Monday, March 14, 2011

REVIEW: The Bachelor Machine by M. Christian

In trying to share my enthusiasm with some friends over the weekend, I found it really difficult to accurately convey the experience of reading The Bachelor Machine. It’s like watching the literary equivalent of a colossal train wreck, except it’s far more erotic and enjoyable . . . even if it does leave you burdened with the same feelings of voyeuristic guilt after the carnage clears.

Most erotic science fiction imagines a civilization on the rise, one where the latest gadgets and technologies are things of wonder and awe. The future is usually bright and shiny, full of sparkling chrome and unblemished porcelain, and surrounded by the blinking lights and electric hum of technological perfection. With The Bachelor Machine, M. Christian looks past that technological honeymoon, imagining instead a civilization on the decline. In his future, the gadgets are tarnished and broken, exposing the ugly legacy of humanity’s twisted desires through their own malfunctioning machinations.

Yet, for all that, they are truly incredible toys to behold . . . the kind of gadgets that make you wonder just how much of yourself you’d be willing to sacrifice for a taste of the temporary pleasures they can provide.

Having said all that, the experience of reading The Bachelor Machine is not just one of technological wonder or erotic arousal. It’s also one of confusion and uncertainty, of equal measures dread and desire. These are stories that lead you on, draw you in, and take rude liberties with your expectations. Yes, reading them is like watching an erotic train wreck, but it’s more than that – it’s like enjoying the impending wreckage from inside a luxury sedan that’s stuck on the tracks . . . and being far too enthralled to abandon your seat.

A few words on my favourite stories:

  • State is a disturbingly erotic tale of a robotic prostitute forced to play out her client’s ‘daddy’ fantasies . . . except the robot is really a young woman who gets off on the deception as much as she does the fantasy.
  • Winged Memory is the increasingly creepy tale of a young man so obsessed with the robotic prostitute down the street that he literally sells his memories to pay for the temporary bliss of sexual gratification . . . until he can’t even remember who she is or why he craves her.
  • Everything But the Smell of Lilies is the unsettling tale of a woman who plays dead for a living, offering herself up to serve the violent fantasies of her clients . . . only to get stuck in an ambulance with a necrophiliac.
  • The New Motor is a bit of a different story, being more of a backwards looking tale involving 19th century spiritualists, a little steampunk sexuality, and a lot of faith in the machine . . . a machine that must die for humanity to live.
  • Guernica is one of my favourites, the story of a repressive society where sexuality is illegal, leaving a small group of men and women to secretly indulge in their erotic power-exchange fantasies . . . giving life to the very real fears of punishment that exist outside the door.
  • Switch is another of my favourites, the story of a human whore who leaves the brothel each day with her mind wiped clean of the memories of who her clients were and what she’s done with them . . . and who gets off on the thrill of never being able to know.
  • Technophile is probably the sweetest and the saddest of all the tales here, introducing us to a young man and his technologically enhanced lover . . . whose literally can’t get it up because batteries have run low in his exquisite Long Thrust phallic replacement.
  • Skin-Effect is kind of the polar opposite of Winged Memory, where a battle-scarred cyborg veteran regains both his memories and his humanity through a broken-down cyborg whore . . . whose mastery of him proves sex is as much mental as it is physical.
  • The Bachelor Machine is another story that messes with our expectations, introducing us to what seems like a sweet story a young man who deliberately seeks out the affections of an obsolete and forgotten robotic prostitute . . . although the relationship between whore and client is far from what you'd expect.

Hopefully that gives you some small sense of the kind of stories we’re dealing with here. The Bachelor Machine simply IS science fiction erotica. Take away the elements of either genre, or isolate one at the expense of the other, and you’re left with a nonsensical string of words. These are stories that only work because of the fusion between human sexuality and technological assistance that – like the best of M. Christian’s gadgets – truly are more than the sum of their parts.

It’s not the most accessible collection out there, but that’s as it should be. The stories here challenge the mind even as they arouse the body, and then twist that around and challenge the body as they arouse the mind. You need to settle in and immerse yourself in the worlds being created here. So long as you don’t mind getting a little rust, grease, and blood all over you, it’s a ride worth taking . . . whether you’re on the train, or in the luxury sedan stuck on the tracks.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much - this is a wonderfully touching review!