It’s no secret that we are all slaves to technology in some respect, growing more and more subservient every day. We rely on GPS to get us to and from places which really aren’t that hard to get to, we bank on our DVR’s to record shows that we don’t have time to watch when they air, and when we go anywhere without our phones, we feel naked. Max Barry takes those notions and dissects them in his newest satire, Machine Man.
Set in the not-so distant future (or even right now, as it’s never really discussed), this book follows an introverted, socially inept scientist named Charles through a harrowing and at times disturbing adventure steeped in robotics and cybernetic attachments. After an industrial accident, he replaces his lost limb with a robotic one, and then soon realizes how “inefficient” biological limbs are. From there, our protagonist goes on to create, and inadvertently revolutionize, every part of human physiology. From Z-Specs to better skin to biomechanical arms for combat, every part of the human physique is upgraded.
Within this paradigm, Barry proceeds to satirize and critique the use of technology and how it debilitates our very humanity, and subtly jabs at the worldwide corporate structure. Paralleling corporations to god-like power struggles, he illustrates the corporate hierarchy and ulterior motives we see all too often in reality. He even takes a jab at insurance companies, and how, from a financial point of view, individual parts are worth more than the whole; a disturbing and unsettling truth.
This wonderfully worded and splendidly crafted satire is also in the works for a movie, directed by Darren Aronofsky (director of The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream, and Pi). Considering how brilliant I feel Aronofsky’s movies are and how intricately crafted this book is, I personally cannot wait to catch the flick. However, I do urge you to read the book!
An introverted scientist whose brilliant ideas are often misused by the higher-ups of the corporate food chain, through both his language and actions you feel as if you are talking to a mad scientist yourself. The author’s grasp on biology and medicine is rock-steady, intertwining medical terminology, plot and character development with orchestral skill, while also creating round and dynamic characters throughout; not to mention his ability to capture the confusion and loss of time mad scientist Charles Neumann experiences. The reader feels as if they are just as lost and confused: which is a good thing, since that is what Barry wants you to feel like. At times months pass in pages, and at others, minutes pass in the course of a chapter. In this respect, Max Barry is a master of setting the tempo of his story to whatever he sees fit, whether it’s a cybernetic doctor accidentally destroying a room or slowly losing his grasp on reality.
The book is a relatively easy read, and the choppy sentences may seem awkward at first, but the structure truly highlights how the narrator is: socially inept, brilliant and not very personable. Once you get used to it you will be flying through the pages like a cyborg through the landscape, instead of being carried by mechanized legs though, you will be catapulted through the story by a commanding use of diction and plot. Check out the book, read it before the movie comes out, and tell all your friends.
4/5 Mechanized Parts