The new Ian McEwan novel, “Machines Like Me,” about a ménage à trois between a man, a woman and a sexy male robot, is pretty good.
It’s good enough that, were it published under a pseudonym, the world told only that it was the work of a first-time author, critics would compete to dance fandangos of admiration around it.
Because it’s a McEwan novel, however, and because it falls somewhere toward the middle of his oeuvre in terms of quality, it’s tempting to say about it: Meh. He has set expectations high, this man.
McEwan was recently crucified on Twitter for, during interviews about “Machines Like Me,” being perceived to look down his snout at science fiction writers. (Twitter: the place to go for all your drive-by crucifixion needs.) He was outed as at least a nominal genre snob.
People are touchy about genre. Isabel Allende was once forced to apologize after she was seen as minimizing the talent of mystery writers. Curtis Sittenfeld took a beating, for similar reasons, from romance writing enthusiasts. Ditto Kazuo Ishiguro, with the fantasy crowd.
This touchiness runs in both directions. Who can forget Harlan Ellison’s obituary last year in this newspaper, in which he was quoted as saying: “Call me a science fiction writer. I’ll come to your house and I’ll nail your pet’s head to a coffee table. I’ll hit you so hard your ancestors will die.”
Do I get to pick which pet’s head he nails to the table?
“Machines Like Me” is a sharply intelligent novel of ideas. McEwan’s writing about the creation of a robot’s personality allows him to speculate on the nature of personality, and thus humanity, in general.
This book can remind one of certain of John Updike’s novels, such as “Roger’s Version” (1986), which was about God and computer science. These were primarily repositories for the author’s essayistic thinking. In those books, as in McEwan’s new one, proper narrative and believable characters seem to have been added almost as an afterthought.
“Machines Like Me” is about what happens when Charlie, a London man in his early 30s, uses money left to him after his mother’s death to buy a first-generation robot named Adam.
This Adam is a remarkable machine, with warm lifelike skin, a pulse, the ability to make more facial expressions than most humans and a word store as large as Shakespeare’s. Crucially, thanks to a reservoir of distilled water in his right buttock, he is also capable of achieving an erection.
Charlie has a girlfriend, Miranda, who lives upstairs from his flat. They agree to pitch in together to hone the robot’s personality parameters, as if they are raising a child.
He falls in love with Miranda. He imprints upon her, as if he were a baby duck. But this comes after Adam has warned Charlie, based on information he has combed from databases, that he may not be able to trust her.
This novel spins off in multiple directions. There’s a revenge plot. There’s a possible adoption. Turing makes an unboring appearance.
There are some pokey moments in this novel, some dead nodes. But McEwan has an interesting mind and he is nearly always good company on the page. In whichever direction he turns, he has worthwhile commentary to make.
Here he is, for example, on the nature of fights between couples: “It had taken all of my 20s to learn from women combatants that in a full-on row it was not necessary to respond to the last thing said. Generally it was best not to. In an attacking move, ignore bishop or castle. Logic and straight lines were out. Best to rely on the knight.”
Miranda gets curious and decides to find out what it would be like to sleep with Adam. Charlie confronts her about this. She responds, “If I’d gone to bed with a vibrator would you be feeling the same?”
McEwan is good on coziness between humans and machines. “His breath smells like the back of a warm TV set,” we read. Charlie says, “I detected the scent of warm electronics on her sheets.” He calls himself the first man to be “cuckolded by an artifact.”
Adam has a kill switch, a mole on the nape of his neck. When Charlie reaches for it, Adam breaks a bone in Charlie’s wrist. Others among this new robot population have disabled their kill switches. Still others suffer existential pain and begin to disable themselves, a form of suicide.
Adam begins to think and act independently, sometimes to the detriment of Charlie’s and Miranda’s lives. He’s not made for nuance. As Turing himself says in this beguiling if sometimes static novel, “Who’s going to write the algorithm for the little white lie that spares the blushes of a friend?”B:
开马生肖对应数字“【我】【给】【宅】【男】【同】【胞】【们】【丢】【脸】【了】！” 【于】【淼】【在】【心】【里】【哀】【怨】【地】【叫】【着】。 （【作】【者】：【作】【为】【一】【个】【单】【身】【二】【十】【多】【年】【的】【单】【身】【狗】，【你】【不】【会】【感】【到】【羞】【愧】【么】。） 【小】【短】【手】【的】【限】【制】，【导】【致】【他】【陷】【入】【了】【一】【种】【千】【言】【万】【语】【口】【难】【开】【的】【尴】【尬】【状】【态】。 【一】【时】【间】【都】【急】【红】【了】【脸】。 【洪】【兴】【在】【一】【旁】【看】【着】【于】【淼】【如】【此】，【想】【笑】【却】【又】【不】【好】【意】【思】，【只】【得】【强】【忍】【着】。 “？” 【为】【了】【给】
【林】【高】【帆】【此】【时】【仗】【着】【木】【玉】【璧】【之】【力】，【也】【奋】【而】【跃】【向】【上】【空】。 【乐】【羽】【见】【林】【高】【帆】【来】【势】【汹】【汹】，【连】【忙】【避】【开】，【他】【喊】【道】：“【你】【当】【真】【要】【和】【我】【拼】【命】？【水】【玉】【璧】【与】【你】【何】【用】，【为】【何】【你】【千】【方】【百】【计】【阻】【挠】？” “【我】【只】【知】【道】【若】【是】【水】【玉】【璧】【落】【入】【你】【手】，【江】【湖】【绝】【不】【会】【太】【平】。”【林】【高】【帆】【正】【义】【凌】【然】【道】。 “【你】！【若】【是】【平】【时】，【我】【必】【毫】【不】【犹】【豫】【将】【玉】【璧】【交】【给】【你】，【不】【过】【现】【在】
【翌】【日】。 【一】【大】【清】【早】。 【章】【飞】【等】【人】【便】【来】【到】【夏】【云】【小】【屋】【前】【方】【的】【空】【地】【上】。 【杜】【芸】【芸】【也】【来】【了】。 【腾】【鑫】【和】【徐】【若】【兰】【也】【不】【例】【外】。 【夏】【云】【从】【小】【屋】【走】【出】【来】，【看】【到】【章】【飞】【等】【人】【有】【点】【紧】【张】【的】【样】【子】，【不】【禁】【一】【笑】。 “【接】【下】【来】，【我】【打】【算】【带】【你】【们】【去】【北】【皇】【城】。” 【夏】【云】【来】【到】【章】【飞】【等】【人】【的】【面】【前】，【认】【真】【地】【说】【道】。 “【北】【皇】【城】？” 【章】【飞】【最】【先】【反】【应】
【赵】【梦】【生】【含】【怒】【出】【手】，**【安】【捂】【着】【自】【己】【的】【脸】，【一】【脸】【迷】【茫】，【整】【张】【脸】【都】【印】【着】【红】【肿】【的】【手】【印】！ “【你】【这】【个】【逆】【子】，【给】【我】【滚】【回】【屋】【待】【着】，【没】【有】【我】【的】【允】【许】，【不】【准】【再】【出】【门】【一】【步】!” “【爹】，【这】【是】【为】【什】【么】【啊】？【我】【差】【一】【点】【就】【死】【在】【山】【里】【了】，【即】【便】【是】【我】【有】【错】，【我】【认】【罚】【就】【是】！” “【平】【安】，【听】【娘】【的】【话】，【回】【去】【歇】【着】，【你】【爹】【在】【气】【头】【上】，【等】【你】【爹】【消】【气】【了】，【你】【再】