Sunday, 9 June 2019

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

"On his face was a complicated look - of confusion, of anxiety, of mirthless hilarity."

I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of this new work from McEwan because I'm slightly obsessed with the idea of Artificial Intelligence and its ramifications on every day life. The fact that this particular work is set in an alternate 1980s London was quite possibly my least favourite aspect of the novel. I found the timing and events a little distracting because the rest of the action seemed so contemporary.

There were moments where the story of Charlie, Adam, Miranda and Mark was all consuming and I felt confused by talk of Thatcher and Turing.

To me their tale was entered around the premise that Haddaway sang of - What is love? Love is such a fractured, strange, complicated beast, can it ever be understood by a machine that seeks answers in patterns and absolutes?

The lives (if that's how you can describe them) of the synthetic humans are tortured mirrors of our own inability to deal with the horrific complexities of life. Their struggles are compared against the intensely complicated back story of rape and revenge that is Miranda's tale, the mired childhood of Mark and Charlie's general confusion about everything that is playing out.

My first response to the novel was to discount it a little and yet it plagued my mind. Upon further reflection, my appreciation of it is increased. In some ways it is the perfect reflection of the goldfish bowl times where we jump from story to story, time to time and person to person seemingly at a digital pace. Always seeking the new and improved without adequate reflection on the repercussions. That was my takeaway at least, and I suspect others might take differing views because we all hold varying opinions on what it is to be human.

5 out of 5, uncomplicated, hot robots are just as mixed up as the real deal.

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