When distant stars begin to wink out of existence, scientists believe that God may be dead. Delphina Hutchings, a remote viewer in the government’s secret psychic spying operation, is called to oversee Project Longview, an attempt to watch everything. Her superior tell her "If pieces of the universe are disappearing, maybe it’s because there’s no omniscient consciousness – no God – there to observe them anymore." With the help of scientist Macmillan Trull, Machina is created to oversee the entire universe. But there is a price; Machina gathers its power from humans, leaving them as empty shells.
Thirty years later, Sinclair Stauffer, a college dropout working as a night janitor, sleepwalks through his life. When he stumbles upon Deuce, a graduate student, they strike up a friendship, talking at length about the nature of reality. But there is a voice in Sinclair’s head and he’s not so sure reality is what it used to be. Meanwhile, Delphina is able to escape from Machina and search for the person she feels altering reality. She finds Sinclair and must help him, along with the voice in his head, to prepare to conquer Machina’s grip on reality.
Machina is Jonathan Lyon’s second novel and contains an interesting mix of philosophy, science and theology. The driving theme behind this novel is the perception of reality, how with enough will and faith one can change that reality. While this sounds like a religious idea, it comes across as more of a nondenominational spirituality. In this novel, God is a cyclical presence, not a stable one, which explains why there are so many differing deities throughout the world and even within the same religion.
While, the ideas driving this story are remarkable, formatting mistakes and sentences that a good editor should have caught detracted from the story a bit. I found it frustrating that the first few chapters jumped back and forth between the inception of Project Longview and thirty years later with Sinclair’s life. There were also some extraneous details added that I found distracting. For example, Sinclair becomes part of a drug trial for antihistamines and I kept waiting for this to become important to the plot in some way.
Machina is an excellent piece of speculative fiction. Despite the little things I found distracting, the ideas are incredibly well thought out and thought provoking. The way Jonathan Lyons was able to reconcile both physical and paranormal phenomenon with the Great Ocean of Thought and a universal awareness is enthralling. Without giving away too much, I was also amused by the state of the universe at the end of the Machina. This novel is definitely worth a look.