By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
By Max Barry (Scribe, $27.95, softcover, 279 pages)
Max Barry loves an imaginary place where everything is as bad as it possibly can be.
This is the story of an all-encompassing era of technology, a murky story about a prosthetist gone crazy. The starting point for Machine Man is when Charlie Neumann has his leg severed.
Neumann is an industrial scientist who seizes an opportunity to develop improved prostheses after losing his leg. Though not everyone’s idea of fun, he then sets out on a weird journey for better artificial limbs and the storyline spins off on various tangents of bionic fantasy.
His self-destructive behaviour does not faze his employer. Instead, the company sees the commercial benefits of his endeavours, particularly on the battlefield.
As expected, there is an inevitable conflict between the interests of Dr Neumann and the company he works for, Better Futures.
Nuemann’s a nerdy hero, with a curious approach to the world. His character is difficult to define because he’s busy turning himself into a machine, but he finds his prosthetist Lola Shanks most attractive and middle manager Cassandra Cautery displays a more defined personality.
Melbourne-based contemporary author Barry, a former computer salesman, has struck literary gold with his spoofs of corporate life and that’s a remarkable achievement.
His writing showed promise with his debut cult novel Syrup in 1999, a send-up on the world of marketing; an excellent chronicle of a world where people’s surnames were based on who they worked for unfolded in 2003 with Jennifer Government; and his third novel Company (2006) exposed him as having a “keen shrewd mind in corporate satire”.
To help sell Jennifer Government, he even invented an online imitation game, Nation States.
Spiked with macabre humour, Machine Man isa more coherent entity of an online version of a serial novel. It is a weirdly amusing tale of one man’s search for definitive self-improvement.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.