The Machine by James Smythe (Book Review)
It’s been described as a modern day Frankenstein tale, and that aptly describes the story of The Machine. Beth is a schoolteacher, living on a small island, while her husband, a former soldier called Vic, is being cared for on the mainland after his brain was almost completely destroyed by a machine that can add and take away memories. He was a violent man after returning from war, by the things he had seen, and so the machine was used to quell the violence that those memories had evoked within his personality. The only trouble is that something went wrong with the machine, they had pushed him too far with it, and his brain ended up as good as fried.
And so the story starts with Beth taking the delivery of all the different parts that make up the machine, for she wants to use the machine to try and return her husband to the way he was. She has the original hard drives to make this possible, but first she must get her husband back and wait till the end of term in order to be able to have the time to look after him until she can make him better. While at school however, she befriends a supply teacher working at her school, who is only on the island to cover a shortage, but it is this friend, Laura, who turns out to be a Christian, and very against the ungodly process of the machine. She only finds out about Beth’s true intentions when they both get drunk one night, and Beth spills a little too much to Laura about her husband and her plans for him.
Once the end of term arrives, and Beth has her husband, she is battling against the incessant ranting and visits from Laura, who is telling her not to go ahead with it, for the Machine is evil and will not put the soul back into her husband. As you can guess, this being a modern Frankenstein tale, things do not go well, and the man Beth manages to bring back, may look like her husband, but there is something missing in him, perhaps broken memories, or newly added ones by the machine, but certain things happen that makes Beth more than aware that her husband is now dangerous, and Laura’s warnings perhaps more prescient than she would like to admit.
From the very start I was engrossed by this book, and found it endlessly readable throughout. Beth’s plight is wonderfully realised and the mystery surrounding the machine, that it might be more than just a sequence of hard drives and noisy fans, made me want to keep reading to see where it would lead and to see what would become of Beth and her husband. Also it’s worth pointing out that there aren’t many central characters in the story, and the fact it’s told from Beth’s point of view, makes it quite an achievement to never let the story dull or become tiresome. In fact Smythe managed to keep my attention throughout, and the clever way of making the estate she lived on, also a threat by young mobs and dark unseen alleyways, only added to the tension and the challenges facing Beth.
Therefore I highly recommend this book. It’s a well written modern day Frankenstein tale with a twist that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish, and it has only made me want to read more books by James Smythe.