I am not sure how I can finish a book and be certain it’s not really my kind of book in some ways, yet be so blown away and impacted by it that at the same time it totally is–and I want to tell everyone to read it. But Machine by Jennifer Pelland proved that it’s possible.
Before I get too deep into this, I want to mention that strong content warnings would be appropriate for this book. Apex Book Company has not begun putting these onto their books yet (they are on all new stories in the magazine), so I especially want to mention explicit and graphic self-harm. I know that this can be very triggering for some people, especially in these difficult times. But this content is one of the elements that I connected strongly with. I suspect more content warnings are needed, but I am not sure how to phrase them. This is the one that was most in my realm of experience to be aware of.
Now, back to what made his book hit me so hard…
The writing is strong and compelling. I was pulled quickly into the complicated situation the MC is dealing and connected with her emotionally.
I’ve dealt with depression, health issues, a sense that my body is no longer familiar and is failing me. That sense of no longer knowing who I am and worrying about what makes me me. And also the need to reset and build new social relations because the current ones don’t fit anymore. All of these elements come through very well and I felt both echoes of my own past and the experiences of the MC because of the power of the writing.
The MC herself is an interesting character and the plot is driven by who she is and the choices she makes. Both world and character are realistic and consistent.
This is the kind of book that I keep thinking about long after I have read it and that my brain turns to with admiration and envy.
I also want to mention that despite all these dark topics, the book overall is enthusiastically and even joyously queer. While I am straight/cis, I really appreciated those elements.
All in all, this is a 5 star read. Highly recommended.