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Machina
Jonathan Lyons
Double Dragon Publishing, 179 pages

Machina
Jonathan Lyons
Jonathan Lyons lives in Austin, Texas, where he works as an expert in web multimedia design. Originally from Iowa, with a B.A. (English) from the University of Iowa, Mr. Lyons is also an expert in the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. Burn, his first fictional work, was nominated for the Frankfurt E-Books award.

Burn Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Burn

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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'Hutchings watched, aghast and powerless, as the room erupted in a deep bass thrumm! And blinding, somehow translucent light, tentacles of the most material beams of light she had ever seen lashed out from the massive construct, seizing the Remote Viewers by their helmets.'
The premise behind this novel is a bold one; what happens when God dies. Jonathan Lyons speculates that from the moment God is not able to keep an omnipresent eye on the entire universe, reality begins to falter. Human scientist first notice something happening at the far edges of the observable universe, where telescopes reveal that stars are disappearing. Literally winking out of existence when no one -- including God, it is presumed -- is watching. The only solution according to the great minds of the day, or at least those under the influence of an American black ops division, is to create a machine that is capable of watching the world, and the greater universe. Thus does Project Oversight evolve into Machina.

The story of this man-made God, literally deus ex machina, includes an splendidly inventive take on the infamous Men in Black. These are the sinister variety, who haunted the dreams of a generation, long before Will Smith turned them into a joke. There are elements of The Matrix, with a dash of 1984, and a whole heap of fun stuff for those whose idea of a good time is pondering the imponderable. Machina is a novel for closet clever-dicks , couch philosophers, people estranged from organised religion, the disciples of intellectual heavyweights, and you'll be glad to know, those of us who just like to dip a metaphorical a toe in deep waters. The small cast include the wonderfully named Macmillan Trull, former Remote Viewer Delphina Hutchings, and an off-the-peg college dropout called Sinclair Stauffer. The story wavers about over a 30-year span, pulling together the author's thoughts on subjects such as quantum mechanics, string theory, Schroedinger's probability wave and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. Machina, in the tradition of vastly expensive clandestine projects, doesn't turn out quite the way its creators envisaged. Indeed, the very existence of the American made mechanical God threatens the natural order of the universe!

Things get moving when Sinclair Stauffer hears a voice in his head, a voice that identifies itself as the Elder, and he thinks might be a dying God. At the same time, Delphina Hutchings has realised the big mistake she has made, and is on the run from Machina, seeking the one person who can defy the machine and reshape reality. Reality, and the way it is perceived, is the overall theme, which draws upon several religions and schools of philosophical thought. Although, the overview is non-denominational. God, appears as a character, but this is an unstable fading version of the deity, which the author uses to illustrate his intriguing theory of the cyclical nature of godhood. A notion which cleverly explains how various religions, throughout the span of human history, have managed to perceive vastly differing faces of the one God. The ideas set in motion meander from astonishing clarity, to rather clumsy inclusions which do nothing to advance the plot.

In summary, Machina is a cut above most speculative fiction. There are a few elements which could have been better, such as the character who becomes God failing to perceive an obvious human conspiracy. But nothing is ever perfect, and Jonathan Lyons got the benefit of my doubt with his captivating overview of what he calls the Great Ocean of Thought, and a wryly amusing vision of the universe remade.

Copyright © 2005 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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