Gavin F (gavluvsga) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Gavin F

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Book #18: The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster

This is a book I studied at school and decided to read again; since it's quite short, I managed to read it in just under half an hour.

It's quite easy to forget quite long ago this was written (in 1905), since it feels way ahead of its time, and almost feels like a satire on humanity's dependance on technology, which feels even more relevant today than it was when it was written.

In the book, people live underground in small honeycomb-like cells, dependant entirely on a single machine to meet their everyday needs. I suspect that E.M. Forster had in mind some sort of large industrial-type device, and not a computer as we might imagine nowadays, but it makes for impressive imagery nonetheless. I noticed some good social comments about people becoming very segregated; for example, it is no longer acceptable to touch others, and the surface of the earth is considered too dangerous to go to, as people supposedly cannot survive.

Based on the book's title, you can probably guess how it all ends.

There are two main characters, a mother and a son, and they live on opposite sides of the world. The first of the three chapters deals with the (evidently very agorophobic) mother going to visit her son in an airship, at his request, while the second tells of how he visited the earth's surface. It was interesting to see how E.M. Forster played out the relationship between the two characters, with the son acting as the voice of reason, and the mother portrayed as stubborn and entirely trusting in the machine. And the final chapter, where the inevitable happens, is very shocking, and very sad; one of the lines that struck me most was about repair equipment that was itself in need of repair (where evidently this wasn't possible).

I enjoyed reading this book just as much as I did when I was a teenager.

Next book: The Big Six (Arthur Ransome)
Tags: 1001 books to read before you die, book review, classic, dystopia, fiction, futuristic, post-modern, sci-fi

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