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Books Editorial

machineslike19.jpg Machines Like Me
 

Ian McEwan, Jonathan Cape

Ian McEwan’s latest is set in an alternate 1980s. Margaret Thatcher is still Prime Minister (and sending troops to the Falklands, although with a rather different outcome), but the Labour Party is being fronted up by Tony Benn. More significantly computer genius Alan Turing is still alive and the world has gotten used to exponential advances in technology – everyone has a mobile phone and self-driving cars trundle up and down motorways. Advances in artificial intelligence mean that orders are being taken for lifelike androids. Among the first recipients is Charlie, who, along with his girlfriend, Miranda, welcome – after the 16-hour booting up process – Adam into their lives. An odd sort of love triangle is soon formed. McEwan has fun with this alternate reality (The Beatles have reformed with the now-not-dead John Lennon) but this thought-provoking novel is chiefly about the incompatibility of machine logic and the messy ways in which humans set about constructing their lives.