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25 Feb 2011

The Machine Stops

A classic dystopian tale that is best appreciated read in light of it's 1909 publication date. It's very short and would make a perfect Twilight Zone episode.

I find E.M. Forster too dry for my tastes. Room With a View was just okay for me. I distinctly recall a few yawns and several glazing-of-the-eyes moments. Amanda suggested that I try The Machine Stops, and I'm glad she did.

In this instance, Forster's dryness works. Dystopian fiction functions well sitting on the foundations of detachment.

In our current world where social connections are made through computers, where art, novels, and culture sit comfortably in the digital sphere, where service jobs are replaced by computerised machines (I visited my first human-free petrol/gas station recently), the story is a fantastic and disturbing visionary parallel.

The Machine Stops: And Other Stories (Abinger Editions)

Not a spoiler below but skip if you want a completely fresh reading.


What I particularly admired in this depiction of a mechanised existence, was that rather than machines obtaining intelligence and destroying the humans, it was a insidious and more possible outcome. Total trust and subsequent human submission to science and technology. A blind faith in our ideas and a dismissal of our sensual beings. A machine that comes alive in our own minds seems more disgustingly despairing. Brilliant.


Recommended for lovers of dystopian fiction and those who would rather pass on any more Forster.

Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee.
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  1. I do get on very well with Forster's writing as a whole, but I'm still very excited to read this story! Thank you for reminding me of it - it was on my radar but has been sort of forgotten.

  2. I haven't read any of Forster's books, but I read an essay by Zadie Smith, about Forster's book reviews and liked it. Forster does seem to be an interesting writer and book reviewer. This book looks quite interesting, scary and plausible from your review. I will look for it. Thanks for the wonderful review!

  3. I really liked Room with a View and like dystopian novels, so even though I struggled through Howard's End I might give this one a try.

  4. That's sounds interesting Vishy. I'll keep a look out for it.

    Welcome motheretc. It's very short, worth a try.