Machines Like Me


9780385545112.jpgWhen I first heard about this book, it didn’t particularly interest me, but I knew that I would read it because it’s by McEwan. Now I wish I hadn’t waited so long. The protagonist Charlie Friend came into some money when his parents’ home was sold. With that money, he purchased “Adam,” a synthetic human, one of 25 made world-wide. Fresh out of the box, Adam looked remarkably real, although inanimate because he needed a sixteen hour charge to get up and running, and then had to be programmed with characteristics of his owner’s choosing. At this juncture, Charlie opted to bring his neighbor, Miranda, closer into his sphere by asking  her to choose half of the characteristics, which were completely concealed from Charlie. Given several days to acclimate Adam, the relationships among the threesome grow and the consequences of their interactions makes for some interesting action. The setting is an alternate 1980’s London, where history has been rewritten. JFK survived in Dallas, the Falklands was a raging success, and Alan Turing was still alive. For some reason that seemed to me to be the most audacious rewriting of history on McEwan’s part (The Turing bit). There’s a lot of history in here and also a lot of computer science, most of which was lost on me, but this story did what this author does so well, and that is cause the reader to examine her own values, prejudices and ethics in several spheres of human interaction. The book was a fascinating, if not frightening peek into the not-so-distant future.

THE BEAUTY: Miranda’s father lived near Salisbury Cathedral, and Charlie commented on its beauty, prompting me to find and admire this picture:

Photo by

THE FOOD: When Charlie brought Adam up to his flat that first day, he was so excited that he made himself a simple cheddar and pickle sandwich, not wanting to invest any time in cooking. I have since learned that this is pub fare in England. A little research clued me in to the brand of pickle that this sandwich should be made with, and it’s more of a chutney than a pickle. Fortunately, the British Shop in Newburyport carries Branston pickle, the quintessential chutney for this sandwich.

Cheddar and Pickle Sandwich

English cheddar cheese
2 pieces of sandwich bread
Branston pickle

Place slices of cheddar on one piece of bread. Spread Branston pickle on top of cheese and cover with the other slice of bread. Cut in half and serve.



I loved the English cheddar, and will look for it again. The Branston pickle is an acquired taste, and while I didn’t hate it, it’s not something I’m dreaming about.


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