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Tell the Machine Goodnight

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Pearl's job is to make people happy. Every day, 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 gr Pearl's job is to make people happy. Every day, 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 relationships and the ways that they can most surprise and define us. Along the way, Katie Williams playfully illuminates our national obsession with positive psychology, our reliance on quick fixes and technology. 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.


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Pearl's job is to make people happy. Every day, 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 gr Pearl's job is to make people happy. Every day, 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 relationships and the ways that they can most surprise and define us. Along the way, Katie Williams playfully illuminates our national obsession with positive psychology, our reliance on quick fixes and technology. 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.

30 review for Tell the Machine Goodnight

  1. 5 out of 5

    ReGina

    I felt like this book piqued my interest but had no point. It was a masturbatory exercise that I enjoyed initially and thought was going somewhere but really had no point or purpose. I like my stories to make a statement, not just introduce me to cool words and unexplored concepts. I did give it a three, however, because I did enjoy a good amount of it and it is well written. The ending, however, was unsatisfying and then made me question why I had read it in the first place.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nat

    It feels so good to have enjoyed a novel so fully that I read it in a day and a half. What had me so keen on the premise of Tell the Machine Goodnight is a) the fact that the synopsis "playfully illuminates our national obsession with positive psychology, our reliance on quick fixes and technology" and b) Gabrielle Zevin, one of my favorite authors who excels with her subtle little quips on our daily lives, blurbed it. Pearl's job is to make people happy. Every day, she provides customers wi It feels so good to have enjoyed a novel so fully that I read it in a day and a half. What had me so keen on the premise of Tell the Machine Goodnight is a) the fact that the synopsis "playfully illuminates our national obsession with positive psychology, our reliance on quick fixes and technology" and b) Gabrielle Zevin, one of my favorite authors who excels with her subtle little quips on our daily lives, blurbed it. Pearl's job is to make people happy. Every day, 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 relationships and the ways that they can most surprise and define us. Along the way, Katie Williams playfully illuminates our national obsession with positive psychology, our reliance on quick fixes and technology. 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. Thankfully for my impatient temper, the introducing story starts off compelling enough, in particular, hits the spot for me upon introducing Pearl's sixteen-year-old son, Rhett, who's recovering from an eating disorder. His unknowable, remote nature makes for a natural pull in getting to know more about him. Incidentally, he's also all the things that make me feel fond of a character: distant, moody, hates school, rarely leaves his home, is close to his mother (or getting to it). To counter his anguished withdrawal, Pearl's powerless state seeps in, when all she craves is to bring her child back from hovering on the brink, so she channels in her overprotective, overbearing, OVEReverything nature, similar to Joyce Byers in Stranger Things. The following stories move deftly between alternating characters, such as Pearl's ex-husband, Elliot, Pearl's shifty coworker, Carter, Pearl's high-end secret client for Apricity, who gets name-dropped throughout the book so that when we finally meet her it feels like all else has led up to this exact moment. At the heart of it all, though, stands Pearl with her fierce protectiveness (of herself, of her child, of her machine) at her beck and call. Tell the Machine Goodnight gets so many things right by going outside the box not only on the platitudes of motherhood but through the whip-smart writing and a tremendous cast that lead to having numerous moments and turns of phrase to remind me of how good this book can be. Leading examples include: • #1 "unique store-bought personality" is one of the more memorable lines I've read this year. • #2 Typically, we’d fill in the brackets on our own, but Katie Williams is here to reminds us not to succumb to gender stereotypes. • Another moment where I felt the author truly shine was with Zihao's introduction (Rhett's college roommate, an international student from China). It takes a special type of writer to succeed at showcasing a character's personality through text messages (and with emoji, no less). • But he truly caught my attention when he got randomly along with Rhett's mom. The subtle ingenuity disposed between Rhett and Zi had me smiling like a fool. • And I'll leave my review with one last riveting insight on something that I'm running over and over in my mind: I love how, throughout my reading experience, this novel remains utterly self-aware and keeps up with the whip-sharp and INNOVATIVE remarks on our deepest desires. And I know I said the above was the last passage I wanted to share, but I have one more subtle quip for the road: "Being home from college for the summer is like sleeping over at a friend's house you've only ever visited in the afternoon. The furniture is familiar, but the light has gone funny on you."  ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Publication Date: June 19th, 2018 Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Tell the Machine Goodnight, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission! Support creators you love. Buy a Coffee for nat (bookspoils) with Ko-fi.com/bookspoils This review and more can be found on my blog.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Sullivan

    I really love speculative fiction, so this was right up my alley. Imagine if there were a machine that could tell you exactly what you needed to do to be happier. Pearl works for the creators of Apricity, a device that does exactly that, and spends her days providing people with this coveted advice. Tell the Machine Goodnight is about Pearl and the people who are part of her life: her son, Rhett, who suffers from anorexia and stubbornly embraces his melancholy; her boss, Carter, who manipulates t I really love speculative fiction, so this was right up my alley. Imagine if there were a machine that could tell you exactly what you needed to do to be happier. Pearl works for the creators of Apricity, a device that does exactly that, and spends her days providing people with this coveted advice. Tell the Machine Goodnight is about Pearl and the people who are part of her life: her son, Rhett, who suffers from anorexia and stubbornly embraces his melancholy; her boss, Carter, who manipulates the Apricity into delivering advice to attain power; and Calla Pax, a young celebrity who commissions Pearl to deliver daily Apricity readings. There’s also Pearl’s ex-husband and his new wife, who hide mysterious secrets from each other. The bizarre and fascinating vignettes from each of these characters’ lives make up the narrative of this novel about people trying and failing to find happiness and contentment amid the disconnectedness of modern life. I was thoroughly engaged in each mini storyline, even the ones that felt more disparate and self-contained. This was close to being a 5-star book for me and likely would’ve been if there had been the tiniest bit more closure and cohesiveness in the end.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Frosty61

    Multiple narrators, pointless detail, unlikeable characters, and a unsatisfying ending all added up to a waste of my time and made me grumpy. :-(

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Half star to one star rating. ☹️ Started out with some possibility of promise and then went downhill quickly from there. Characters unlikeable. The Story was rather boring and not exciting at all. The premise was how much control do we have over our own happiness and what if we could be pushed to achieve it by technology? The concept sounded intriguing but the execution fell flat. In a future time, people will find happiness through a machine; a system. The main character, Pearl, is a happiness te Half star to one star rating. ☹️ Started out with some possibility of promise and then went downhill quickly from there. Characters unlikeable. The Story was rather boring and not exciting at all. The premise was how much control do we have over our own happiness and what if we could be pushed to achieve it by technology? The concept sounded intriguing but the execution fell flat. In a future time, people will find happiness through a machine; a system. The main character, Pearl, is a happiness technician using a system at her job, called Apricity. Yet - she has unhappiness in her life. Go figure. Her son has an unhealthy eating habit and so he’s not happy either, evidently. So...Where is the happiness machine when these particular people need it??? If the machine told you to do something adventurous that might be one thing, but it told one person to eat more tangerines. Another to wrap themselves in soft fabric. Don’t listen to your father, arrange fresh flowers. Really? Why am I wasting my time reading this? If that’s all it took to make me happy, one, two or three little things -common sense applications - then why bother with a machine telling me this? There was one odd happiness thing prescribed to a gentleman to have an amputation if the tip of his finger. Instead of questioning why or saying no, he actually bought into the suggestion for happiness. Now THAT is totally bizarre. At my age, I know what makes me happy and what doesn’t. I don’t need a machine. But perhaps there are others who need something/someone to tell them what it is they need and take it as gospel. They say that the recommendations made them happy. But is that really true or is it a brainwashing of sorts? Is this what the future holds for mankind? I read on a little bit more but it continued to be way too painful for me so I did not finish. I don’t know what this would be classified as: futuristic? Fantasy? Technology? Science fiction? My recommendation? tell this book (not the machine) goodnight!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Janet | purrfectpages

    Eh. I get what this book was trying to do, but it was a little too “avant-garde” for me. Everything about this book had a sort of vibe. It was sort of a futuristic. It was sort of funny. It was sort of sad. It was definitely a commentary on our times. I sort of got it, until I didn’t.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    The first blurb I've written in a while: "Tell the Machine Goodnight is philosophical, funny, cleverly structured, unpredictable. The characters are recognizably humans, but not ones I have met before; the world-building is creative and completely convincing. I doubt I will ever read another novel with a more moving trip up a VR mountain." The first blurb I've written in a while: "Tell the Machine Goodnight is philosophical, funny, cleverly structured, unpredictable. The characters are recognizably humans, but not ones I have met before; the world-building is creative and completely convincing. I doubt I will ever read another novel with a more moving trip up a VR mountain."

  8. 4 out of 5

    MissBecka Gee

    I have no idea what the plot was. The changing POV's and the half truths revealed were confusing. It felt like I was reading modern philosophy rather than a story. So why did I give it 4 stars? I still have no idea. The writing is amazing even if it doesn't make any sense. I have no idea what the plot was. The changing POV's and the half truths revealed were confusing. It felt like I was reading modern philosophy rather than a story. So why did I give it 4 stars? I still have no idea. The writing is amazing even if it doesn't make any sense.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    Blew through this in a day, I love a thoughtful, character-focused speculative novel and this was right on target. The hook of the story is the Apricity machine, and when you write a speculative novel that's set in the near future based on a concept that the reader just has to accept you're walking a fine line. Sometimes the reader still has too many questions about the concept and the world and how it all works. But Williams has thought this all the way through, she presents so many different a Blew through this in a day, I love a thoughtful, character-focused speculative novel and this was right on target. The hook of the story is the Apricity machine, and when you write a speculative novel that's set in the near future based on a concept that the reader just has to accept you're walking a fine line. Sometimes the reader still has too many questions about the concept and the world and how it all works. But Williams has thought this all the way through, she presents so many different angles on the machine and the characters in her story that you don't really care all that much about how the machine works, the few questions you may have are usually addressed in some way, but mostly they just move to the back of your brain because What does it matter? There's so much here to sink your teeth into! Good Sci-Fi is not really about the science, it's about the character and the moral repercussions of the science. This is 100% exactly that, a heavily character-based book. I would say this is light on plot, but so many things happen! It's also a multi-perspective novel that makes very good use of the device. Would have read 200 more pages. FYI this is the kind of novel people will call "literary" but mostly that just means that it doesn't really have an ending.

  10. 4 out of 5

    J.C. Ahmed

    Before reading this book, I expected a Utopian type story along the lines of Brave New World. It is interesting and thought-provoking at times, but the lack of a plot and the unsatisfying ending left me disappointed. It's a great plot idea. I wish there had been an actual plot. Before reading this book, I expected a Utopian type story along the lines of Brave New World. It is interesting and thought-provoking at times, but the lack of a plot and the unsatisfying ending left me disappointed. It's a great plot idea. I wish there had been an actual plot.

  11. 4 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    What if you could turn happiness into a consumer product? What if a machine could tell you simple instructions to achieve it? “Eat tangerines,” “Arrange fresh flowers,” “Write poetry.” What if the pursuit of happiness became a guarantee? This theme is explored in Katie Williams’ debut novel, which takes place in 2035. The response from the public, surprisingly, is not unanimous. Sure, there are many individuals clamoring to buy happiness (if they can afford it), but there are people who are skep What if you could turn happiness into a consumer product? What if a machine could tell you simple instructions to achieve it? “Eat tangerines,” “Arrange fresh flowers,” “Write poetry.” What if the pursuit of happiness became a guarantee? This theme is explored in Katie Williams’ debut novel, which takes place in 2035. The response from the public, surprisingly, is not unanimous. Sure, there are many individuals clamoring to buy happiness (if they can afford it), but there are people who are skeptical, others who prefer UNhappiness, and those that would prefer to cultivate it themselves without technological interference. How this plays out, and the effect it has on society, is the substance of this story. The protagonist, Pearl, makes her living as an “Apricity” technician, swiping people’s DNA, inserting it in the machine and reading the resulting recipe for happiness. Her wealthy ex-husband uses it for performance art, and their anorexic son refuses it, on the grounds that he is perfectly content to be unhappy, but uses it to help a friend in trouble. Other, secondary characters play a part in Apricity’s attributes, which raises intriguing questions as the narrative unfolds. It’s hard to pigeonhole this book into a genre, but speculative fiction covers the heart of it, and it quietly, and with a sense of disquiet, tells a tale through interlinked and overlapping stories, or chapters. Williams is a scintillating wordsmith; she creates lucid images and also entices us with her word etymology: “The word for ‘spell,’ as in casting a spell, comes from the same root as the word for ‘narration.’ This is evidence that ancient people believed language to be a sort of magic, the simple act of naming something akin to creating it, controlling it.” These little brilliant gems are peppered through the narrative, as well as passages that genuinely made my skin tingle. It was worth the read just for the succulent language. If you are looking for a book that hurtles inexorably toward a conclusion, to unify all the various threads into closure this is not that book. Ambiguity jettisons completion. I do take minor issue, though, that the end has more features in common with the ending of a chapter rather than a book. Then I read that the author is turning this into a series, which may explain a sort of lackadaisical finish, like a disappearance, as if the characters just walked off stage precipitously. Could the author have been deliberating the series while simultaneously writing the novel? I look forward to viewing the televised version, which may give more decisive action to the characters. However, I feel a certain artifice at work here—i.e. that possibly the outcome had less to do with ambiguity as an intentional novelistic device and more to do with jettisoning it to a different medium—television.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Res

    Glimpses into interconnected lives touched by the Apricity machine, which can read your DNA from a cheek swab and give you three recommendations that will make you happy. On a sentence-by-sentence level, this is very nicely written, with a lot of clever turns of phrase and insightful descriptions of characters. The jacket calls these characters 'endearing,' but Rhett and Val and Calla were the only ones that I wouldn't have happily thrown off a roof. It's deeply unpleasant to spend time in the m Glimpses into interconnected lives touched by the Apricity machine, which can read your DNA from a cheek swab and give you three recommendations that will make you happy. On a sentence-by-sentence level, this is very nicely written, with a lot of clever turns of phrase and insightful descriptions of characters. The jacket calls these characters 'endearing,' but Rhett and Val and Calla were the only ones that I wouldn't have happily thrown off a roof. It's deeply unpleasant to spend time in the minds of people who are so suffocatingly self-involved. And there's such a variety of styles of self-involvement! There's Pearl -- when her teenager is mentally ill, that's a thing he's doing to her. There's Carter -- he's trying to build his power in the workplace by never doing anything but negging everyone he meets. There's Elliott -- so charming that everyone and everything functions as his mirror, and he sees nothing but his own reflection. Of course very little is resolved; generally we come into these people's lives at a random point and exit them at another random point. I picked up the book because I was hoping for the sociological/philosophical laboratory type of SF. "OK, but suppose you could say, objectively, what would make an individual happy. What would be the consequences of that? What can that tell us about happiness? What can it tell us about us?" There's none of that here. The happiness machine is never explained, makes a few people extremely rich, is perpetually surrounded by a cloud of marketing hype, and ultimately changes nothing. And that's not implausible, but when you consider what SF could have done with the concept -- when you imagine what this premise could have yielded in the hands of a LeGuin or a Butler -- it is pretty shallow.

  13. 4 out of 5

    JKT

    Intriguing but ultimately disappointing and unsatisfying.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Folkman

    Starts strong with interesting characters and what one would think will become an intriguing plot premise, but then fails to ever properly develop. Meanders to an uneventful end.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Uriel Perez

    Literary sci-fi/speculative fiction intrigues me, especially when it draws comparisons to episodes of Black Mirror and the Twilight Zone. TELL THE MACHINE GOODNIGHT revolves around a device (called an Apricity) fabricated to deliver “contentment plans” for users, ensuring enduring satisfaction and lifelong joy for those who adhere to the plan. At the center of the drama is Pearl, a technician for the company that administers the Apricity tests, and her son Rhett, a misfit teen hellbent on railin Literary sci-fi/speculative fiction intrigues me, especially when it draws comparisons to episodes of Black Mirror and the Twilight Zone. TELL THE MACHINE GOODNIGHT revolves around a device (called an Apricity) fabricated to deliver “contentment plans” for users, ensuring enduring satisfaction and lifelong joy for those who adhere to the plan. At the center of the drama is Pearl, a technician for the company that administers the Apricity tests, and her son Rhett, a misfit teen hellbent on railing against the hollow happiness Apricity delivers. Told by a revolving cast of characters that include Rhett and Pearl’s friends, family and co-workers, a tale of technological obsession and a search for happiness unspools before us as each grapples with their own fears and desires, finding out what the cost of their own happiness really is. Though the premise grabbed me immediately, too much about this book felt clunky. Williams stretches herself thin by introducing too many characters and having several plot lines and character arcs cut short of fruition. Some chapters even feel like short stories, self-contained and having very little to do with the larger story of the novel. Though we get some kind of closure by the end, this one feels only partially realized. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I *didn’t* like this book, though. There are intriguing ideas here and I appreciated so much of the humor within. When it comes to debut novels, also, I’ll allow for more flaws than with the work of a seasoned author. This is a solid first book and I’d recommend it to those who’ve read and enjoyed the works of Thomas Pierce and Ramona Ausubel. It’s charming, clever, warm and easily digestible.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    “Tell The Machine Goodnight” is a pleasant tale that has the reader meditating over happiness. The protagonist, Pearl is a technician for the Apricity Corporation, and her job is to provide people with what they must do to be happy. This is a part science fiction in that the story takes place in 2035 and what Pearl uses is a small box that takes DNA from the subject and provides the answers in quick succession. Pearl’s job is to collect the sample and talk the subject through the results. And th “Tell The Machine Goodnight” is a pleasant tale that has the reader meditating over happiness. The protagonist, Pearl is a technician for the Apricity Corporation, and her job is to provide people with what they must do to be happy. This is a part science fiction in that the story takes place in 2035 and what Pearl uses is a small box that takes DNA from the subject and provides the answers in quick succession. Pearl’s job is to collect the sample and talk the subject through the results. And the results are quirky: cease all contact with your brother; eat tangerines; amputate the uppermost section of your right index finger; put a warm blanket on your bed; and so on. I think author Kate Williams enjoyed thinking up crazy ideas to put in her novel. It’s more than just science fiction, there’s a domestic fiction piece as well in that Pearl is a divorcee with a husband who continues to flirt with her. She has a teenage son who has an eating disorder and is big on self-denial. Pearl thinks she’s generally happy but she questions the happiness of those closest to her: her boss, her ex, and her son. Williams isn’t too far off in the science fiction piece in that happiness is big on everyone’s mind. Plus, society is relying more on computers and science to find quick fixes for everything. An oracle in a box that takes DNA and provides happiness schemes isn’t too far fetched. For me, the best part of the novel was Pearl and her ruminations on helping her love ones. Her son, Elliot, also plays strongly in the story. He has his own friends with differing impacts upon him. Elliot also grows up a bit with regard to his relationship with his mother, and his friends. This is a sweet story. It ends a bit oddly (for me). It’s very much worth a read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jen from Quebec :0)

    I thought this book was unique and awesome. My ISBN says that this is the hardcover edition, but it is actually an ARC that I won in a giveaway, and it is one of those rare giveaway wins that I will treasure + keep + sing praises about! *I will return to this post to sing the praises at a later date, as I am currently playing an Audiobook atm and simply cannot listen to one story whilst writing about a different story at the same time! Suffice to say for now though, that if you were on the fence I thought this book was unique and awesome. My ISBN says that this is the hardcover edition, but it is actually an ARC that I won in a giveaway, and it is one of those rare giveaway wins that I will treasure + keep + sing praises about! *I will return to this post to sing the praises at a later date, as I am currently playing an Audiobook atm and simply cannot listen to one story whilst writing about a different story at the same time! Suffice to say for now though, that if you were on the fence about this book, it IS worth it!* ---Jen from Quebec :0)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    This would’ve worked better as short stories I think. None of the plot lines really moved anywhere and the characters didn’t have much depth. Didn’t get much out of it and wasn’t particularly fun to read even though the premise was interesting enough.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alex (ReadingBetweenTheNotes)

    This was a well-written and entertaining literary debut. I love a good dystopian future story so I was immediately captured by the premise of this one (it reads in a similar vein to 1984 and Brave New World but also feels more relevant to our current social climate). Drawing upon the current 'trend' in being mindful and taking whatever steps we can to be happy, this book takes a very intelligent concept and builds a compelling story around it. I was genuinely fascinated from start to finish. I h This was a well-written and entertaining literary debut. I love a good dystopian future story so I was immediately captured by the premise of this one (it reads in a similar vein to 1984 and Brave New World but also feels more relevant to our current social climate). Drawing upon the current 'trend' in being mindful and taking whatever steps we can to be happy, this book takes a very intelligent concept and builds a compelling story around it. I was genuinely fascinated from start to finish. I hadn't expected the multiple perspectives but I enjoyed all of them. I was slightly concerned that the threads of the story wouldn't tie up by the end but I can say that I was satisfied with the resolution. Very grateful to HarperCollins for sending this one my way!

  20. 5 out of 5

    USOM

    (Disclaimer: I received this free book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) Tell the Machine Goodnight was like one major thought experiment. I adored the multiple perspectives of this book, not only because we were able to see the story from varying points of view, but also because each of them tell a new story. They add to the world, they add to the themes of family and relationships, and they are wonderful to read. full review: https://utopia-state-of-m (Disclaimer: I received this free book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) Tell the Machine Goodnight was like one major thought experiment. I adored the multiple perspectives of this book, not only because we were able to see the story from varying points of view, but also because each of them tell a new story. They add to the world, they add to the themes of family and relationships, and they are wonderful to read. full review: https://utopia-state-of-mind.com/revi...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Audrey (Warped Shelves)

    3.75 stars This review is based on an ARC of Tell the Machine Goodnight which I received courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher (Penguin -- Riverhead). It seems to me that the new novel trend is to write a book with seemingly no purpose, no real plot, and no real point. At least this has been the case with the last few new books I've read, and that seems to be the case as well with Tell the Machine Goodnight. Now, saying this does make me hypocritical, since I always think to myself how I would 3.75 stars This review is based on an ARC of Tell the Machine Goodnight which I received courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher (Penguin -- Riverhead). It seems to me that the new novel trend is to write a book with seemingly no purpose, no real plot, and no real point. At least this has been the case with the last few new books I've read, and that seems to be the case as well with Tell the Machine Goodnight. Now, saying this does make me hypocritical, since I always think to myself how I would love a realistic story that doesn't have a huge, climaxing finale. So hypocritical I am. I was thoroughly engrossed in this novel, but then, it seemed, that it just suddenly ended. I don't know what to think of the meaning of the plot, other than that it was a neat peek into the lives of a future generation. Regardless of whether I got the deeper meaning or not, I was really fascinated by this story. I was sucked in from the beginning, rushed along, absorbed in Katie Williams storytelling. I really liked the characters, interactions, and the whole idea of the Apricity Machine. I can see this book being a hot topic this publishing season. I also think I sense a new favorite book club book! Perhaps I just missed out on understanding fully what was happening here, but this is just me personally. I definitely recommend you give this a read and see how you feel.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    A smart, savvy, and funny novel about our culture's obsession with technology and happiness. Pearl's job is to run the Apricity, which doles out the steps one needs to take in order to become happy. Some of those steps are bizarre -- wear a velvet suit, cut off the tip of your right index finger -- while others are pretty benign -- write poetry. Then there are those who get advice which is so startling, it comes without a real list of steps to take. Pearl's son Rhett falls into this last categor A smart, savvy, and funny novel about our culture's obsession with technology and happiness. Pearl's job is to run the Apricity, which doles out the steps one needs to take in order to become happy. Some of those steps are bizarre -- wear a velvet suit, cut off the tip of your right index finger -- while others are pretty benign -- write poetry. Then there are those who get advice which is so startling, it comes without a real list of steps to take. Pearl's son Rhett falls into this last category, and Pearl is dead set on figuring out how to make her son, who suffers from an eating disorder, to be happy. Wrapped into this are the stories of other people in Pearl's world, including her boss (who seems to get promotions and demotions left and right, as one does in Silicon Valley), her ex-husband (who she is still somewhat in a relationship with), and her ex-husband's new wife (who harbors a pretty terrible secret she won't tell the husband but we get to become privy to). The revolving voices can at times get a titch confusing, but there's something somewhat logical in that confusion. This is, after all, a tale about how technology can mess with us when we become too dependent upon it. At heart, it's a book about what it means to be human, good, bad, pretty, and ugly. I devoured it in a single afternoon. It's science fiction with a literary bent to it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    This book was a little hard for me to get into. There are multiple characters, all looking for some sort of happiness, and as long as the focus stayed with Pearl or Rhett, her son, I was focussed on the narrative. As soon as the author took me inside some of the supporting characters' lives, my interest diminished. What was clear throughout the story was everyone was searching for something, a recipe, a process, anything, to give their lives meaning and happiness. The use of a little gadget to p This book was a little hard for me to get into. There are multiple characters, all looking for some sort of happiness, and as long as the focus stayed with Pearl or Rhett, her son, I was focussed on the narrative. As soon as the author took me inside some of the supporting characters' lives, my interest diminished. What was clear throughout the story was everyone was searching for something, a recipe, a process, anything, to give their lives meaning and happiness. The use of a little gadget to provide, like a cookie's fortune, a simple directive or formula for happiness was an interesting story device; I liked how the author gave us both the effect of the directives on people's lives, while also showing us how the backend algorithms were suspect and prone to manipulation by the corporation that had developed the machine.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kim Lockhart

    This book took a little while to grab my full attention, but it really took off about halfway through. The author makes some very funny and poignant observations about the messiness of real life. What I didn't like: careening ping pong use of multiple voice changes: third person omniscient, first person, and third person limited. It was distracting. What I did like: there was very little emphasis on the speculated future reliance on machine-directed decision making. The major takeaway is that ma This book took a little while to grab my full attention, but it really took off about halfway through. The author makes some very funny and poignant observations about the messiness of real life. What I didn't like: careening ping pong use of multiple voice changes: third person omniscient, first person, and third person limited. It was distracting. What I did like: there was very little emphasis on the speculated future reliance on machine-directed decision making. The major takeaway is that machines can't possibly tackle the complicated arena of human relationships. Happiness isn't a commodity. And we are all better for it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Val

    Hard work. The story starts out ok, then branches out and loses focus. Uses that device where you have to work to figure out who is narrating various chapters - hasn't that been done to death? Story about Val seems a completely unnecessary diversion. Deeply unsatisfying read. Hard work. The story starts out ok, then branches out and loses focus. Uses that device where you have to work to figure out who is narrating various chapters - hasn't that been done to death? Story about Val seems a completely unnecessary diversion. Deeply unsatisfying read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    This was a book I almost loved. And I almost loved it at first sentence too, which is, awesomely enough, a definition of my favorite word in English language. Apricity, a word archaic enough to confuse a Word Document, means the warmth of the sun on a winter day. Lovely, right? Well, here in the story it’s the name given to the machine that determine how to make a person happier. An almost instantaneous DNA analysis spits out three seemingly random suggestions guaranteed to improve one’s life. T This was a book I almost loved. And I almost loved it at first sentence too, which is, awesomely enough, a definition of my favorite word in English language. Apricity, a word archaic enough to confuse a Word Document, means the warmth of the sun on a winter day. Lovely, right? Well, here in the story it’s the name given to the machine that determine how to make a person happier. An almost instantaneous DNA analysis spits out three seemingly random suggestions guaranteed to improve one’s life. The machine requires administrators and one of them is the story’s main protagonist, a single mom, who through the years develops a complex relationship with Apricity, quitting just short of wishing the machine goodnight. So when the book starts off with this machine and logistics behind it, which can of course be easily explained by social psychology, because essentially the machine doesn’t confirm to a person, a person confirms to it, driven by an irresistible desire to be happy. We are, after all, a nation obsessed with being happy, it’s in the Constitution and all, such a peculiar preoccupation with such a basically unnatural state of being. Life being what it is, the only sustained happy disposition surely must be a prerogative of someone delusional, dumb or both. But everyone wants some of that, so an Apricity technician is never without work. Gradually the readers get to know the protagonist’s family , associates and clients and the story gets told in alternating, occasionally almost self contained stories from alternating perspectives of different characters. The narrative maintains a linear quality spanning about five years or so. It’s easy to follow, easy to pick and choose your favorites, easy to read. But…the book, much like it’s ending, does leave something to be desired. Mainly because it starts with such a terrific premise and then seems to abandon it in favor of a more traditional family drama. Frankly, I wish it stuck more closely to its science fiction themes, there was so much originality and moral complexity there to play with. Underwhelming, in a way. Which bring us to the Black Mirror comparison. We live in the day and age where any socially relevant, prescient and poignant science fiction is inevitably compared to Black Mirror. So then, inevitably, was this book. Which attracted my attention immediately. But then again, Black Mirror isn’t what it used to be either. So the comparisons have really got to get specific. Are we talking earlier seasons, ending with the absolutely ingenious anthology episode. Cause then, yeah, that’s as good as science fiction gets. Or are we talking about the everyonehasbillstopay later episodes that mostly just make you nostalgic for the earlier ones, especially the tragically underwhelming latest (as of 2019) season. Has there ever been a show that maintained the same writer and featured such a dramatic reduction in quality. But even the most lackluster episode of Black Mirror is still pretty entertaining. You’re just left wanting more, because it should give more, it’s easy to imagine how it would. And that’s kind of how it was for me with this book. It showed so much promise from the start, that you’re inevitably left expecting more. Mind you, it was still a good book. A very well written, smart, emotionally intelligent character driven drama with science fiction elements. It just wasn’t quite what you might have expected after reading the first chapters. It’s like it teases the reader, almost goes to some dark disturbing places, but then never really does. I still very much enjoyed reading it, even if I ended up pondering the sociological ramifications of Apricity and mindless pursuit of the dream it offers more or less on my own instead of following the author’s efforts to. But yeah, having said all that, still really did like the book very much. Very auspicious debut indeed. Smart and original. Recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Janine

    4.5 stars. I found this to be an unexpectedly lovely book. I honestly don't know how this book even came up on my radar, but I'm glad it did. In the world of this novel, there is a machine called an Apricity, that can tell you how to be happier. Simply swab your cheek, place the swab into the Apricity machine, and the machine will give you three recommendations to make you happier. These can range from something as simple and obvious as "get a dog" to something as mysterious and mind-boggling as 4.5 stars. I found this to be an unexpectedly lovely book. I honestly don't know how this book even came up on my radar, but I'm glad it did. In the world of this novel, there is a machine called an Apricity, that can tell you how to be happier. Simply swab your cheek, place the swab into the Apricity machine, and the machine will give you three recommendations to make you happier. These can range from something as simple and obvious as "get a dog" to something as mysterious and mind-boggling as "cut off the tip of your index finger." How the machine knows what will make you happier is unknown, but the fact that it works is widely believed and trusted. Pearl, the character the book opens with, works for Apricity Corporation, and it is her job to administer the test to the public. She spends her days swabbing the mouths of strangers, and telling them the strange and wonderful things they could do to be happier in their lives. Pearl herself has never taken the Apcricity test herself, but she likes her job and takes it seriously. I'm hesitant to say much more about the book than that, because it's a really hard book to describe. I will say, Williams builds each layer of the book upon the next in this beautiful and often unexpected way. I found myself loving each chapter more than the next, and surprised by what I found in each. I never knew who I was going to meet next, or how it might fit into what I had already experienced. I would say that the chapters are almost like vignettes, but even trying to describe it that way kind of cheapens the actual experience, because that's not quite right. Each chapter is its own thing in a way, but also relies on what you already know. Williams drops these little breadcrumbs throughout the story, though you don't know it was a breadcrumb until you come upon it later. There's really no way of anticipating what will lead to more, and yet it seems so clear when you get there that a slight mention in a previous chapter was important. I kept wondering where the story was going, and by the time I reached the end I realized it didn't matter. The point wasn't really the ending - the point was the journey. The point was the experience of meeting characters that become more endearing and unforgettable each time they appeared. Nothing is really overtly stated in this book, which can sometimes drive me crazy, but Williams does it all just right. As my husband and I read and talked about this book together, we talked about how we saw echoes of 1984 (him), and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (me). I think both are apt, and yet again -- they're just echoes of other stories, nothing that can be truly directly compared. This book made me think about happiness, and humanity, and the secrets we keep from those we care about most, and sometimes even from ourselves. I think this book will stay with me for a long time, and it's one I almost certainly see myself revisiting again.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Trixie Fontaine

    I enjoyed the tempo of this book, topics, and even spaces between the (lovable-to-me, introverted, cautious, defiant) characters. Interesting synchronicity of randomly checking it out without knowing anything about it while in the middle of Player Piano and having just watched Up in the Air: lots of similarities. I don't know how to rate it without letting time pass, but look forward to trying another of Katie Williams' books. I enjoyed the tempo of this book, topics, and even spaces between the (lovable-to-me, introverted, cautious, defiant) characters. Interesting synchronicity of randomly checking it out without knowing anything about it while in the middle of Player Piano and having just watched Up in the Air: lots of similarities. I don't know how to rate it without letting time pass, but look forward to trying another of Katie Williams' books.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This science fiction novel sounded so intriguing that I couldn’t wait to dive in.  The premise for this one is that there is a machine that tells you exactly what makes you happy and people use this as guidance for success in their everyday lives and to get ahead in their professional world. Even armed with this information (and working for the company that makes the machine) Pearl has a son that it is intent on living an unhappy life. He isn’t interested in what this machine can tell him and is wo This science fiction novel sounded so intriguing that I couldn’t wait to dive in.  The premise for this one is that there is a machine that tells you exactly what makes you happy and people use this as guidance for success in their everyday lives and to get ahead in their professional world. Even armed with this information (and working for the company that makes the machine) Pearl has a son that it is intent on living an unhappy life. He isn’t interested in what this machine can tell him and is working through disordered eating and personal struggles that no happiness machine can fix. The book started really strong, but I had a hard time connecting with this one. Even if it wasn’t my favorite this month, I do think the messaging was strong. As we become more and more reliant on technology to motivate us, the idea that we shouldn’t allow it to define us was a strong one.

  30. 5 out of 5

    James Balasalle

    3+ stars. To be honest I wasn't super psyched about reading this one, but that changed in the first few pages. It was different, interesting, and not a little weird. I thought it ran a pretty wide emotional gamut: at times funny, poignant, surprising, bizarre, and even a little... I don't know. Difficult to categorize, for sure. Quick read, lots of discussion points. 3+ stars. To be honest I wasn't super psyched about reading this one, but that changed in the first few pages. It was different, interesting, and not a little weird. I thought it ran a pretty wide emotional gamut: at times funny, poignant, surprising, bizarre, and even a little... I don't know. Difficult to categorize, for sure. Quick read, lots of discussion points.

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