For the next four Thursdays, I’ll be featuring a different book by a local author – and they’ll be featuring The Patch Project! It’s our version of a book exchange-style blog tour, and should be a lot of fun!
The Thinking Machine follows an outsider named Zed, a new arrival to the massive metropolis that spans most of the Eastern seaboard. The purpose of his visit is to hunt down a machine who, strangely, shares his name. A cyberpunk novella infused with Zed’s personal sense of mythos, this tale of humanity’s relationship with technology is full of suspense and intrigue.
It reads like a detective novel. Zed follows leads, passing through the less frequented corners of the bustling city. Ben Van Dongen’s cities are usually gritty and unforgiving places, riddled with back alleyways and dangerous doorways. This city is no different. The distinct locations of each scene create an impressive thematic atmosphere. Zed’s impressions of the city and the intermittent thoughts of his home in the forest, along with references to why he entered the city in the first place, really put muscle on the bones of this story for me.
The beginning of the book includes a couple of stereotypical side characters you would expect from an 80s dystopian film like Bladerunner, and there is a lack of multi-dimensional female characters. Until Belle, that is. I found that the interactions between Zed and Belle kicked this story up a notch, and created another layer of tension.
Also of interest is the implant which Zed receives in the city. I asked Ben about the role of technology in this book. “I write a lot from the hip,” he replied, “so the implants came from me thinking it was a neat idea that could push the story forward during an early writing session for the book. The idea of mechanical and technological prosthetics terrifies me. I am excited for the possibilities for people who need them, but when fake eyes out perform real eyes, how long will it take before people opt to get the new tech? Will that keep the people who don’t want augmentations behind? It’s a personal fear that I can see on the horizon.”
Overall, The Thinking Machine is a well-paced and engaging read. I’m really excited to see what Ben writes next!
Ben Van Dongen was born in Windsor Ontario. He likes to think that if he tried harder he could have been an Astronaut, but he is happier writing science fiction anyway. He co-authored the books No Light Tomorrow and All These Crooked Streets, and is one half of the founding team of Adventure Worlds Press. You can read more crazy notions on his website BenVanDongen.com
**Next Thursday’s featured author is Justine Alley Dowsett with her newest co-authored novel, Mirror’s Deceit! **