After being completely blown away by James Symthes second novel, The Explorer, I was more than excited to curl up with his third offering, The Machine.
As Beth takes delivery of the Machine she blames for ruining her life, she focuses on the overwhelming task ahead of her. The Machine was meant to be therapeutic, a safe way to repress painful and dangerous memories. The early models even had the ability to fill in mental gaps, bringing hope to thousands, especially Alzheimer sufferers and soldiers suffering the mental consequences of war. This was the exact position that Vic, Beth's husband, found himself in. After being shot in combat he was lucky to survive but when he returned home he was plagued by flashbacks and nightmares, turning him into a different man, a violent man. Beth took the brunt of the violence and in a desperate act to save their marriage she convinces him to take part in the experimental treatment. At first it all went well and even though it was painful, Vic stuck to the programme but when the treatment was almost complete and Beth had to finish it instead of the Doctors, something went terribly wrong and Vic lost the ability to walk, talk and function, he was alive but barely.
After years of planning though Beth finally has the Machine she has researched and saved for for so long. She's going to bring Vic home and get back the man she loved but can she really do it and if so, will he ever be the same?
I was so looking forward to reading this novel that I was slightly worried I may have hyped it up in my own head but I can safely say that James Smythe just keeps getting better. The Machine takes a brilliantly philosophical science fiction narrative and adds such tender and evocative themes you become utterly absorbed. By the end of the novel I still couldn't really decide if I liked Beth or not as her drive is often misplaced and selfish but her every step is so completely understandable you just can't fault it. Whether you think she's doing right or wrong, you just can't help but relate to her. Smythe also handles the reality of helping someone with extreme physical difficulties with such unflinching realism it is completely heart-breaking.
As a bookseller I often get asked who my favourite author is and this is a question I've never had an answer too, with so many books out there who can choose. But after reading through The Machine I can honestly say James Smythe ticks that box for me. I have not read his first novel The Testimony yet and I am torn between rushing to read it and taking my time and spreading it out between his next release. If you want an intelligent, thought provoking and philosophical novel that that will stay with you a lifetime, look no further than The Machine.
To buy The Machine by James Smythe from Amazon click here.
To buy The Machine by James Smyther from Waterstones click here.