Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover



Author: Douglas Thompson
Dog Horn Publishing
RRP: £12.99, US $19.95
ISBN: 978 1 907133 29 9
Available 06 September 2012

Scott Malthrop is a man with a secret, probably the biggest secret on the planet, as Scott has a working time machine. Not a thing of chrome and wires, but a real machine created out of the essence of humanity. Unfortunately for Scott to complete his machine he requires some very special components, human components. However his activities have come to the attention of both a local police inspector and a pair of angels, both of whom are out to stop Scott’s personal hobby...

Mechagnosis is a new novella by Douglas Thompson, a writer who I have enjoyed reading for some time. Partially this is due to the novel ideas and imagery in his stories, but also, like all good fiction, he has something to say or at the very least put out there for you to think about. In his latest story Thompson tackles love, memory, humanities relationship to their machines and the concept of morality in a world where you can always revisit the dead.

Mechagnosis refers to a state of indifference to or denial of technology and this is exactly the stance which Malthrop takes to the modern world which surrounds him. Believing that the machines, made by machines, no longer have a connection to us; the perfect creations no longer hold anything of their imperfect creators. Their humanity stripped away, our interaction with them only leads to our own loss of humanity.

Malthrop’s answer; complete the ultimate machine, begun by his father, a machine so intimately connected to him and those he knew that they contain their corpses, whose own experience of life was through the sum total of their memories, memories so powerful that it allows Malthrop to travel through his and their timeline.

Malthrop’s view of the killings needed to power the machine are little explored and for a very good reason, if he had the smallest of doubts that he was both killing and simultaneously forever preserving them, he would not have killed them. That said, the very lack of crushing guilt which would afflict most people is absent, leading the reader to wonder whether he is brilliant, or just bat shit crazy.

His earliest travels through time have all the hallmarks of a hallucination, with appropriately skewed imagery. There is only one section in the book where the act of time travel is described in a fairly straight forward manner, leading the reader to believe that, at least, his father was able to use the time machine in a way understandable to the reader. This description is so at odds with those which describe Malthrop’s experience that doubt still, regarding his sanity, remains at the close of the story.

My personal preference is to read the story as that of a man who realises the impermanence of linear time and so feels little remorse in the murder of people he knows, as he realises that they will always exist, although I suspect that the angels will disagree.

Along with the main ‘A’ plot of Malthrop’s increasingly eccentric travels in his time machine we have a couple of ‘B’ plots. The first involves two angels who are sent down the time line to find out what is skewing and contaminating history, only to get trapped themselves and a local police inspector who is investigating the disappearance of Malthrop’s girlfriend, even though we the good reader is aware that she is fulfilling her role as both part of the machine and as an unwilling participant in some of Malthrop’s flagellant efforts to reconnect to her.

Like Malthrop, who feels that he has lost connection with a world enthralled to it technological toys, the inspector is also aware of the distance that his wife’s addiction to trash television has created in their marriage. Here technology has not only driven a schism between the viewer and the thing which they view, but also created a chasm where normal human love flounders and fails.

Mechagnosis is a story which can be read and enjoyed on many levels from its disturbing imagery to its questioning of some fundamental beliefs of the twenty-first century. Once again Thompson has produced a fusion of masterful prose and engaging philosophical argument.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£12.99 (
£8.99 (
£12.99 (
$14.56 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.