The Holy Machine

Chris Beckett
The Holy Machine Cover

CW for book: SA


I don't think I've fully processed my opinion on this book yet.

The author made some attempt to soothe the deep misgivings I was having early on and midway through, but I don't think it was enough to overcome the problems and become a book that is necessary reading for a casual reader or sci-fi fan. I think it might still have a place for those folks whose interest lies in tracing science fiction themes such as dystopian settings, portrayal of religious extremism in science fiction, and influence of early dystopian fiction. I could see those threads and found them interesting.

Ultimately, I got very close to abandoning it several times, but didn't. I kept coming back and wanting to know what happened next, how it turned out, if it took these threads and did anything with them. I think this goes to an easy to read style and a narrator tone that suggested that this is a story of a journey to a philosophical destination.

On the other hand, it did not have anything interesting to say about sex, gender, or power. I disliked the use of a helpless sex worker woman as a way to teach our virginal sheltered young cis straight man protagonist a lesson. And especially that in order to learn that lesson he takes her completely into his control, becomes disgusted with her when her personal growth removes his ability to fuck her, then betrays her to people who destroy her. She becomes just another lesson on his way to growing up (he's 22ish?). And in the end he is absolved because he has done the penitence of becoming physically and mentally destroyed.