Author(s): Ian McEwan
Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In a world not quite like this one, two lovers will be tested beyond their understanding. Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever – a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma. Ian McEwan’s subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions: what makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns of the power to invent things beyond our control.
A great story teller, Ian McEwan always selects a topic that exercises the popular imagination. Here, we have a synthetic human – a man-made man – who writes poetry and who becomes one third of a love triangle. In addition, the genre here is science fiction but sci-fi that looks back, not forward.
Britain in the early 1980’s was reeling from the right-wing policies of Margaret Thatcher and in this story she is defeated by Labour’s Tony Benn. The author plays fast and loose with the historical record (artistic license), and that works if the reader can suspend disbelief. I can already see Michael Fassbinder in the role of the robot – and that is my only quibble; Ian McEwan seems to be writing for the big screen these days.What happened to story telling where the reader did the imagery? An enjoyable read. You can listen to Kim Hill's interview with the author here. Mike