Tell the Machine Goodnight
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.

Tell the Machine Goodnight Details

TitleTell the Machine Goodnight
Author
ReleaseJun 19th, 2018
Publisher RIVERHEAD
ISBN-139780525533122
Rating
GenreFiction, Science Fiction, Adult

Tell the Machine Goodnight Review

  • Nat
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.• #2Typically, 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, 2018Note: 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!This review and more can be found on my blog.
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  • Gabrielle
    January 1, 1970
    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."
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  • Jennifer Lynn Harrison
    January 1, 1970
    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)
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  • USOM
    January 1, 1970
    (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.
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  • Uriel Perez
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Audrey
    January 1, 1970
    3.75 starsThis 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 starsThis 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.
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  • Kimberley
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Edelweiss+ for this Advanced eGalley of Tell The Machine Goodnight. Pearl works for Apricity, a company known for being able to guide people towards what will make them “happy” via their Apricity machine. Pearl believes in the results the Apricity machine often provides, and has used its “contentment plan” as a way of balancing her own life. Inasmuch as Pearl believes in the machine, her personal life is surrounded by unhappiness. Her 16-year old son (Rhett) is recovering from an ea Thank you to Edelweiss+ for this Advanced eGalley of Tell The Machine Goodnight. Pearl works for Apricity, a company known for being able to guide people towards what will make them “happy” via their Apricity machine. Pearl believes in the results the Apricity machine often provides, and has used its “contentment plan” as a way of balancing her own life. Inasmuch as Pearl believes in the machine, her personal life is surrounded by unhappiness. Her 16-year old son (Rhett) is recovering from an eating disorder, and rarely speaks to her, unless she pushes him to do so. The story initially focuses on her need to find what will make him happy, so he can get “better”. Unfortunately, her son won’t allow her to use the machine on him. Pearl, however, has other plans. From there, the book veers and detours into the lives of those connected to Pearl—both directly and indirectly. There’s Calla Pax (a young actress with a signature voice), Elliott (Pearls ex-husband), the aforementioned Rhett, Carter (Pearl’s co-worker and confidant), and Valeria (Elliott’s young wife). Each are trying to figure out how to live their lives in a way that will make them happy; most of them have no idea where to begin. In the end, as a reader, you’re likely to feel no closer to a resolution, for them, than you were at the start. But, you’ll learn a bit from the unlikely missteps the characters endure—each of whom still manage to grow. Albeit in minute, but arguably significant, ways. The book focuses on two questions: 1) Can happiness be defined? and, if yes, then 2) Is it something we should be trying to quantifiably measure?This book is definitely not for everyone. It can be a bit confusing, and the pacing is measured and, at times, a bit slow. Plus, I’ll be honest, these are some weird people. That said, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and found it thought-provoking in more ways than one.
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Netgalley and Riverhead Books for giving me a chance to read this sci-fi endeavor before it’s actual release in June. Pearl is a technician that operates the Apricity machine which gives people their contentment plans according to their DNA. These plans are dispensed with no explanation and a minimal number of words. Her son has his own issues with an eating disorder so he spends most of his time in his bedroom behind a closed door. I don’t normally read sci-fi so you might want to rea Thanks to Netgalley and Riverhead Books for giving me a chance to read this sci-fi endeavor before it’s actual release in June. Pearl is a technician that operates the Apricity machine which gives people their contentment plans according to their DNA. These plans are dispensed with no explanation and a minimal number of words. Her son has his own issues with an eating disorder so he spends most of his time in his bedroom behind a closed door. I don’t normally read sci-fi so you might want to read some of the better reviews of this on Goodreads. I didn’t get it. I don’t know what the point of the story was, nor what I was supposed to take away from reading it. Williams does do a superb job of drawing realistic characters with flaws and all. She’s a good writer and the story flows smoothly. It just wasn’t for me.
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  • Erin Mcmaster
    January 1, 1970
    I won a copy in a Goodreads giveaway.It is a quick, enjoyable read. I liked looking at the idea of technology and happiness. Happiness is different for everyone, some easy tasks and others more complex are given by the machine. The characters are mostly likeable yet still flawed. The ending is a bit abrupt but then I was expecting a fully laid out happy ending to a novel about happiness. I recommend this for anyone looking for a quick read.
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    "Tell the Machine Goodnight" is a story about the relationships between a woman and her son, and her ex-husband, and the machine she uses for work that tells people what would make them happy. The story was well-written and a fun read. It was enjoyable and I look forward to reading more stories by this author.***I received this book through GoodReads Member Giveaways. Review is solely my own.***
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  • Evelyn
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book free through Goodreads. I was immediately drawn into the story. I like the way the whole book was written in the first person even though the different chapters were focused on different characters. At first I was mixed up but then it all became clear. It was super-interesting and I could not put the book down.
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  • Kim
    January 1, 1970
    Absolutely loved this story until the ending. What a disappointing ending! It seemed to just cut off the story unnaturally like Melvin's index finger tip. Apricity is a neat idea. The whole book flowed smoothly and I found myself unable to put it down. Was completely invested in all of the characters and that's why the ending was so disappointing. Can't win them all.
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  • Maren
    January 1, 1970
    If Joshua Ferris wrote a Black Mirror episode, it would read a lot like this.
  • Deborah Dicks
    January 1, 1970
    One of those books I don’t really understand but I do really like. More thoughts on it later.
  • Katy
    January 1, 1970
    Pearl and Rhett are complex, three-dimensional characters, and their personal journeys are the emotional and satisfying heart of the novel.
  • Janice
    January 1, 1970
    Fun read. Liked the story told through several characters. Sort of a sci-fi lite kind of story.
  • Michelle Zeng
    January 1, 1970
    The perfect read during Black Mirror hiatus/decline. Love love love.
  • S
    January 1, 1970
    This book sounds great. Can't wait to read!
  • Jillian Doherty
    January 1, 1970
    Smart and surprisingly emotional. This story circles around Pearl and her son teenage son Rhett, along with cacophony of characters who come and go in their lives.In the near future we will have created a device that gives a concise list of behaviors to changes that will illicit full and contented happiness. Pearl's relationship with the machine evolves as her grasp on reality changes with her's son's health. Rhett's life changing experiences are uncharacteristic means of measuring happiness, fr Smart and surprisingly emotional. This story circles around Pearl and her son teenage son Rhett, along with cacophony of characters who come and go in their lives.In the near future we will have created a device that gives a concise list of behaviors to changes that will illicit full and contented happiness. Pearl's relationship with the machine evolves as her grasp on reality changes with her's son's health. Rhett's life changing experiences are uncharacteristic means of measuring happiness, from giving up whole foods for decades to living through VR to really live. Williams writes with warmth, and clever humor reflecting on the modern world we live in and all the justifiable excuses we use to maintain a sublime existence.
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