fiction is by nature improbable, the ridiculous levels this book goes to get a bit out of hand. It goes from being an engineer building better prosthetics to super soldiers in relatively short order. There’s enormous amounts of improbable happening every other page and after awhile, it goes beyond silly and into the absurd and distracting. I think I could have handled that if it didn’t involve Charlie. Or didn’t involve everyone being completely immoral.


The other characters aren’t much better that Charlie. From Cassandra, the ‘middle manager’, to all Charlie’s various assistants. They are all self-absorbed and uninspiring (also basically psychopaths and murderers). I suppose the only nice character is Lola who relatively quickly loses all agency. SO LAME. She literally is a princess in all this, being caught over by Charlie and Carl (the main antagonist other than Charlie constantly fucking everything up for himself.)


Anyway, I can’t believe people can get away with writing such self-absorbed asshats as characters and expect anyone to like the book. I admit that I would have stopped long before if I didn’t want to finish hate-reading it. Not sure I’m going to give Max Barry another try in the near future – maybe if someone can assure me that the main character isn’t a self-absorbed asshat I might consider it.






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