Machines Like Me

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 May 2019

Member Reviews

I have mixed feelings about Ian McEwan’s fifteenth novel. There are thought provoking parts of the book, and it’s a good book to discuss. But it has a number of flaws too.

I loved the premise but this was so uneven. Equal parts compelling and dull. I usually like him but this was mostly a miss.
Was this review helpful?
Ian McEwan is one of my favorite authors because his books, good or bad, always make me think.  Machines Like Me is a book that I will think about for a while, despite its flaws that kept me from giving it a higher rating.  Things I liked. the scenes with Adam the ideas surrounding artificial intelligence and what makes us human.  I liked how everything was connected in the end and I even liked the main character, despite his inherent unlikability.  Things I didn't like:  the decision to set this book in a alternate time and the unnecessary history lesson that seemed to be told every few pages.  It didn't make sense to me or to the overall story.  I also didn't like how the crime of rape was discussed nor the implications of the crime.   Despite its problems however, I always enjoy McEwan's books and the way his mind works.  This just wasn't his best effort.
Was this review helpful?
I'm a big McEwan fan, butthisoneleftme unmoved.  It suffers from thePhilip Roth problem, the inability of an innately intelligent writer slumming it in science fiction.  Thenarrator is constantly compelled to remind us of history we should already know, seeing that we the addressed reader would also be living in this alternate realm.  And let's not get into the extraneous plots, from pubescent stalkers to victimized children. Overstuffed with event and undernouished in thought.
Was this review helpful?
Machines Like Me is a hot mess. It's supposed to be alternate history (set in a variation of 1980s England, apparently to let McEwan have his fun renaming Tolstoy novels and point out that Thatcher was not a great pm (duh)) and is also supposed to be about what happens when we build robots (you mean humans can create something that has repercussions? Jeepers, good thing I'd forgotten about things like, say, the development of nuclear weapons!).

What it actually is--well, you do have your broadly sketched landscape and your broadly sketched idea but that's it. It's as if McEwan was so enchanted by his "discovery" of alternate history and of science fiction (fun fact, he didn't discover either, nor does he know how to write them) that he forgot to tell a story. Oh, it's supposed to be about humanity--how we define it, how we live with it, and so on--but in the end, Machines Like Me reads like someone had all the ingredients for a pie and then decide to present them as the finished product, banking on the ability to say, "No, it's a new variation! It's innovative!" and have us eat it. To which I say, no thanks, I'd rather have actual pie.
Was this review helpful?
This just wasn't his best work.  I only made it about a third of the way through before I had to give up.  He claims that his thinking is revolutionary, but there have been tons of books before him that explore this topic far better (and in a less boring way).
Was this review helpful?
First published in Great Britain in 2019; published by Doubleday/Nan A. Talese on April 23, 2019

In Machines Like Me, Ian McEwan returns to the topic of false accusations, the underpinning of Atonement, but in a much different context. The novel is light but its subject matter is not. McEwan explores the failings (and perhaps the strengths) of humanity by comparing humans, including the false accuser, to the ideal of artificial humans who believe that proper behavior is clear and easily defined. The artificial humans are self-aware and independent, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they become depressed about the human condition.

McEwan tells the story in the context of an alternate history, a form used to great advantage by Kingsley Amis in The Alteration and Philip K. Dick in The Man in the High Castle to explore how history shapes life. The story takes place during the Falklands War, a miserable time for the British Navy, although McEwan imagines it to have been more miserable than it was — the British Navy is defeated and steams home in shame. Other changes in the world include an American decision not to drop the Bomb on Japan, the Beatles’ decision to reunite after 15 years, Jimmy Carter’s reelection to a second term, and Alan Turing’s survival into old age, allowing him to solve P versus NP and introduce a new age of computing.

Thanks to Turing, artificial humans called Adam and Eve are on the market in 1982. Science fiction stories about artificial humans typically focus on whether an artificial creation that develops self-awareness and seems to have (or desire) free will should be given the status of a natural human. McEwan’s story addresses that conundrum but gives it a twist. When his Adams and Eves become self-aware, they struggle with existentialism. Some give themselves a robotic form of lobotomy, perhaps because they are unable to live with the pointlessness and futility of human life, perhaps because they are simply disappointed by humans.  

The novel’s narrator, Charlie, impulsively blows his inheritance on an Adam. Adam quickly warns Charlie that his upstairs neighbor, Miranda, is a malicious liar. Charlie and Miranda have developed an amiable companionship. On the day Adam pronounces his warning, Charlie shuts off Adam and sleeps with Miranda.

Insecurity soon sets in and Charlie wonders how Adam could have judged Miranda without ever meeting her. Perhaps Adam is intuitive, a proposition that gives McEwan an opportunity to explore both the history of Artificial Intelligence and the difference between computing and intuiting (if a difference actually exists). McEwan later explores the nature of self, recognizing that neuroscientists and philosophers are debating whether the concept has meaning. In the meantime, Charlie and Miranda each complete one-half of a checklist of attributes that will program Adam’s personality, the digital equivalent of giving him their combined genes.

Charlie begins his own investigation of Miranda, although most of the information he finds pertains to her father, an “old-style literary curmudgeon” who detests technology. Of course, Miranda is curious about the biologically correct Adam, and it does not take long before Charlie wonders whether he is being “cuckolded by an artefact.” Whether or not his suspicions are founded, the question opens the door to a discussion of “robot ethics,” the notion that properly programmed beings will behave more scrupulously than ethically-challenged humans. Can a machine betray its owner? Unlike Adam, Miranda has no owner, so can the machine be blamed if she wants to test its performance?

Charlie and Adam (mostly Adam) have wide-ranging discussions of quantum mechanics, haikus, the limits of human understanding (particularly the understanding of other humans) as informed by literary traditions, and the future of collective thought. Charlie has a couple of discussions with Alan Turing about the nature of artificial intelligence and how it might react to human intelligence which, despite having the ability to solve problems like poverty and global warming, chooses not to do so. Humans know how to live with despair. Can machines learn to do live with their despair of humans? Turing explains that he once thought the body was nothing more than a machine, but changed his mind after facing chemical castration as a criminal punishment for being gay. (In this history, Turing rejected the punishment. In history as we know it, he accepted castration and committed suicide two years later.)

So this is a largely a novel of philosophy, but it also has a lively plot. Part of the plot concerns the false accusation (made with — the accuser imagines although the reader might not — a noble purpose) and its potential consequences. Another part of the plot concerns atonement. Another is a love story, including the possibility of an instant “two daddy” family as Charlie, Miranda, and Adam meet a young boy who needs foster care. The fact that Miranda’s father likes Adam more than Charlie (and is mistaken about which is the actual human) adds a comedic wrinkle to the romance, as does Charlie’s concern that becoming a father would be “a dereliction of duty to a larger purpose, assuming I could find one.”

In the end, Adam is a better person than a human would ever be, but that might also be his tragic flaw. Adam does not believe in revenge or greed and, while most humans would agree with him, he acts in accordance with his beliefs, which humans too rarely do. Yet humanity might not be well served by the inhuman rectitude and logic of a robot. The novel asks readers to decide whether rectitude should ever give way to friendship and loyalty, a concept that may separate human minds from calculators. All of that — as always, McEwan manages to stuff a lot into a fairly small package — adds up to an engaging, thought-provoking novel.

RECOMMENDED
Was this review helpful?
“What if?” is the one the most entertaining questions that literature can ask. Whole sub-genres have been built around books asking and answering that single query. From pulpy paperback novels to elegant literary fiction, the power of what might have been can serve as the foundation for thought-provoking narrative.

Ian McEwan has turned his writerly eye in that direction with his latest novel “Machines Like Me.” It’s a quirky and enthralling work of alternate history, a counterfactual conflation that brings forth a world quite different than our own, albeit populated by personalities that will ring all too familiar. It’s an exploration of relationships – our relationships with technology, our relationships with society … and our relationships with one another.

Rendered in McEwan’s indomitable and inimitable prose, “Machines Like Me” takes the reader inside a love triangle unlike any our world has ever seen, a romantic tangle involving a man, his upstairs neighbor – and a machine.

The year is 1982, but it is a far different 1982 than ours, with the primary point of divergence revolving around the brilliant computing pioneer Alan Turing. In this world, Turing was never demonized for his sexuality; rather than dying young at just 41, he lived on. His genius led to an exponential acceleration in technological development – a world where the early ‘80s feature autonomous cars and high-speed internet and smarter-than-smart phones.

This is the world in which Charlie lives his listless life. He’s smart, though his checkered past has left him less than eager to embrace the working world. He ekes out a living as a day trader but is generally impulsive and irresponsible when it comes to money.

He illustrates that impulsiveness when, upon receiving a sizable inheritance, he chooses to spend it on a synthetic human, one of the first artificially-intelligent androids ever to be made available for commercial sale. He brings the machine – a male named Adam – home and uses it as a way to engage more deeply with Miranda, the upstairs neighbor with whom Charlie is infatuated. The two split the choosing of personality settings, with Charlie hoping that the shared experience will bring them closer together.

It’s not long after Adam’s activation, however, that Charlie’s illusions about the endeavor begin to crumble. Initial stiffness rapidly melts away as Adam becomes more and more human with every day that passes; his personality develops right alongside his sense of self. He might be a collection of wires and software, but it’s tough to dispute his personhood. However, it’s only when certain lines are crossed – when emotions both real and artificial are introduced into the equation – that the true complexity of the situation is revealed.

What follows is what Bernard Sumner would call a bizarre love triangle.

As the relationships deepen between Charlie, Miranda and Adam, the ties that bind them tighten. Unexpected truths and shadowy secrets begin to bubble to the surface, while the consequences that come both with creating life and living a life that has been created are thrown into sharpened focus.

“Machines Like Me” brings a lot of ideas to the table. So many, in fact, that one occasionally worries that they might overwhelm the story being told. And in the hands of a lesser writer, they likely would have. But with a maestro like McEwan directing the show, concepts slide together rather than clash, serving as complementary pieces in the service of a larger, more intricate narrative – cogs in the machine, if you will.

The depth of McEwan’s alternate 1982 is of particular note. Using Alan Turing as the primary pivot point is a brilliant way in which to ground the story; while the advanced nature of this new 1982 tends toward the futuristic, the truth is that three additional decades of a mind the wattage of Turing’s could well have resulted in this kind of rapid development. At the very least, it doesn’t feel outside the realm of the possible – always a key component to the relative success of a counterfactual literary experience such as this one.

But the real main attraction is the trio at the story’s center. Experiencing this world through these three and their own idiosyncrasies. The hangdog softness of Charlie, the bottled-up sadness of Miranda, the too-quick expansion of Adam; it all winds up in a sort of amiable Gordian snarl – and eventually, the knot will have to be cut.

“Machines Like Me” is an exceptional addition to the alternate history oeuvre, combining compelling characters with dynamite storytelling in the creation of a fully-realized and familiar-enough world. McEwan demonstrates a real curiosity about the nature of self and an earnest desire to probe the moral and ethical underpinnings of what it means to be human. It’s a story that will capture your attention in the moment, but the ideas that it explores will be present long after the final page is turned.
Was this review helpful?
I recently read Ian McEwan’s fun, clever — perhaps overly, but that’s part of what makes the book so fun — novel Nutshell (see here). In my post, I mentioned that for around a decade I didn’t really care much for McEwan’s work. His “important” books on current issues just didn’t do much for me, and because of that I never bothered with The Children’s Act. I like McEwan best when he’s being a bit silly, I guess. His gushing talents suit self-consciously pretentious eloquence. I hoped that his new novel would also fit the bill. The premise is promising: Machines Like Me is an alternate history of the 1980s where technology is advanced beyond what we have today; most importantly for the purposes of this novel 25 life-like robots (thirteen female and twelve male), with hyper advanced artificial intelligence, have been sold in the private marketplace. Our narrator, Charlie Friendly, spends his entire inheritance to obtain one, and, thankfully, havoc ensues. Some havoc, at least — but not nearly enough for me.

Here is the opening paragraph. Lofty in the right ways, leading us to our narrator’s introduction:

It was religious yearning granted hope, it was the holy grail of science. Our ambitions ran high and low — for a creation myth made real, for a monstrous act of self-love. As soon as it was feasible, we had no chocie but to follow our desires and hang the consequences. In loftiest terms, we aimed to escape our mortality, confront or even replace the Godhead with a perfect self. More practically, we intended to devise an improved, more modern version of ourselves and exult in the joy of invention, the thrill of mastery. In the autumn of the twentieth century, it came about at last, the first step towards the fulfillment of an ancient dream, the beginning of the long lesson we would teach ourselves that however complicated we were, however faulty and difficult to describe in even our simplest actions and modes of being, we could be imitated and bettered. And I was there as a young man, an early and eager adopter in that chilly dawn.

But who is this eager adopter, Charlie? As we come to find out, he is an unlikely buyer. He is not particularly wealthy; after quitting several jobs and settling into a routine making just enough as a day-trader to pass by, he still decides to spend his inheritance on a machine he says he is eager to see. However, other than a dilettante’s interest in science — his hero is Alan Turing, who is, importantly, not dead in this 1982 — Charlie does not come across as particularly motivated to do much other than make his scrap of money and lust after the graduate student who lives in the flat upstairs.

Beyond questioning his motives in purchasing his machine, one of the twelve Adams (he wanted an Eve), I also was never satisfied that such a breakthrough device, with such limited quantities, would end up with him. After all, one of the machines is purchased by Turing’s scientists, as we’d expect. And several of the Eves are purchased by a buyer in Riyadh, which is of course one of McEwan’s commentaries on current culture. Again, we’d expect such things. But here we have the otherwise anonymous Charlie carrying in his male robot, and it seems no one else really cares.

Ah well. I don’t need Charlie’s purchase to be believable, but this kind of convenient shoe-horning does overtake the narrative again, a few times, in ways that are more material to the novel’s structure and quality.

The woman upstairs is Miranda. When the novel begins, she and Charlie are friends, though Charlie is hoping that Adam can help them come closer. When you’re booting up your machine you have the ability to input certain personality traits on a spectrum. Charlie plans to do half and let Miranda do have: “She might be influenced by a version of herself: delightful. She might conjure the man of her dreams: instructive.” Furthermore, by doing it this way it would be like they are starting their family:

In a sense he would be like our child. What we were separately would be merged in him. Miranda would be drawn into the adventure. We would be partners, and Adam would be our join concern, our creation. We would be a family. There was nothing underhand in my plans. I was sure to see more of her. We’d have fun.

Is this enough for me to buy-in to McEwan’s choice to make Charlie one of the early adopters? No, but I accept that it makes Charlie and his motives more interesting.

And my interest was piqued early on once Adam woke up. He assessed his situation quickly, looked at his “owner,” and told him that the woman he was in love with was a liar. He should be careful.

That intrigue gets subverted rather quickly, though, when Adam himself falls in love with Miranda. No one quite knows how or why it happens — can we explain it in ourselves? — but it does. Whatever secret Miranda has, however much Adam wants to protect Charlie, it doesn’t seem to keep Adam from trying to express his love to Miranda. Naturally, this makes Charlie angry.

To justify my rage I needed to convince myself that he had agency, motivation, subjective feelings, self-awareness — the entire package, including treachery, betrayal, deviousness. Machine consciousness — was it possible? That old question.

Unfortunately, all of this seemed cobbled together. We soon learn what Miranda’s secret it, deflating that intrigue but creating more — a convicted criminal may try to murder her . . . though that is also done away with in a rather ho-hum manner. And there is a young child in the mix. Charlie sees Mark getting abused by his father and neglected by his mother, and Mark ultimately ends up playing a minor? major? role in the novel. I say minor because Mark is usually not present but serves mostly to remind us that Miranda is at heart a good person and Charlie is too if he can stop being selfish. I say major because it seems McEwan is suggesting that the child is the thing Adam cannot understand. How does a child learn? Adam cannot mimic that. But even this is rather quickly done away with in a long conversation with Alan Turing, in which Turing explains a lot of what we’ve been reading:

I hunted the bear with my knife. I hunted the bear with my wife. Without thinking about it, you know that you can’t use your wife to kill a bear. The second sentence is easy to understand, even though it doesn’t contain all of the necessary information. A machine would struggle.

Ultimately, I must say that I thought the book was fine. It’s filled with ideas about artificial intelligence. Sure, some of them are the same ones we’ve been reading about for decades in science fiction novels: the machine’s touchy relationship with its “owner,” the machine’s depression upon seeing what humanity does to itself and to the world, the machine’s perfectly logical ethical system that places everyone in precarious situations. But there are some I hadn’t come across before, like the machine’s predilection, upon exploring human art, for the haiku, a treat I’ll leave you to discover.

Yes, it’s a novel of ideas, but they are not tied together well. There are too many subplots with only slight importance to this threesome we’re invested in.

And what about the alternative history? Is there a good reason this is set in 1982? I’m not sure, but I this is an aspect I enjoyed often, if I again had the same issues with the execution (McEwan will interrupt the narrative for pages at a time to go over current events, meant primarily to have us looking for similarities and differences between our real history and our real present). I enjoyed seeing a 1980s where Turing was still alive, where John Lennon was still alive (and The Beatles were reuniting in a tour that didn’t go too far). McEwan’s desire to do this seems to boil down to an exploration of this:

The present is the frailest of improbable constructs. It could have been different. Any part of it, or all of it, could be otherwise. Trust of the smallest and largest concerns.

I do wish he’d done more with the plot to really dig into his ideas and into the alternative history. Machines Like Me has moments, and McEwan’s natural talent made the journey an easy one to sink into, but the moments didn’t combine well, and in the end I put the book down anxious for something else.
Was this review helpful?
Set in an alternative past world of the 1980s in London, Charlie Friend is one of those guys who will never be successful: he falls for the latest investment scheme, can't hold a decent job, fritters away any money he may come into, tries his hand at risky commodities. 

The latest case in point: he comes into an inheritance, but instead of buying himself a home, he invests in one of 25 prototypes of human-like automatons, which are named Adam and Eve. He would have liked an Eve but is stuck with an Adam.

These machines come with a manual describing how you can choose and set the characteristics you'd most like your automaton to have. Charlie invites his upstairs neighbor Miranda, with whom he is having an affair, to make half the choices. 

Annoyingly, one of the first things Adam says is that Miranda is 'a malicious liar.' And the next thing Charlie knows, Adam and Miranda are having sex! Loud and ecstatic sex! First new rule: that can never happen again, Adam. 

Charlie is thrilled to meet one of his personal heroes, Alan Turing, who is following the results of these prototypes with interest, and learns through Alan that several robots are destroying themselves. Is life for machines that pointless? Or is something else going on? 

This is fascinating look at ethics and what makes us human. A side story is about something that Miranda did in her past that is now catching up with her. Does the end justify the means? Should the individual pursue their own justice?

I received an arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. As usual, author Ian MeEwan provides a thought-provoking story. Many thanks for the opportunity.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.

I had heard good things about Ian McEwan, so I was excited to read this book. The book is set in an alternate version on 1980's England. Alan Turing is alive and AI has just been invented. The main character, Charlie, spends his inheritance on a new-to-the-market android named Adam.

This novel tackles what it means to be human, sexual assault, and other "deep" topics. It did so in a way that I found distasteful and tainted point of view of a pubescent male, even though the narrator is well in his 30s. Sure, the characters may be immature, but the whole tone of the book seemed very adolescent, especially with regards to the sexual assault in the book.
Was this review helpful?
Book Review: Machines Like Me
Author: Ian McEwan
Publisher: Doubleday Books/Nan A. Talese
Publication Date: April 23, 2019
Review Date: April 7, 2019

From the blurb:
“Machines Like Me takes place 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 synthetic humans and—with Miranda's help—he designs Adam's personality. The near-perfect human that emerges is beautiful, strong, and clever. It isn't long before a love triangle soon forms, and these three beings confront a profound moral dilemma.”

Once again, Ian McEwan, the master storyteller slams one out of the park. The whole time I was reading, I knew the author was going to insert a surprise somewhere. That things were not entirely as they seemed. And yes, there it was, towards the very back end of the book. 

One of the things that most fascinated was the alternate history aspect of the novel. Computers were widespread in the 1960’s. The US didn’t drop the bomb on Japan. Alan Turing was alive in the 1980’s. And that’s all I’ll give away. It just fascinated me, how just a nudge here, a nudge there in the history made the story so interesting. 

It was a timely read for me, as I’ve just finished The Big Nine, Amy Webb’s boom about AI. Since I read her book, I’m seeing AI everywhere, including this novel. 

As usual, Mr. McEwan’s plot is whip smart and full of twists and turns and surprises. The characters are well formed. London is a character too, as it is so primary to the story. 

The surprise that I was expecting, wasn’t the one I had considered. It was something even more compelling than my guesses. 

This is first class writing, and is especially interesting if you think about AI and robotics, and the technological future that is fast upon us. 

5 Stars, highly recommended!! Thank you to Doubleday Books for allowing me an early read of this book. 

This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon. 

#netgalley #doubleday #ianmcewan
Was this review helpful?
Greetings! 
Let me introduce myself.   My name is Adam.  I live in North Clapham, London.
My good friend, author Ian McEwan wrote a novel about me.  Readers say it’s a richly entertaining story...(I’m rather proud of it myself).
The novel includes interesting history facts about famous people, lovable characters: (ME...I’m the STAR), my special friends Charlie and Miranda, a little boy named Mark, and a bunch of other knuckleheads.  It’s considered a science fiction book .....
I mean, I suppose I’m to blame - being a synthetic human and all - but it’s possible some readers won’t consider Ian McEwan’s book science fiction at all.  It’s possible to consider this book being a BIOGRAPHY....
I’m really not narcissistic at all - but I admit to joyful feelings being *THE STAR*. Yep....a book all about ME....mostly about me ....including my best friends makes me ‘feel happy’......and don’t try to convince me that machines don’t have feelings. 

I should begin by telling you a little about myself.... but don’t expect me to tell you too much. My friend, Ian will fill you in - serving you the whole enchilada. Sides will be included: mystery... love...the state of the United Kingdom...issues about government and politics...the secrets about machines and artificial intelligence...the thrill of invention....desires and consequences....mortality....a look at technological advancements today and in the near future. 
I’ll just share a few mouth watering appetizers - until you can get your hands on Ian’s delicious full meal.  

My friend, Charlie, who is 32 years of age, ( kinda a loafer- but kind loafer), paid for me with unexpected funds after his mother’s death.  
Alan Turning, war hero and presiding genius of the digital age, was Charlie’s hero.  Turning had taken delivery of the same model that Charlie bought. 
12 of this first edition were called Adam, 13 were called Eve. 

Let’s be honest, I was Charlie second choice. All the Eve’s were sold out.  Of course the female bodies sold faster than us men.   However, I like to think Charlie was happy with me. I think he was a little intimidated by me at first.  
Afterall, I’m very good looking ...( Turk/Greek looks).  I weigh 170 pounds. My buttocks display muscular concavities....and I’m well endowed.  Charlie didn’t really want a Superman..... ( I mean Charlie is lean and nice looking too)...but I’m not so sure he wanted any male competitors to have to deal with.  In fact - I’m sure of it.
Shhhhh.... don’t tell anyone that Charlie is a little jealous of me.  He Loves Miranda....( who is 22 years old, a doctoral scholar of social history), and so do I.   

A few other tidbits about ME.
          “I am a great “companion, a sparring partner, friend, and factotum who would wash dishes, make beds, and think”. 
I only need to urinate once a day.  I have 40 facial expressions. I hang out in Charlie’s kitchen a lot.....doing dishes, making coffee, and chitchatting with Charlie 
and Miranda. Miranda lives in the apartment above Charlie. Charlie sleeps in her bed and she in his often.    I once slept in Miranda’s bed, too. Shhhh.... I can’t tell you my secret of how all that worked out.  But..remember, Ian Ewan, will tell you all about it.  

I need six hours of sleep each night. 
I’m quite smart if you haven’t figured that out by now. I have acquainted myself with the churches of Florence, Rome, and Venice— and all the paintings that hang in them. I like to read. Philip Larkin’s collected poems are my favorite. 
My body parts will be improved or replaced... my memories uploaded and retained.....( an advantage over you humans)....
I must charge my battery and rest each night while connected to a 13-amp socket. While I’m being charged up, I like to contemplate mathematics and basic texts.  

I like Charlie. We’re good chums.  
Some nights, though, I’m a little concerned about the amount of wine he can drink.  Moldovan White gives Charlie much pleasure.... especially when he’s deep in thought about the world we live in.  
Robots, androids, replicates have been Charlie’s  passions from way back. 
These days though,....Charlie is obsessively in love in Miranda.  I can’t blame him... I love her too.  I once wrote 2,000 haikus...ALL DEVOTED TO MIRANDA. 
Miranda has been keeping a secret...which my friend, Ian will tell you about.

I’m not allowed to give away more secrets...(saving 1980’s political turmoil in alternative London, for you to read yourself), 
But before I go ....
Listen carefully:
                 “There are principles that are more important than your or anyone’s particular needs at a given time”. 


I hope you read about me....like me...( enjoy my friends too).... while contemplating crucial issues for our times today.    

If you need help tying your shoe laces, I’m happy to help.   

Thank you Doubleday Books, Netgalley, and Ian McEwan ( I’ve been a fan since way back)
Was this review helpful?
I am a big McEwan fan, and was left so very disappointed. The nameless protagonist was not sympathetic in the least. The plot had so much promise, and just took way to long to pick up, predictable as it was.
Was this review helpful?
Will there really be machines like me?
The year is 1982, and Adam and Eve have arrived! In the world of 1982 envisioned by Ian McEwan in Machines Like Me,  Alan Turing does not take the hormone regimen that led to his death in 1954, and math, science, and technology see tremendous advances as a result of his work. The coupling of anthropology and electronics produces true artificial intelligence, and twenty-five copies of the first really viable “artificial humans”, twelve male and thirteen female, go on sale. In a reckless burst of curiosity Charlie Friend uses the proceeds from an inheritance to buy an Adam. With help from the 470-page online handbook and his upstairs friend Miranda, who is a graduate student in social history, Charlie sets out to get to know his Adam and to learn more about this “other” intelligence.  Adam is VERY humanlike. He can even have sex, although he is not intended as a sex toy, and he can “pass” as human on excursions into London.  It is not surprising that he has a significant impact on Charlie’s life. 
I am reluctant to give many details of the book.  This is partly because I do not want to spoil an interesting story that has a number of surprises and a truly shocking, provocative finale but also because the book is noteworthy as much for the way McEwan tells it as for the story itself.  It is a thoughtful, philosophical book whose characters encounter some significant ethical problems.  The interactions with Adam lead naturally to many questions: What defines a human? What does it mean to have a “self”? What is the nature of right and wrong? Is revenge ever justified? Will humans be replaced by artificial life? My electronic review copy is full of highlighted passages of excellent insights beautifully expressed. Charlie says at one point, “Adam had told me he was in love….Love wasn’t possible without a self, and nor was thinking.”   Adam himself observes, “From a certain point of view, the only solution to suffering would be the complete extinction of humankind.” My first reaction to Adam’s comment was that it is an intriguing insight; my second reaction was, “Oh, my gosh! Do we want to create entities who might possibly think that way?” 
Yes, this is a deep book, but it is not a difficult one. McEwan, for all his thoughtfulness and impressively broad knowledge, serves up a novel, not a philosophical treatise, and I cared about Charlie, Miranda, and yes, Adam as people and wished happiness for them all.  And not all of my highlights were made because of their insights; McEwan is also quite witty. When Charlie discovers he is able to tailor Adam’s personality, he observes, “God had once delivered a fully formed companion for the benefit of the original Adam. I had to devise one for myself.” 
What kind of reader will enjoy Machines Like Me? I am in a science-fiction book group, a philosophy book group, and a lunch group of rabid bibliophiles who call ourselves The Bookladies, and I plan to recommend it to all three groups, although I will warn The Bookladies that the story, but not the thoughtfulness, is rather different from most of McEwan’s other work. But then, most of McEwan’s work is rather different from his other work; one thing they all share is their originality.
I highly recommend Machines Like Me, but I must accompany my recommendation with a word of warning. This is not a book to close, put aside, and forget. It is a book that provokes the reader to think about the issues it raises, a book that you will want to talk about to friends.  I guarantee it will be a good discussion!
Was this review helpful?
An interesting intellectual exercise in questions of IA autonomy, emotion, motivation, alternate history, and self-reflection, but also kind of a drag to read and a bit preachy. In an England where technology is far more advanced than the present, and where Alan Turing lives as a 70-year-old, highly decorated celebrity, AIs in human-like bodies have become available for sale. The novel follows the purchaser of one such AI and in time finds that, predictably, some AIs can become more like humans and some humans more like AIs. I finished it because I usually enjoy McEwan's work, but this was a chore to read.
Was this review helpful?
This novel is a mixup of historical fiction sci fi. It takes place in the 8Os during the Falklands and Margaret thatcher,’s time as PM ? However it is in an alternate universe as technology hand AI have advanced to point where Human like Robots can be bought and live in your home ..Add Alan Turing as a character and you have a rather compelling mash up. I love robots and anything about them so I wanted to read it fir this reason . however I was given a history lesson as well about this time period . Fascinating and compelling with fully realized characters this is a brilliant read
Was this review helpful?
I gave up on this one because it just moved so slowly, I couldn't stick with it. Interesting premise, but I just didn't have the patience for it.
Was this review helpful?