Max Barry's Machine Man is a disarmingly funny and light-feeling novel about an antisocial engineer who decides to create his own prosthetic leg after he loses his own in an industrial accident. Charles Neumann is an antisocial, technology-dependent scientist at a top secret military contractor's skunkworks. Dissatisfied with the prosthesis he is fitted with after he accidentally crushes his leg in a materials-testing machine, he sets out to create a better leg -- a leg that's so good you'd chop your own off to get it (this is also the battle-cry of the real-world open-source prosthetics movement). Which is precisely what he does.
What unfolds is a superficially simple, absurdist tale about a misfit geek who pursues a relentless and seemingly logical program of amputation and replacement. Barry uses this narrative to smuggle in a sly and insightful critique of the anti-human edges of the transhumanist movement, the place where transcendence of nature meets mortification of the flesh.
As with all of the best thought-provoking sf, Machine Man pulls this off without slowing down the action -- which involves some properly cinematic cyborg duelling and such -- and without sacrificing characterization. This is a really fantastic read and a thought-provoking one, too -- a great companion to such books as James Hughes's Citizen Cyborg.
An appropriate book for this time, Soviet-era dystopian fiction grandmasters Boris and Arkady Strugatski considered Snail On The Slope “the most perfect and the most valuable of their works.” Snail on The Slope is comprised of two separate storylines, taking place in and on the edge of The Forest. Together they paint a vivid picture […]
(I originally reviewed this in 2008, but thought it was worth reposting, for obvious reasons. — MF) In World Made By Hand (2008) by James Howard Kunstler, the population of the United States (and most likely, the world) has been decimated by an energy shortage, starvation, plagues, terrorism, and global warming. The story takes place […]
Thank you for reading — After eight years on Boing Boing, the John Wilcock story will conclude next week! — From John Wilcock, New York Years, by Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall — (See all Boing Boing installments)
At this point, it’s every single person’s responsibility to reduce their own carbon footprint and transition to a more sustainable lifestyle. But if you consider the grim fact that the biggest culprit of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the U.S. is burning fossil fuels for electricity, things, like pivoting to metal straws and […]
Companies that don’t have their own in-house design teams (which means 99 percent of all companies these days) face lots of serious questions. Among those questions is how you keep up with all the design requirements of a 21st-century company without the personnel. It isn’t just a website or an annual product catalog anymore. It’s […]
In case you’re one of those computer shoppers who instinctively turns up their nose at the very mention of the word refurbished, here are a couple myths worth dispelling. Refurbished equals junk somebody didn’t want. While desktops, laptops, notebooks, Chromebooks and tablets marked as refurbished may have been unboxed at some point, meaning they can […]