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Book Review

Book Cover

The Crying Machine (Hardback)


Author: Greg Chivers
Publisher: Harper Voyager
289 pages
RRP: £12.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 830877 3
Publication Date: 04 April 2019

Future history can take many forms, though there seems to be something in the human psyche that just wants to tear the whole thing down. Greg Chivers takes us to an unknown future, unknown because he does not explicitly say how much time has past and it is difficult to know whether we are a hundred or a thousand years into the future.

The Crying Machine (2019. 289 pages) takes us to the Holy City of Jerusalem, last standing metropolis in the middle east. Outside of its walls the world has experienced a catastrophic war between man and machine, leaving many to turn their backs on technology, attempting to reconnect with God, while others try to shed their humanity and join with the machines.

Clementine arrives in the city, apparently on the run with only a single name to offer her safety, Levi. Unfortunately, Levi turns out to be a low-level crook who has no idea of who she is and has no desire to help.

The cities politics remain fractured and Silas, the ‘Minister of Antiquities’ has big plans to seize power, but in order to do this he is going to need considerable money and help. Having been skimming off antiquities to sell on the black market for many years he comes into possession of the Antikythera, an uninteresting object recovered from the seabed. However, there are many who are interested in acquiring it.

The problem for Silas is that the object is in the museum, so someone will have to steal it. Just as much as Silas needs Levi, Levi quickly discovers that he needs Clementine and her unique abilities.

The science fiction story has potentially elements of horror, I say potentially as Clarke's third law states, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. As we don’t quite know just how far into the future the book is set, the Antikythera is thousands of years old, without context we cannot tell if the threat it contains is technological or theological. In the end it matters little as the book's focus is not just on the elements of threat but also on the central characters.

Each chapter is told from a single character’s perspective with them all either devoted to Clementine, Levi or Silas. Chivers has been able to give each of his POV characters distinctive voices.

Clementine is scared but also unsophisticated, a character aspect which draws people to her. Levi is the Jewish streetwise kid always looking for the next big break but spends his time flogging knocked off goods. The decision to get involved with Silas’s power play will test his real survival skills. Silas is your usual political piece of work, looking to hold all the power in his hands for no other reason than he can. Willing to sacrifice any and all in the pursuit of the city’s highest office.

On the surface the book is part heist and part thriller, but the real gem of the book is the growing relationship between Clementine and Levi, both outcasts in their own way, their meeting allows them to evolve into better people.

Chivers’s has produced a very credible, character driven, first novel which leaves you with a poignant ending and a little sadness in your heart.


Charles Packer

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