The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard

The Epiphany Machine

David Burr Gerrard

A searing alternative history of New York city, from the 60s to the near future, in which a tattoo machine is rumored to inscribe insightful assessments on its users' forearms--with irreversible consequences.

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*Best New Science Fiction for Summer by The Washington Post
*A Most-Anticipated book of 2017 by The Millions

Everyone else knows the truth about you, now you can know it, too.
That’s the slogan. The product: a junky contraption that tattoos personalized revelations on its users’ forearms. It’s an old con, playing on the fear that we are obvious to everybody except ourselves. This particular ad has been circulating New York since the 1960s and it works. But, oddly enough, so might the device...

A small stream of city dwellers buy into this cult of the epiphany machine, including Venter Lowood’s parents. This stigma follows them when they move upstate, where Venter can’t avoid the whispers of teachers and neighbors any more than he can ignore the machine’s accurate predictions: his mother’s abandonment and his father’s disinterest. So when Venter’s grandmother finally asks him to confront the epiphany machine and inoculate himself against his family’s mistakes, he’s only too happy to oblige.

Like his parents before him, Venter is quick to fall under the spell of the device’s sweat-stained, profane, and surprisingly charming operator, Adam Lyons. But unlike them, Venter gets close enough to Adam to learn a dark secret. There’s an undeniable pattern between specific epiphanies and violent crimes. And Adam won’t jeopardize the privacy of his customers by alerting the police.

It may be a hoax, but that doesn’t mean what Adam is selling isn’t also spot-on. And in this sprawling, snarling tragicomedy about accountability in contemporary America, the greater danger is that Adam Lyon’s apparatus may just be right about us all. This is "can't-miss pop culture."(Vox)

Advance Galley Reviews

The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard has a wonderful premise that grapples with philosophical questions. Can a machine write what is embedded in a an individual or does the writing cause the person to believe that about themselves and make decisions in that light, forever altering the course of their lives? Unfortunately, for me, the books turns in too many directions, never fully addressing any one – philosophical, historical, or personal. Read my complete review at Reviewed for Penguin First to Read.

Life happened, never had a chance to read :(

Thank you Penguin for the ARC but I am sorry I just couldn't not finish it, I tried and tried but was unable too. The big idea of the book, what the Epithany Machine tattooed on people and how it affected them, the way people treated them and their actions afterward was very intriguing but I felt like other than that the book had nothing else going on for it. The main character Venter was so lost and uncharacteristic that I could never get attached to him or his story. There was really no characters I cared for or became important to me that I'd want to find out what was going to happen to them. I read over half the book and felt like I got no where in the story...

This is a hard book to rate. On the one hand, I think it has an interesting premise; a machine that inks a personal “truth” onto your arm that you may or may not have acknowledged about yourself. I liked how the book addresses how we look at ourselves and at how we handle truths about ourselves whether they be good or bad. On the other hand, I think this book was too drawn out. There is a lot of repetition from the characters, especially Venter, the main character, who is just completely lost. Also, most of the characters are despicable, with the small exception of Adam Lyons who, thankfully, just is who he is. It has some funny moments, dialogue, and quirky characters that reminded me of a Christopher Moore book. Not bad, just a comparison. Overall ok. I might recommend it to the right kind of person, but probably would not read again.

Sadly, I filed this book as "unfinished". Although the plot sounded interesting I couldn't get into it. The narrator, Venter, didn't have a sounding voice, the rest of the book was just confusing. I tried to understand where was it all heading to but failed. Halfway through I stopped. Thank you Penguin for the opportunity of reading this book :)

The epiphany Machine had an interesting storyline but once reading it I found myself not invested and was not a fan of the writing style of this particular book. The main character Venter was such a boring persona. I found myself wanting to DNF this book so many times due to the fact that the characters were meh.

The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard is an interesting book with a unique story. It's a tale of alternative history, set in New York between the 1960s and the near future, and presents a society polarized by the epiphany machine-a machine that tattoos the truth about a person on their forearm. Those who are drawn to it believe it's a chance for a better life, while those who stay away from it are suspicious, not only of the machine, but of its owner, Adam Lyons. Is he behind these "epiphanies", a cult leader who is really good at reading people, or is the machine really supernatural? The Epiphany Machine is a unique and interesting story that makes one really think about how we view others and ourselves. Those that receive epiphany tattoos either embrace them or reject them, demonstrating how people react to the truth. While the narrator can be annoying, he is the perfect narrator because his personality (and tattoo) are not unique at all. He is very much like so many other people, and he changes his views and opinions depending on his circumstances. This book will make you do some serious introspection and soul searching, while trying to figure out what your epiphany tattoo would be. The Epiphany Machine is a book that will stay with you long after you read it. It's definitely not a beach read, but it is a thought provoking one.

“The Epiphany Machine” certainly requires a willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. But it’s worth letting go to immerse yourself in this complex, intelligent, quirky, layered story. Not for everyone, but definitely for me.

Thank you to Penguin's First to Read for sending me an ARC of The Epiphany Machine. I was intrigued by both the title and the description of this novel and eager to read it. While the novel did not live up to my expectations, I find myself thinking about it long after reading the final page. I did not like any of the characters. However, the issues and themes regarding an individual's need to understand oneself and one's place in the world as well as how to navigate one's expectations of oneself and of others, combined with family and friendship relationship struggles continue to resonate. The need to belong and to buy in to the latest trends with no attention to consequences is a sad commentary on contemporary America.

I didn't exactly enjoy this book, but I couldn't put it down either. I guess that makes it intriguing! I liked the idea that we never really know ourselves.

I was so excited to read this book. Alternate history, finidng out if the Epiphany Machine was controlled by a higher power or not, and the possibility of Venter changing his family's fate? Yes please! Once i actually started reading the book, however, I quickly realized that it was not going to be the right book for me. The only reason I finished it was because I felt I needed to in order to give an accurate review. Otherwise, I would have put it down pretty quickly. Venter had about as much personality as a pencil, and didn't sound how a high school kid would sound- even one who may have been more intellegent than average. Gerrard tried way too hard to make Big Important Statements, but they all flopped for me. One aspect I did like was the interviews and book excerpts that were between chapters. Overall, this is going to be either a love it or hate it book.

I received an ARC of this book from FirstToRead for an unbiased opinion. Here it is: Have you ever had to force yourself to put a book down so you could process how it made you feel? In particular, a fictional book? That was my experience with THE EPIPHANY MACHINE. I could have read it in one sitting, but I kept feeling like I would have missed out on some of the experience if I didn't let myself work through my reactions. I don't know that I've ever read anything that qualified as "alternative history" before now, which may have led to some of my reaction to the book itself. I felt like the details were so accurate in some parts that it made it seem entirely plausible that this...could have happened. That it would have been easy to see a machine like the epiphany machine being used, and the effects it would have caused on our society. I'm Ventor Lockwood (the main character)'s age and grew up just outside of NYC, so the latter part of the book felt particularly close to home. There are things we have all clung to in the past three decades...truths we needed to believe... I know what my tattoo would read: "Is too loyal to those unworthy". I attempt to fight the truth, but the reality is, I have to face it and either consciously act against it or accept it and not let it overrule my life. What would yours say?

I enjoyed the Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerard. It is an interesting concept, quality writing, and gives you lots to think about. The epiphany machine tattoos a phrase on the users arm that is supposed to reveal a true deep insight about the person and who they are. There are two main ways people react to this, one is to think of it as a flaw and react against it and the other is to embrace it and let it guide there actions. Each method can lead to difficulty, and there is a lot of conflict in the main character's life about these two approaches and presents kind of a fate vs. goodwill dilemma for him as he often fights against it but also resigns himself to certain actions based on it. Another source of conflict is when he turns in a Muslim friend to the government because he has a tattoo that says something about blowing things up, the same tattoo that a terrorist bomber had on his arm. This leads to some thought provoking ideas about how we react to terrorism and freedoms vs. government keeping people safe. At first the main character is very guilty about the situation but comes to think that his friend must have done something or the government wouldn't hold his friend so long. There is a lot going on in the book to make you think but it also reads easily and quickly because of Gerard's writing style and several different techniques to break up the narrative (different narrators, lists, interviews and profiles of epiphany machine users). At times the narratives got confused and Gerard is prone to tangents but overall a very good read that I would recommend to literature fiction and science fiction readers.

This is part of a group of books written in a writing style that I just (Called "experimental" according to my son.) That displeasure ruins even the cleverest of ideas. I wish I could determine which books are presented this way so I could avoid them. I like the concept of the book, a tattoo machine that inks you with some magical revelation and the positive/negative impact of those revelations, and even some of the characters but the writing is not for me. It felt the like the book was self-absorbed with its own self-importance as though the story were some groundbreaking piece of literature. But, like I said, this is a presentation and I have seen it before so it is not just an issue with this particular author. Entire chapters in the book went off on tangents with a few of them trying to feel like some weird form of free verse poetry. I don't know what else to call it. Also, I really need to avoid fiction that try and deal with 9-11. It is not an event to use as a prop and I have yet to find a book that is able to pull it off. finally, the book was way too obsessed with oral sex. I felt like it was tied up with the fake self-importance, like a kid saying a swear word and then giggling because he knows he said a bad word. If you liked Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (and a lot of people that aren't me did like it) then you would probably like this book too.

I am grateful to Penguin’s First to Read program for the opportunity to read this novel. I was ecstatic to have been chosen as a reader and delved into the novel with eagerness. That eagerness faded by the fifth page. I’m fine with suspending disbelief and “going along” to find out where a narrative will actually take me-I look forward to the adventure-but it never came. Instead, I was confused and disappointed that a novel with such a unique premise never delivered. I debated how to review this novel honestly, as there are several issues. But, after careful reflection, there are two tweaks that would really help with moving the narrative forward while cutting a lot of the excess details that merely add to the confusion. First and foremost: rework the point of view. The novel is written in first person, for the most part. First person point of view can be tricky in that it is a fine line to keep the wording and tone of the author separate from that of the character. Quite often I felt I was listening to the author and not the character. This leads to the second tweak: dialogue. The narrator is a teenage boy, but his words seem more appropriate for an adult male. After having taught high school for 20+ years, I can safely say that this is not the language of a teenager, so the main character’s dialogue never rang true. The premise for this novel has tremendous potential. I commend the author for mixing several genres into the overall structure of this novel; however, not all worked within the context of this story. While I did not enjoy this novel, I would gladly attempt another novel by this author as the ideas and approach are unique even if they did not hit the mark this time.

Going to have to file this one under did not finish. The premise of this book sounded interesting, but for me just did not deliver. I found it to be confusing and couldn't figure out what exactly the plot or story line was actually suppose to be. The characters were brief and seemed just as clueless as to what was going on as I was, especially the main character Venter. I gave up about 150 pages in. Thank you First to Read for the opportunity to review the book.

Unfortunately, this book didn't resonate me. I have a personal rule that I'll read 50% of a book and if it still doesn't catch my interest then I abandon it. That was the case with The Epiphany Machine. I had a hard time following who the characters were because the timeline jumped around so often. The writing was very... unique? I'm not sure what word I want to use here. I feel like this is either a love it or hate it type of book. The concept is intriguing, but the execution wasn't there for me, unfortunately.

I did not love this book. It was dark and for me very difficult to read. The characters were not the type of people that I wanted to invest in and because of that at times I had to fight to keep reading. However, I enjoyed the inserts in the book regarding how the machine came to be and its meanings. When I started this book I hoped it was going to be like the rules at the beginning which were entertaining and engrossing. This feeling obviously did not last though my experience with this novel. I would give it a 2.5 stars for me. Good prose, but difficult to get into and stay invested in. As always, I appreciate the opportunity to read and provide reviews through First to Read.

3.5 stars. Overall, this was engrossing, if confusing, read. I liked the concept of the epiphany machine and thought it was well developed, with the book excerpts and the testimonials. We never learn how it actually works, which in a way I thought was good as it wasn't really the point of the story - this seemed to be more about how words can define you and your life. The main protagonist, Wenter, spends most of his life going against his epiphany tattoo, and makes some terrible decisions in the process. There wasn't a single character I felt invested in, but the light, somewhat sarcastic prose kept me absorbed in the story. Thanks Penguin for the advance copy!

"The Epiphany Machine" is not a light-hearted, fun, summer read. It is dark, complicated, frustrating, and as real as an alternative history should be. Although it is a very well written book, with an original and thought-provoking theme, it was not an enjoyable read for me. The characters are selfish and often unlikable. It was difficult to relate to the main characters, including Venter and Adam, which made it hard to care about the consequences that befell them. The interweaving of characters like John Lennon and the 911 terrorist Ziad were promising at first, but then dissolved as the story progressed. The frequent reference to Venter's tattoo as a label he is unable to escape feels repetitive and unchangeable, making for a bleak outlook for him. The story of the epiphany machine itself is unsatisfying and leaves the reader full of questions. The story does venture into reality with its description of treatment of "terrorists" after the 9/11 attacks, however even that feels incomplete. Gerrard creates an alternative world where a strange New York City cult rises and falls without much consequence. Likewise, "The Epiphany Machine" was capable of so much more than it delivers.

Frankly, I'm not quite sure how to go about reviewing this one. Should I talk about the unpredictability, even absurdity, surrounding characters’ actions because everyone is an unreliable narrator? What about the novel's value as a commentary on the post–9/11 paranoia? I could also talk about now the story poses as a cynical assessment of the human incapability for change, but ultimately becomes something more like a frustrated—but ultimately forgiving—portrait of (painfully slow) growth and maturity. What is certain is that the novel's ambitions to analyze the human psyche while simultaneously critiquing the demands and constraints placed on individuals by a variety of sources (romantic partners, the moral judgments of society, a powerful government) result in an intriguing narrative that I couldn’t put down. Parts of it annoyed me (the aforementioned unreliability, nearly everything about Venter Lowood). On the other hand, I really enjoyed the subplot of Venter’s struggle to write stories, coupled with the understated discussion about whether writers have a moral obligation to society and whether one can truly write what is true.

The Epiphany machine tattoos a personal message on the forearm of the person using the machine. Although we never learn exactly where the machine came from or how it works, we do learn a lot about the people using the machine and how the message affects. them. The effects are complex and this part of the book is original and engrossing. However once Adam and the machine disappear we are left with Venter, a young man who is not very interesting or likeable.

This is one of those books that will stay with you, it will get under your skin, if you'll forgive the pun. It tells the story of Venter, a young man who has had his whole life shaped by the epiphany machine - a tattoo device that purports to tell you about yourself. It is a really original idea and the quality of the prose ensures that the originality does not suffer from poor execution, as can often be the case. The tone is razor sharp and pulls no punches. Our protagonist is by turns, weak, unpleasant and downright obnoxious, and yet we are still drawn to his meanderings. Interspersed throughout the narrative are individual testimonials of those people who have used the machine along with chapters from a book written about the machine and news articles, all of which provide relief from Venter's point of view when needed. The book takes a somewhat predictable turn midway through, which I found a little disappointing, but the satirical skill employed by the author surrounding the events in the latter half of the novel cannot be denied. All in all, this is a great novel which succeeds in holding a mirror up to modern western culture in all it's grotesque glory.

The epiphany machine is a device fashioned out of an old sewing machine that will tattoo a revelation about you in to your forearm. Many consider this to be part of a cult led by a very perceptive man, Adam Lyons. This unique tale follows a young boy named Venter, whose parents both received tattoos and had close relationships with Adam. The epiphany machine sculpts most of Venters life. Venters mother ABANDONS WHAT MATTERS MOST, abandoning her husband and infant son. His father SHOULD NEVER BECOME A FATHER, remains distant from his son, buries himself in his work, and allows his mother in law to care for his son. On her deathbed his grandmother requests he get an epiphany tattoo after being strictly forbidden from even reading about them for most of his life. Venter is DEPENDENT ON THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS, and is quickly swept into Adam's cult like following. I loved the layout of this story. It alternates between Venters perspective to testimonial interviews he conducts on Adams behalf of his customers to chapters from a book another author wrote about the machine. Quite original. The storyline lagged about halfway through for me when Venter dates an unbearable women, Rebecca. I highly recommend this. Thanks to penguin ftr for the arc!

"You already know what the machine will write on your arm. That lie you've been telling yourself—you know what it is. That blind spot is not really a blind spot—you're choosing to look away." The epiphany machine tattoos a statement on the forearms of people who want to find out something about themselves, some characteristic that they already know on some level but are afraid to face. Adam Lyons has been operating the machine for years, but where it came from and how it works is not clear. Is Adam directing the writing or is some force responsible? Are you fated to follow your message or do you alter your behavior to conform to the tattoo? Can the tattoo predict criminal behavior? Venter Lowood comes to get a tattoo and winds up working for Lyons while he is still in high school. Venter has a very conflicted relationship with Adam and the machine. Inspired by the skin art of both "Moby Dick" and "In the Penal Colony", this book had a unique premise and raised some interesting questions, however I didn't really connect with either the writing style or the protagonist. The narration was periodically interrupted by interviews that were conducted by Venter with people who had used the machine and by chapters of a book written by someone who seemed obsessed with the machine. This made the rhythm of the book a little wonky for me. Also, the descriptions of the experiences with the machine got to feel repetitive. I think the book should have been 100 pages shorter. Venter was just such a limp, passive character that I didn't really care about him, even after he betrayed his best friend and suffered from the guilt that this caused. Ultimately, I thought this book was a good attempt at writing something out of the ordinary, I just wasn't crazy about the execution. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

3 stars. Can a literal reminder of one’s biggest blind spot help overcome it? Is our destiny shaped by our ability (or lack thereof) to do so? And ultimately, should learning the ‘truth’ about oneself be an individual choice or a mandate of society? All wonderful, meaty questions that are addressed through the story of Venter Lowood. And what a slowly unfolding story. I found myself struggling to spend time with the book, which was surprising given how effortless and insightful the writing is. But nothing much seems to happen after the initial context-setting. After about 250 pages, it picks up speed, but loses tempo again. I ultimately finished the book and I was glad I did, because of the premise and the questions it sparked in my mind. Overall, good story, but could’ve done with better storytelling.

This book began with promise. I like an alternative history with an imaginative twist on reality, in this case, the epiphany machine which may or may not be an instrument of God revealing a person’s ‘true self’ via an arm tattoo. I also tend to like novels which assemble different documents: reports, newspaper articles, novel excerpts to add to the tale. I expected to like this novel, but in the end, I found it disappointing and overly long. The main character Venter is tiresome and unlikable. We follow him on his journey to make sense of the epiphany machine and its effect on his life. His mother, an early devotee, abandons him because the machine told her she WOULD ABANDON WHAT MATTERS MOST. Venter oscillates between wanting to believe and wanting to reject the work of the epiphany machine. Venter is all kinds of awful. He ends up hurting or rejecting most people who befriend or care about him. Most egregiously, his friend Ismail. But others too. His long-term romantic relationship is depressing. He’s a jerk to his father and father-figure Adam. According to his epiphany tattoo, he is DEPENDENT ON THE OPINION OF OTHERS, which was important, I guess, since it was repeated CONSTANTLY. But it was annoying and didn’t seem to make much difference. And the surprise reveal at the end was no surprise. I skimmed the last 100 pages or so. I was relieved when it was over. I assume this book is supposed to help readers achieve some kind of epiphany of their own. But whatever it was, I missed it or didn’t care to figure it out.

This was a bizarre, thought-provoking, and unique book. Nor necessarily a fun read, but individually put. Through the interwoven stories and lives in the book the it's very little that is black and white, there's little attempt to have a clearly good character that you always root for. The book could be a commentary on many things today, it could just be an interesting, slightly fantastical tale, but what impressed me most was the humanity of the flawed characters. The processes they go through in their lives and in their heads to make the choices and rationalizations that they do feel more accurate than how I justify some of my own choices, the veil of fake honesty gets completely exposed here and it makes the nosaj worth all the cringes and head shakes

Thank you to Penguin's First to Read Program for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review. The Epiphany Machine, by new author David Burr Gerrard, is the story of a tattoo machine that inscribes one’s inner-most insights onto his or her forearm. The story is told through the eyes of its protagonist, Venter Lowood, and shares an alternative history of New York City from the 60’s through present time. I thought the book was brilliant and it reminded me very much of Jonathan Safran Foer’s writing style, with its smart prose, imperfect characters, and unique plot. This book came along when I needed it to the most . . . I was in a rut reading the same story lines over and over again. The Epiphany Machine is unlike any story that I’ve ever read and I can honestly say that there will never be another book like it. The one chapter devoted to an examination of one of the 9/11 terrorist is one of the most intense (and uniquely written) chapters that I’ve ever read. This book may possibly be the next big thing, similar to how Foer’s “Everything is Illuminated” was for a similar new, young author.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from The Epiphany Machine having never read David Burr Gerard's work, but I loved having the chance to dive into something new here through the First To Read program. The alternative US history, the premise of a machine that tattoos people and the ideas of fate versus self determinism are fascinating. I wondered throughout if this was a case of 'which came first? Did the tattoos influence the life choices or just outline what was to come no matter what?' However, the writing style was difficult for me to engage in. I found myself distracted or having to go back and make sure I didn't miss something when there was an abrupt jump. I would give this solid 3 stars for creativity and unique subject matter

I was given a copy of "The Epiphany Machine" in exchange for an honest review about the book. I have been participating in the First to Read program through Penguin Random House for a while now and this may be the first time I am unable to articulate how exactly I felt about the book. When I first started reading it I didn't quite know what to expect, and now that I've finished it I do not know how to describe it. The portions of the book that had to do with the "history" of the machine were quite interesting as well as the testimonials Venter was gathering. I found the myriad of subplots haphazardly connected and were ultimately mostly distracting. There are many thought-provoking elements to this book, and the idea is certainly original, but I found myself grasping for conclusion at the end of the story. Perhaps the author intends for so many elements to be fantastical and unbelievable, but I found myself having to be convinced too much for a pleasurable read. Ultimately, I would give this book three stars. It is an interesting premise and a well-executed revisionist history but the all characters are irksome and make for an unenjoyable read.

I really wasn't sure what to expect from this story when I first opened the book, but as soon as I began reading the list of "things to consider before using the Epiphany Machine" it had me. I re-read the list twice, before diving in. I enjoyed the "history" or speculation of the "history" of where the Machine originated, is it a tool sent by "God"? Are the Nazis responsible for building it? Was Adam just a Cult Leader who programmed the Epiphanies? But the book really had me with the first Interview. The Epiphany Machine is not only a coming of age story for Venter Lowood, where after being told that the machine was evil and to not speak of it, his grandmother's dying wish is for him to use the machine. Once he does, his life takes twists and turns that not even he could have expected. The book serves as a look into ourselves as a society. We are quick to judge things that are out of the norm. Neurotic when our deep seeded flaws or what drives us is out for the word to see, only again to be judges by others even though we are trying to "be a better person". Quick to jump on the bandwagon for a cause and even quicker to tear someone down when we feel that they are "evil" for doing what they though was right in the face of impossible decisions. Are we sheep or are we the shepherd? A very enjoyable read.

I wasn't sure what to think when I first started reading this book, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found within the covers. The Epiphany machine divides humanity into factions of people based on the prophecy. Society is plagued by crime and blames all of its problems on the marks made by the machine. The premise of the book is not really that far fetched. People are judged by the tattoos and piercings that they inflict upon their bodies and what society determines that these say about the person as an individual. Adam has to make a decision whether he will report that certain epiphanies relate to criminal behaviors in a stratus of society. I really liked that this book was relational and current in its offerings.

3.5 stars. This science-fiction, revisionist history novel really captured my interest at first. The story follows Venter as he tries to navigate his childhood during the 60's after his mother has abandoned him and he's left with his grandmother to raise him. The epiphany machine is a taboo subject with his father, and the story follows both a written "history" of the epiphany machine and a coming-of-age story of Venter and his friends. Theories vary about the epiphany machine from a tool from God to a manipulation by a cult leader Adam Lyons. For believers, the machine inscribes each individuals deepest revelation as a tattoo on the forearm. Critics claim Adam does these tattoos of entirely his own volition. This was a complex and twisted read exploring themes of maturity, self-discovery, loyalty, and how we are compelled by others perspectives of us. The ending left me floundering as I felt there were things I would have liked resolved, otherwise this would have been a solid 4 star for me. For interesting and thought provoking read.

The premise of this novel is initially what drew me to review it. I enjoy counterculture periods, I live and love things set in NYC, and I will soon be an attorney (Big Law culture references and attorneys run rampant throughout the story). It begins with some quotes pulled from writers such as, Kafka and James Joyce, to set the tone and a list of 19 "things to consider before using the Epiphany machine." Do not skim it. Read the list in full because it reveals the types of characters you will not only meet along the way, but also serves as a commentary on humanity. There are several other stylistic forms you will discover on your journey: One is that all tattoos are announced in a bold, capitalized font. Another is that there are testimonials weaved throughout. Lastly, do not be surprised to find newspaper articles or book excepts as a break within the chapters. If you do not enjoy those sorts of explanatory sources in your fiction, do not let it stop you from reading it since it does not interfere with the text too much. The story is told through a first person narrative regardless of whether it is a testimonial (which would make sense), or the portion involving the protagonist. I do agree with some other reviews that the main character can be a bit unlikeable at times, and many of the anecdotes have leave you feeling bleak. The questions peppered throughout are meant to make readers pause and think (or at least that is what I gathered from them). The word choice is interesting, varying between simple and then a startling intelligent observation or more complex sentence, but that is not what forces readers to continue onward. The story itself is compelling because you want to know what is going to happen or where it is leading, but it takes almost the entire book, which could annoy some and the ending is kind of a tidy wrap-up. Do not pick this up if you are looking for a beach read, but I do recommend it if you are searching for something unique, worthy of reflection, and an interesting psyche experiment that strips down morals and tendencies of the human race.

This is one of the best books I've read that has been published within the last five years. It reminds me of a more reader-friendly Atrocity Exhibition. It weaves its own culture and real life culture (and history) together in a way I must liken to a full-body tattoo. The language used is wonderful and repeatedly surprising in specific word choice, continued/extended metaphor, and an insistence upon the reader to meta-read - I found myself experiencing multiple epiphanies. I would strongly recommend this to fans of Burroughs/Kafka/Ballard, punk subculture and those with similar interests, and recent graduates.

I really enjoyed this book. The premise is interesting and makes you want to keep reading. My main critiques would be that the main character is super-unlikeable, which might make you want to scream things at him, and the ending seems to be wrapped up too quickly. The book is 400 pages but it tries to wrap things up in the last 10 pages, and I wanted more resolution. But I still recommend it.

This is a book chocked full of allegories and symbolism. I understood the basic duality of the tattoos - do labels make us into something we aren't or do they propel us to be something completely opposite. I also understood how labels give the world an idea of us before they really know anything else about us. But this book delved much deeper and much farther than that and I'm not sure I'm smart enough to have figured it all out. While I felt like there was much more going on than I was actually understanding it was a really great story. Maybe a tad wordy, but most definitely thought provoking and completely enjoyable. This is a story that will stick with you for a while. My thanks to the publisher for providing me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

The description of this novel presented here does not do the story justice. It's much more nuanced and weirdly philosophical than the plot summary indicates. There's a lot of bouncing around in the plot, with detours and side stories and subplots about users of the Infinity Machine, and there are leaps of logic you have to make to enter the parallel reality of the book, but all the strands come together to form a coherent comment about privacy, governmental authority, terrorism, individual responsibility, and the ties of family and friendship that bind and liberate the characters. In addition, the story is gripping in many ways, an involving and even at times suspenseful coming-of-age slash social drama. One hurdle many readers may have is that the narrator and central character, Venter Lowood, comes across as aggravatingly unlikable; he makes hair-tearing decisions and is very slow to come around to sense, and even then sometimes only tepidly. However, his thoughts and actions fit his character, and throw the book's essential moral viewpoint into sharper relief. I found myself thinking about the ideas in this novel long after I finished reading it, in a good way. It's an entertaining story of ideas.

When someone tells you not to do something, chances are you'll stubbornly do the opposite, despite how illogical that might be. In David Burr Gerrard's The Epiphany Machine the phrases inked on people's arms often play a heavy hand in their future actions. Venter Lowood's life has been irrefutably shaped by a machine that tattoos a vaguely specific epiphany on the forearms of each individual who uses it. His mother, who abandoned him when he was an infant, and his father, who told him never to go near or use the machine, both used the epiphany machine in their youth. Venter has conflicted feelings about the machine and how his epiphany might change his life's trajectory, but in using it, he becomes unexpectedly invested in it and the keeper of the epiphany machine, the eccentric Adam Lyons. Serving as a collector of stories of those who have used the machine and how it affected their lives, Venter plays a role in the machine's history and its potential future, with the government hoping that making epiphanies public could assist with civilian safety. While the premise of the story as an alternate history with a mystical element was highly intriguing, particularly as it offered a glimpse into the psyche of people and the conflicts they have with themselves, I found myself struggling to make progress through this slow-moving narrative, probably because practically nothing happens and what does happen didn't need to be drawn out as long as it was. If there wasn't going to be much in the way of developing a plot, then it would have been beneficial to have a complex, compelling character to follow, which we didn't have with Venter's annoying, constant self-doubting thoughts and timidly made actions; the various other characters' stories presented, while more interesting and insightful, were a bit jarringly disconnected from the rest of the narrative, despite being prefaced as testimonials. Overall, I'd give it a 2.5 out of 5 stars.


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