Now that I’m finally all moved, I’m getting around to reading a lot of galleys that I’m late on & have had for forever. The first one I read was Tell the Machine Goodnight by Kate Williams. The story follows several people in a future where a machine can tell you what will make you happy for the right price. Pearl, a technician who can use the machine for others, seems to enjoy her job, but is dumbfounded by her son, Rhett, who seems to want to remain unhappy.
Content Warning: eating disorders, mental illness, assault, self-harm
I enjoyed this novel, though it felt a bit disjointed to me. It’s told in chapters from alternating perspectives from varying characters. The stories interlock and overlap, and all explore ideas related to happiness. There’s an air of absurdity to the novel as well. Pearl is a likable character, though sometimes she makes choices I find questionable–but who doesn’t? Her son is also intriguing and I appreciated the chapter from his point of view. The disjointed nature of the novel meant some threads were explored and never picked back up, but overall, I felt like there was a cohesive narrative, even if there wasn’t a traditional story arc.
The future depicted in the world was intriguing to me. The Apricity machine, which is supposed to give recommendations for happiness, was very interesting. It provides seemingly random recommendations based on your DNA, and it felt very satirical at times, and is a tacit presence throughout the stories. It aids and hurts, but is a constant in each person’s story. The novel does tackle a lot of big issues through this machine, including our reliance on sources outside ourselves to tell us what our lives are missing, the notion of celebrity, and how family dynamics are affected by outside forces.
Overall, this was a solid slice-of-life read. The characters were interesting and the future depicted was likewise fascinating. I enjoyed it, and I liked the way the chapters read. If you like near future books with interesting concepts, you’ll likely enjoy this as well.
Note: I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.