book cover of Tell the Machine Goodnight
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Tell the Machine Goodnight

(2018)
A novel by

 
 
FINALIST FOR 2018 KIRKUS PRIZE

NAMED ONE OF THE "BEST LITERARY FICTION OF 2018' BY KIRKUS REVIEWS

"Sci-fi in its most perfect expression…Reading it is like having a lucid dream of six years from next week, filled with people you don't know, but will." —NPR


"[Williams’s] wit is sharp, but her touch is light, and her novel is a winner." – San Francisco Chronicle

"Between seasons of Black Mirror, look to Katie Williams' debut novel." Refinery29 

Smart and inventive, a page-turner that considers the elusive definition of happiness.


Pearl's job is to make people happy. As a technician for the Apricity Corporation, with its patented happiness machine, 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 the advance of technology and the ways that it can most surprise and define us. Along the way, Katie Williams playfully illuminates our national obsession with positive psychology, our reliance on quick fixes. 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.

Genre: Science Fiction

Praise for this book

"My prescription for happiness is: ‘Sit still, read a book that can't be classified by genre, and tell everyone.’ I'm telling you, Katie Williams delivers. Tell the Machine Goodnight transcends categorization in the best way possible—it is part love story, part science fiction, part feminist inspirational wake-up call, and all of it moving and compelling. I never knew what was going to happen and, when I found out, I was always delighted." - Helen Ellis

"Allow me to introduce you to your new favorite writer. Katie Williams plunges into our obsession with technology and its effect on our lives and dreams, and emerges with miraculous gifts for us—she unwraps the present and the future." - James Hannaham

"Filled with extraordinary writing, wish-they-existed characters, and unexpected narrative turns, this novel will delight your mind and heart." - Courtney Maum

"How much control do we have over our own happiness—and would we be better off if we had the ability to nudge it just a little more?…A captivating, thought-provoking and utterly charming novel about the elusive nature of happiness and the limits of both technology and our own self-knowledge." - Carolyn Parkhurst

"Katie Williams’s fierce moral intelligence sparks off the page…Generous, perceptive, intensely smart: this is just the novel we need." - Kirstin Valdez Quade

"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 a novel with a more moving trip up a VR mountain." - Gabrielle Zevin


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