Tell The Machine Goodnight: A review

I have recently listened to a few audiobooks, including Tell The Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams, which has been one of my favourites. While the narrators can be a bit irritating at times, especially if you’re not used to quite thick American accents, they are bang on with their enunciation and their tone of voice. The story is more of a collection of short stories set in a realistic future setting, all focusing on the meaning of happiness.

The Story
Tell The Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams is told mostly from the viewpoint of Pearl, a woman whose job is to make people happy. Using the Apricity machine, Pearl can give recommendations to anybody on how to become happier in their lives. These can range from something as simple as moving a plant in your bedroom to the extremes of cutting someone out of your life or cutting off your finger. Pearl battles with her own happiness, and her responsibility, both at work and as a parent, as she wishes to make her son, Rhett happier while he refuses to use the machine. We also see stories from the Apricity recommendations from Pearl’s friends and acquaintances, who all make you question: can anybody ever be truly happy?

What I liked about it…
Tell The Machine Goodnight is a clever novel. I enjoyed it because of its multiple layers, as they offered completely different stories all drawing no real conclusion; but that is the conclusion! What I think that a lot of people don’t like about this book is that there is no clear resolution, good or bad, to these people’s problems, but I like it precisely for this reason. At the end of the book, I assume that these characters will go about their daily lives in a similar fashion, making the same mistakes and relying on a machine for happiness. And that’s how it should be; if the book had suggested that the machine really works, then it would be suggesting that true happiness is possible, which is exactly what I think that Williams didn’t want to suggest.
As well as this, the stories are told in very good detail; I felt like I knew and understood Pearl and Rhett in some ways, and that their reptile, Lady was one of the highlights of the book. Even Lady suggests that there can never be any real happiness, as it waits patiently to be fed the mice one by one day in, day out. So in this sense, it is a very realistic book, which many people don’t enjoy reading. They want to be taken into a world of wonders and happy endings, which this book does not provide. However, if you prefer something focused around technology, the future, the ways we come to rely on technology and crippling realisations about life, then this book is for you.

Overall, I mostly enjoyed Tell The Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams. Would I read the book version now I have listened to the audio? Probably not. I enjoyed the narration of this particular title and the way it fit in so well with the narrative. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy futuristic, yet realistic novels which take into consideration the place that technology has in our lives and psychoanalyses happiness.

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