Jonathan Lyons,
(Double Dragon, 2004)

I was particularly intrigued by the premise of Machina, because it plays off an idea I have had for a story of my own. My idea looks pretty silly in comparison, though, because Machina is a sweeping, provocative novel that takes the idea of existence as far as it can go -- all the way to God Himself. Described as "a speculative, metaphysical, philosophical, and very unusual novel," Machina works into its inner core a truly impressive array of profound ideas from science to religion to philosophy. It is a challenging book in this regard. If Schroedinger's cat means nothing to you or you're more than uncertain about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, you may have to work a little bit to appreciate the nuances of the story. For those of us who have at least dabbled in all sorts of crazy ideas and abstract notions (e.g., remote viewing, quantum mechanics) and sampled the intellectual traditions of different cultures, though, Machina is quite a treat indeed.

What would happen if God were to die? That's a question scientists are giving serious thought to as Machina opens. There have been ominous doings in the cosmos; certain stars, for example, have quite disappeared. Light and matter have begun to behave rather strangely in certain scientific experiments. Reports of metaphysical anomalies across the world have been increasing. Scientists are taking this very seriously, and their only conclusion is that God is dead -- that God is no longer there to look down upon all of creation, and for that very reason natural laws have begun to break down and remote parts of the universe have up and disappeared. Earth may suffer the same fate.

In order to make sure this doesn't happen, a secret government program is launched to bring every part of Earth under constant observation by an assemblage of remote viewers. Someone must have an eye on everything on Earth to make sure that reality holds together here -- it's an extension of Descarte's argument that existence depends on observation.

While the government is busy constructing what will become a vast machine (Machina) to watch over everything on Earth, a university janitor named Sinclair begins to experience an odd awakening of some sort. He begins to see strange things out of the corner of his eye (such as a woman walking through a street sign) and to hear voices in his head. As his consciousness expands, he makes contact with a dying but not yet dead God. He is also sought out by the former leader of the Machina project, a scientist who has come to realize that, for all of the good intentions behind it, Machina has become a dangerous instrument, a stalwart obstacle to the natural ways of universal evolution -- and it sees Sinclair as a growing threat to its existence. There will be a showdown between Sinclair (and his allies) and Machina -- and the fate of the universe hinges on the outcome.

This is a novel of fascinating ideas. It is challenging, though, as it works to incorporate numerous abstract ideas into a new way of thinking about the nature of existence itself. It is rare that a novel can be on the cutting-edge of both science fiction and philosophy, but Machina is just such a novel.

by Daniel Jolley
24 December 2005

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