The Machine Stops

The Machine Stops


(29 Reviews)
The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster







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The Machine Stops


(29 Reviews)
The Machine Stops is a short science fiction story. It describes a world in which almost all humans have lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual lives in isolation in a 'cell', with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Most humans welcome this development, as they are skeptical and fearful of first-hand experience. People forget that humans created the Machine, and treat it as a mystical entity whose needs supersede their own. Those who do not accept the deity of the Machine are viewed as 'unmechanical' and are threatened with "Homelessness". Eventually, the Machine apocalyptically collapses, and the civilization of the Machine comes to an end. --Wikipedia

Book Excerpt

Inside, her anxiety increased. The arrangements were old-fashioned and rough. There was even a female attendant, to whom she would have to announce her wants during the voyage. Of course a revolving platform ran the length of the boat, but she was expected to walk from it to her cabin. Some cabins were better than others, and she did not get the best. She thought the attendant had been unfair, and spasms of rage shook her. The glass valves had closed, she could not go back. She saw, at the end of the vestibule, the lift in which she had ascended going quietly up and down, empty. Beneath those corridors of shining tiles were rooms, tier below tier, reaching far into the earth, and in each room there sat a human being, eating, or sleeping, or producing ideas. And buried deep in the hive was her own room. Vashti was afraid.

"O Machine!" she murmured, and caressed her Book, and was comforted.

Then the sides of the vestibule seemed to melt together, as do the passages that we see in dreams, the l


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The work is somewhat political but what is startling is the accuracy with which it describes the current trend towards social isolation. People seldom meet in person but instead communicate trivia by something resembling television and what we may call “social media”. Attention spans have dwindled and ten minutes is considered long for a lecture. The main character can only devote three to a conversation with her son. At that date, nobody had been forced to confront the reality of socialism and novels such as H. G. Wells's A Modern Utopia (1905) presented a glowing future of eugenics, state control, and ever more powerful technology. It took a bold genius to foresee the dystopia that was to engulf as much as forty percent of humanity. We now know that Forster's "Machine" - a command economy that crushes individual initiative - did not so much break down as never work in the first place, leading to horrors like genocidal famine wherever it's been attempted. As the shortcomings of the Machine become obvious, the people are bombarded with increasingly implausible data, presaging Soviet accounts of record harvests in 1922 Ukraine.
A good short read. I first read it at school in the 1960’s and never forgot it. It is strangely apt in the time of COVID and although dystopian quite prophetic. No touching, isolation, communication only via virtual. I hate it that people veer away from others and some get really annoyed if you are too close even for a second. Just like Vashti.
people who say it is like today must be living in an alternative universe, not like today, we don't live under the earth, we do communicate face to face in my age group, we don't all rely on computers nor believe in social media to live out our life.
An interesting read very prophetic seeing it was written in 1909.A good compliment to the book is the concept album The Machine Stops by Hawkwind.
I'm not as thrilled with the story as other readers. It's not bad - just too cerebral for me, and I dislike dreary endings.

This dystopian tale reveals a time when Man is totally dependent on Machine - and Machine fails. Predictable at a high level, but interesting tid-bits along the way.
Read this book in the 1960\'s. No high tech then. It is not about machinery. The machine is just the vestal the writer uses to get across his excellent point.

This story is about believing what you are told and not looking for the truth. It is often attached to for your own good. People could live above ground. It fits today\'s America and giving up so much to the control of a few for our own good. We also see this theme in the book the Color Purple. The one sister accepted her fate when she could have lived all along in the house owned by her father. She never questioned what she was told. She accepted for her own good.
This tale has haunted me from the day I taught it to a student being home tutored in the 1980's. A chilling illustration of McLuhan's claim that "artists are the antennae of the future." In 1909 Forster was an oracle for the age of social media.
Very thought-provoking for such a short story and highly-prophetic too, given the era in which it was written. I found the first chapter particularly clever and atmospheric.

The Kindle version I read was downloaded from ManyBooks, somehow 'Americanized' and contained at least 25 typos where the OCR had messed up. Ironically, I couldn't help thinking it was 'like a book but not quite a book' but instead just "good enough." 4/5
Forster's hundred year old predictions have largely come true. People are isolated from each other and communicate through screens, the world is despoiled, power supplies are centralized, watching reality is preferable to experiencing it, and everything filters through technology.

A well-written and convincing story, though the ending will probably never come to pass.
Read this in college and loved it. I was going to the computer lab at 2am to run my stack of computer cards* so I would only wait in a line of a hundred students vs a thousand. Did I put 2 and 2 together? No. That\\\'s why I have yet to win a Nobel prize.
* computer cards: letter-sized post cards with holes punched in them - the holes allowed a pattern to be read by the computer, which sat in the basement, the entire basement).
Kimberly Packard - Love, Identity and Determination in Tornado Alley
FEATURED AUTHOR - Kimberly Packard is an award-winning author of women’s fiction. When she isn’t writing, she can be found running, asking her dog what’s in his mouth or curled up with a book. She resides in Texas with her husband Colby, a clever cat named Oliver and a precocious black lab named Tully. Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors. She is also the author of a Christmas novella, The Crazy Yates, and the sequels to Phoenix, Pardon Falls… Read more