Tag Archives: UK

Ian McEwan, Machines Like Me


Charlie Friend is 32 and he is dissatisfied with his life. As a day trader, he hardly makes any money. He is an anthropology graduate, but his life has been built on a succession of schemes that never fully succeeded. He befriends a neighbour, a history graduate student called Melinda.

The story is set in the 80s, during the Thatcher years, not in present time, so advancement in machine learning and robotics would not be common knowledge. However, Charlie has had a bit of interest in the subject, even publishing a book on it.

At about the same time Charlie and Melinda become more intimate, Charlie acquires an humanoid robot, with the money he inherited from his mother. Charlie decides to share the robot, Adam, with Melinda. The introduction of Adam in the story becomes a good ploy to explore several aspects of human nature, ethical dilemmas, and issues of free will and agency.

It turns out that Melinda hides a big secret which suddenly changes the course of the story (and started making it much more interesting to me).

In the end, neither the world, nor the technology, appear to be ready for completely autonomous humanoid beings, but this book raises interesting questions. I think this book would foster lively discussion in a book club.

McEwan, Ian. Machines Like Me. Penguin Random House, 2019.

Other things:






Tuesday Night Ramblings: I Am Not Being A Good Reader


Being of a slightly competitive nature, I like to be “good” at what I do. Now, what does that mean when it comes to reading? Well… we could take into consideration how fast one reads, what one reads (something meaningful and challenging?), reading thoughtfully (engaging the text and learning from it?), and by extension, writing interesting blog posts about said books. I am having trouble concentrating on reading after finishing Madd Addam, maybe because of the focus I put on this book when I read it. It is just hard to get into something else heartily enough to read fast.

But who am I kidding, does anybody really care? Shouldn’t I just concentrate about having fun reading, learning something interesting by reading, enjoying writing about the books I read just for the sake of moving my fingers over the keyboard and seeing the words appear on the screen, having fun thinking as I write?

And enough navelgazing for now… Better concentrate on “novel” gazing. OK, bad pun…

I am currently about two thirds of the way through a book originally published in 2003 by Sofi Oksanen called “Stalin’s Cows” (in French, Les vaches de Staline). It appears in French translation in 2011 following the success of Purge. It does not seem to exist in English translation. Similarly to Purge, the recent history of Estonia features prominently in this book, but so does the issue of eating disorders, an issue that the author reportedly has struggled with. Other themes of importance include: Soviet society, Soviet occupation of Estonia, immigration, ethnic identity, handling difference in a mixed couple, being a child of a mixed couple, maintaining relationships with relatives in the home country, etc. A very rich book. I highly recommend it and I am already looking forward to the next one, Quand les colombes disparurent (“When the doves disappeared”), already waiting for me at home.

I am also about 30% through Mrs. Radcliffe’s book The Mysteries of Udolpho, which I said I would read after I was done with Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey which was a parody of the gothic genre. This is a very, very long novel which tells in details of the trials and tribulations of a young French woman, who’s aunt becomes her guardian after her father’s death. The aunt’s focus on getting her a wealthy husband (not a totally disinterested end) drags her into several uncomfortable situations and highlights the dire powerlessness of women in the years in which the story is set (late 18th century). I have yet to come to the part of the book which features the famous castle of Udolpho and so far, there isn’t much that is overtly gothic about this novel.

I am also travelling with some work-related reading: one book about the system approach to performance improvement, and a new edition of a Quebec book about the management of learning and development. Gotta try to keep up with the lit in that area somehow…



Oksanen, Sofi. Purge. Black Cat, Grove/Atlantic Inc., New York, NY, 2010. (originally published in Finnish in 2008)

Oksanen, Sofi. Les vaches de Staline. Éditions Stock, 2011. (originally published in Finnish in 2003)

Oksanen, Sofi. Quand les colombes disparurent. Éditions Stock, 2013. (originally published in Finnish in 2012).

Radcliffe, Ann Ward. The Mysteries of Udolpho.  (as published in Project Gutenberg, originally published in 4 volumes in 1794)