Tell the Machine Goodnight

Tell the Machine Goodnight

Book - 2018
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FINALIST FOR 2018 KIRKUS PRIZE

NAMED ONE OF THE "BEST LITERARY FICTION OF 2018' BY KIRKUS REVIEWS

"Sci-fi in its most perfect expression...Reading it is like having a lucid dream of six years from next week, filled with people you don't know, but will." -- NPR

"[Williams's] wit is sharp, but her touch is light, and her novel is a winner." - San Francisco Chronicle

"Between seasons of Black Mirror , look to Katie Williams' debut novel." -- Refinery29

Smart and inventive, a page-turner that considers the elusive definition of happiness.

Pearl's job is to make people happy. As a technician for the Apricity Corporation, with its patented happiness machine, she provides customers with personalized recommendations for greater contentment. She's good at her job, her office manager tells her, successful. But how does one measure an emotion?

Meanwhile, there's Pearl's teenage son, Rhett. A sensitive kid who has forged an unconventional path through adolescence, Rhett seems to find greater satisfaction in being unhappy . The very rejection of joy is his own kind of "pursuit of happiness." As his mother, Pearl wants nothing more than to help Rhett--but is it for his sake or for hers? Certainly it would make Pearl happier. Regardless, her son is one person whose emotional life does not fall under the parameters of her job--not as happiness technician, and not as mother, either.

Told from an alternating cast of endearing characters from within Pearl and Rhett's world, Tell the Machine Goodnight delivers a smartly moving and entertaining story about the advance of technology and the ways that it can most surprise and define us. Along the way, Katie Williams playfully illuminates our national obsession with positive psychology, our reliance on quick fixes. What happens when these obsessions begin to overlap? With warmth, humor, and a clever touch, Williams taps into our collective unease about the modern world and allows us see it a little more clearly.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2018
ISBN: 9780525533122
Branch Call Number: WIL
Characteristics: 287 p. ;,22 cm

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LPL_IanS Sep 30, 2019

What does happiness look like when it’s prescribed by a cheek swab and a handheld Apricity™ machine? A contentment consultant and her circle of acquaintances are all struggling to find out in this generous, thoughtful, and funny book that’s more interested in well-realized characters than in skewering or feting technology.

Read if you like: believable near future worlds, recognizable and authentic characters

l
llewol
Feb 23, 2019

I thought there was lots to like about this book, which is kind of a blend of science fiction and family drama. The science ficiton part is very light - just enough to galvanize the action which centres around a woman, her teenaged son and her ex-husband and father of the son. Quite a few other characters drive the plot of the book and each is given his/her spotlight in chapters which alternate perspectives. In some ways, a bit like linked short stories, but we ultimately always return to the main characters, Pearl and her son, Rhett. The author has some interesting things to say about what makes people happy (or not), the perils of technology and the things that truly bind us together or drive us apart.

e
emmabee23
Feb 16, 2019

This book is reminiscent of unusually optimistic episodes of Black Mirror.

Once opened, this book did not leave my hands until I had reached the end, and then I re-read the beginning again to pretend it wasn't finished. I connected with many of the flawed and lovely characters and recognized a number of the less lovely ones from my own past and current affairs. Although this book was important for me as a young female growing up in the age of social media, I think it is equally important for men and older readers to experience as well.

I think everyone will find some of the most wonderful and also least appealing parts of themself represented in this book.

OPL_EllyR Dec 02, 2018

Williams' debut is a endearing, near-future take on technology and contentedness. Her readers' struggles are refreshingly quotidien; divorced parents supporting a son recovering from an eating disorder, a young woman finding her way to health and healing after a childhood spent isolated from the world, an artist working to stay relevant in their field. Though the technology is exciting, it remains not only believable, but a seemingly logical extension of our current resources. There's something delightful about storylines centered around quiet, inner peace and stability rather than emotional extremes, and Williams excels when focused on providing that for her readers. The interpersonal conflicts distract from that goal only briefly. This read is like a breath of fresh air.

j
jrub1969
Jul 30, 2018

I thought this was a VERY STRONG first novel. It is imaginative, thoughtful, and engaging. I would give it to a mature teen to read (there is some explicit sex in it, so careful if you care). If you like dystopia novels and are looking for something pretty light, this is a great summer read.

l
laphampeak
Jul 26, 2018

Any book that gets our AI on can be interesting and engaging. Williams gets imaginative with Pearl in 2026, who works at Apricity as a contentment technician and where a device provides metrics that give individuals a recommendation of tasks that produce happiness. Seems creative enough. She has a son....clients..... ex-husband....What starts as a futuristic family with projected tech home and tech devices turns muddled in the story of changing emotions and events. If only there was less character babble and more story development. Sometimes less is more.

k
KSpaulding
Jul 09, 2018

This book reminded me of the stories of Kelly Link or Karen Russell, or the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. The situations and characters are a little strange and unusual, but the author's exploration of human emotion and psychology are carefully considered and very real. Thought-provoking, entertaining, and a lot of fun to read!

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