What would you do if someone you loved was comatose and there was a machine that could bring them back to life? Would you play with nature in the hope to see, live and experience life with your loved one? What if it brought them back in a “different” way?
The Machine is James Smyth’s fourth novel and a story of a modern day Frankenstein. It is one in which you could not help but feel a sense of dread and foreboding as the events unfolded and made you question motivations around love and loss.
Set in the near dystopian future on the Isle of Wight, Beth, lives a bleak and solitary life. She struggles in her job as a high school teacher with disinterested and unmotivated students. Her life is a lonely existence since losing her husband, Vic to The Machine.
Living in fear and dread of her neighbours and the menacing gangs of teens who rule the streets, her only hope is to get back her husband and her life. As a soldier who fought in a recent war, Vic had his traumatic memories purged by The Machine which in the process left him severely brain damaged and in need of constant care.
Beth learned that The Machine could also replenish memories and in a desperate attempt to get her husband back, she spends all her life savings to buy a Machine which had long since been banned by authorities.
As I read the book, I felt a heaviness and a sense of anxiety for Beth as she set up the Machine. Not only was she doing something illegal, she was playing with the laws of nature.
I felt as if I was the detached and horrified observer sitting in a quiet corner of her hot and claustrophobic apartment watching her every move as she tried to restore her husband’s memories little by little every day. Part of me wanted to shake some sense into her but another part of me understood her motivation to try and return to the happier life and the security that she once knew.
I found this book disconcerting as it made me question my own motives around love and loss. Every time I picked up the book, I knew that I was going to once again delve into a bleak and desperate world set in the near future. The constant hum of the Machine also added to the reader experience as you felt that the Machine was actually alive, watching you, watching Beth. No wonder Beth thought that the risk to defy the laws of nature was worth it if it meant reliving the life that she had with her husband. I think I would have done the same too just to get back one more special moment with loved ones.
What would you have done?
Helen Blunden is a learning and development consultant specialising in performance consulting and networked learning. She works with organisations to implement enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies to improve business performance. When she’s not working, you can find her knitting, at the movies or dreaming about more world travel.
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