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.
I came across Astonish Yourself: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life when I took my kids to the California Science Center in Los Angeles in 2009 and found it in the gift store. It was written by philosopher Roger-Pol Droit, a researcher at the Centre de Recherche Scientifique and, as the title indicates, […]
Here are two lists of e-books being made freely available on-line. Please add more in the comments! PublicBooks.org’s Public Books Database This is a list of academic presses making their books and research freely available. Jim C. Hines’ list of Free and Legal Science Fiction and Fantasy Hines has collected a list of authors providing […]
If you enjoyed Rysa Walker’s Chronos Files, you’ll love Now, Then and Everywhen. Walker digs into deep into the backstory of her fantastic time travel series, expands greatly on the world-building and time-physics, and adds a few great characters. She also colors in the backstory that fueled the original series. I really enjoyed Walker’s YA […]
Have you ever had more time to hone in on fine details than right now? Sure, at first glance, this might not seem like the time to get tripped up on the nitty-gritty of minutia. But how often are you ever going to have this much time to really stop and think about hows and […]
There are plenty of productive ways to spend time while stuck indoors. While it’s undoubtedly fun to binge all 15 seasons of Supernatural or sink days of playtime into an Overwatch campaign, learning something new is definitely a more meaningful and long-term beneficial use of open hours. And if you’re going to invest time in […]
Yoga studios are closed nationwide. The irony is that between the anxieties of the outside world and those popping up inside your very own home with everyone trapped indoors, there’s probably never been a time where yoga’s calming zen was more vital and needed. Rather than just throwing in the yoga mat and subjecting family […]