The Machine by James Smythe

The Machine - James Smythe

I was really starting to love this author after I read the first two books in the fantastic Anomaly Quartet, which both follow a manned mission into space. My review of the second book is here:


If space is your thing, I recommend you give them a go, because they’re fantastic! Even if you’re not partial to a bit of space exploration, I’d still highly recommend them.


Back to this book though, which has been dubbed the Frankenstein of the 21st century; a pretty big claim. And does it deliver? Short answer: yes and no


So, this books about Beth, whose husband Vic went to war. War changed him and he returned haunted by a host of brutal memories. A machine promised to take those memories away and preserve the ones he had from before he went to war. After undergoing the aforementioned treatment though, Vic experienced some pretty severe side-effects. These side-effects put him in a nursing home, where he remained as a vegetable and ultimately the treatment he had was ended for him and any future candidates.


Fast forward a short while and Beth wants her husband back, illegally obtaining one of the machines used in his initial treatment. She plans to use the machine along with recordings from his treatment, to put her husband back together. She thinks he’ll then be restored to who he once was, for better or worse.


This book is all about memory and forces the reader to consider how much of their memories make them who they are and if they should ever tamper with them. I really liked how it constanly made me consider things like this.


Mostly based in Beth and Vic’s flat, this was a claustrophobic read. There are certain situations where claustrophobia works in a novel, like if it’s set in space, but here it just had the effect of limiting the novel. It never really got any further either, so felt quite contained. I did really enjoy the plot line though, so didn't mind this so much


Some things were never properly explained either, so I felt a bit frustrated by the end.


James Smythe tends to overuse punctuation, so reading one of his books feels overly long because of the stiltedness, even though they’re all quite short reads.


The characters, as in all of his books, aren’t really put into the type of situations where they get to show off their personality. Typically in a James Smyth novel, the characters are very focused on the job at hand, so we don’t get a chance to see them to their full extent. Luckily, his books always have excellent plots, so this can be overlooked.


I recently headed over to Amazon to check out what other people were saying about James Smythe and apparently he got in touch with a reviewer who was less than favourable. The said reviewer claimed this contact from Mr Smythe was understandable as he’d only read 37% of the book and then left a negative review, but I’m not so sure I agree. I don’t think an author should ever contact someone about a negative review, so it has put me off him somewhat.


So finally, while I did enjoy it, I don’t think it can really be compared to Frankenstein in a huge sense; it just didn’t have the breadth of character.