Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book: E. M. Forster's "The Machine Stops"

While I waited for my next book to become available at my library I downloaded a novella (or is it novelette?) that I'd heard about.

E. M. Forster's "The Machine Stops" is a short (48 pages) but prescient work of fiction.  The book describes a world where everyone is isolated in their own room where the Machine provides them with all their needs.  People cannot go to the surface without respirators due to the poisonous air but why would they want to when their every need is provided by the Machine.  Travel between rooms is possible but is not desirable.  Why visit someone when you can instantly communication with them?

People spend their days communicating with other people via tablets, exchanging ideas and lectures. There is no work.  The only thing of value are ideas.

Over time the Machine is practically worshipped and the instruction manual ('the book') is treated like a holy text.  Everything is great until things start to break down.

What makes this short novella so interesting is how prescient Forster was.  This book was published in 1909.  I almost forgot this fact since most of the concepts on the story fit so well with our modern society.  The isolation created by our technology. People preferring texting over face to face talking.  The only thing that pulled me out of the story was the archaic language Forster uses at times.  Nothing surprising for something written over a hundred years ago.

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads.  I actually downloaded it for free from goodreads.  It's a short read full of many thought provoking ideas.

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