Mark Clifton/Frank Riley
The Forever Machine (1957)
Winner of the 1955 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Reviewed: 2002-03-12

Originally titled They'd Rather Be Right, this book has received mild notoriety as the forgotten Hugo winner. It is frequently considered the weakest novel to ever win the award, and along with its authors it has subsequently all but fallen into oblivion.

The Forever Machine is certainly a hodge-podge of ideas. It is very much in the spirit of a 1950s publication in Astounding, which it was. Before the background of a somewhat dystopian future America, where opinion control has replaced free thinking, and science has come to a standstill, a telepath becomes instrumental in the creation of an artificial intelligence, nicknamed Bossy, that has the potential to transform humanity. By ridding its patients from prejudices and superstitions, Bossy can confer rejuvenation and psionic powers to those willing to change. The obvious spot of conflict is that many people would rather hold on to their beliefs.

Much of the plot is concerned with keeping particular interest groups from monopolizing Bossy and with selling the whole thing to the public. The authors loudly rail against pseudo-science, but then proceed to dish out some of the worst. They attack orthodox science rigidified into dogma, the folly of common man, but also point out that everybody thinks they belong to the top five percent of the population. It's all a bit superficial.

A dusty classic from a forgotten bookshelf, where it can safely remain.

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Christian "naddy" Weisgerber <>