Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: Tell the Machine Goodnight

Hmm. So this started out okay, fairly interesting but then it just kind of…drifted.

Sort of, but not really, at the heart of the set of stories (it felt less like a novel and more like interrelated stories) is a machine that can tell you what will make you happy. The stories revolve around the machine and its operator, Pearl. Other stories involve her son, her boss, her ex-husband and her ex-husband’s new wife.

However, at the beginning it feels mostly about Pearl and her son, so you get right into that story…and then it sidesteps into Elliot’s story (her ex-husband). Then that story diverges and then diverges again. Then back to Pearl. Then it’s just slightly weird. And then it’s the end.

It’s fairly inoffensive, but it just…meanders in a way that is unsatisfying. Nothing is really resolved and you’re just left with a bit of a “huh?” I thought there’d be something about the machine itself, maybe some sort of thing that it was all a fraud, but no, it’s just there. A thing.

Also, I found Pearl herself a bit inconsistent as a story. She seems like a right pushover, to the point where she isn’t, then goes back to being a pushover. By the end, you just want her to yell at someone or punch something. I don’t think anyone could ever be that calm and stoic. But to be fair, everyone is a little bit annoying.

Did I miss something? Is there some sort of larger thing that I completely ignored while reading the book? I’ve been flipping through some reviews and they say its about the machine altering happiness but that actually rarely happens, its completely peripheral to the main stories. Did they read the same book?

I DUNNO.

It is kind of a less fucked up and less offensive Radiance. Everything makes a little more sense, but you’re still left with an overwhelming sense of “what was the point of all that then.” It’s not even worth saying “what was the fucking point of all that then” it’s that inoffensive. There are also literally no resolutions to any of the story arcs.

Anyway, it’s interesting enough to keep you reading, but by the time you get to the end you wish  it had been boring enough to make you stop earlier.

I rate it a solid ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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