Machines Like Me: A Novel (Paperback)
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From the Booker Prize winner and bestselling author of Atonement—”a sharply intelligent novel of ideas” (The New York Times) that asks whether a machine can understand the human heart, or whether we are the ones who lack understanding.
Set in an uncanny alternative 1982 London—where Britain has lost the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power, and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence—Machines Like Me powerfully portrays two lovers who will be tested beyond their understanding. 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 generation of synthetic humans. With Miranda's assistance, he codesigns Adam's personality. The near-perfect human that emerges is beautiful, strong, and smart—and a love triangle soon forms. Ian McEwan's subversive, gripping 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 against the power to invent things beyond our control.
Don’t miss Ian McEwan’s new novel, Lessons, available now.
About the Author
IAN MCEWAN is the critically acclaimed author of seventeen novels and two short story collections. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award; The Cement Garden; Enduring Love; Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize; Atonement; Saturday; On Chesil Beach; Solar; Sweet Tooth; The Children Act; Nutshell; and Machines Like Me, which was a number-one bestseller. Atonement, Enduring Love, The Children Act and On Chesil Beach have all been adapted for the big screen.
“A sharply intelligent novel of ideas. McEwan’s writing about the creation of a robot’s personality allows him to speculate on the nature of personality, and thus humanity, in general . . . Beguiling.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"[A] sharp, unsettling read . . . about love, family, jealousy and deceit. Ultimately, it asks a surprisingly mournful question: If we built a machine that could look into our hearts, could we really expect it to like what it sees?"
—The New York Times Book Review
“[McEwan] is not only one of the most elegant writers alive, he is one of the most astute at crafting moral dilemmas within the drama of everyday life. Half a century ago, Philip K. Dick asked, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,’ and now McEwan is sure those androids are pulling the wool over our eyes. McEwan’s special contribution is not to articulate the challenge of robots but to cleverly embed that challenge in the lives of two people trying to find a way to exist with purpose. That human drama makes Machines Like Me strikingly relevant even though it’s set in a world that never happened almost 40 years ago.”
—The Washington Post
“Witty and humane . . . a retrofuturist family drama that doubles as a cautionary fable about artificial intelligence, consent, and justice.”
—The New Yorker
“[A] densely allusive, mind-bending novel of ideas that plays to our acute sense of foreboding about where technology is leading us. In Machines Like Me, British literary fiction master Ian McEwan posits an alternative history . . . [it has] the feel of an intricate literary machine situated squarely on the fault lines of contemporary debates about technology.”
—Los Angeles Times
“A thought-provoking, well-oiled literary machine . . . [It] manages to flesh out—literally and grippingly—questions about what constitutes a person, and the troubling future of humans if the smart machines we create can overtake us."
“A searching, sharply intelligent, and often deeply discomfiting pass through the Black Mirror looking glass—and all the promise and peril of machine dreams.”
“A ruminative mix of science fiction, romance and alternate history set in 1980s London….thought-provoking…[A] cautionary tale based on McEwan’s sharp observations of our flawed human nature.”
“Enormous fun . . . McEwan has engaged with science before [and] his world of artificial intelligence is chilly, clever and utterly credible. This bold and brilliant novel tells a consistently compelling tale but it also provides regular food for thought regarding who we are, what we feel, what we construct, and what we might become.”
–Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Reminds you of [McEwan’s] mastery of the underrated craft of storytelling. The narrative is propulsive, thanks to our uncertainties about the characters’ motives, the turning points that suddenly reconfigure our understanding of the plot, and the figure of Adam, whose ambiguous energy is both mysteriously human and mysteriously not . . . Morally complex and very disturbing, animated by a spirit of sinister and intelligent mischief that feels unique to its author.”
"Thought provoking . . . consistently surprising . . . an intriguing novel about humans, machines, and what constitutes a self."
"McEwan brings humor and considerable ethical rumination to a cautionary tale about artificial intelligence."