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The Soft Machine (1961)

by William S. Burroughs

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Nova Trilogy (book 1)

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1,4461710,853 (3.34)18
In Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs revealed his genius. In The Soft Machine he begins an adventure that will take us even further into the dark recesses of his imagination, a region where nothing is sacred, nothing taboo. Continuing his ferocious verbal assault on hatred, hype, poverty, war, bureaucracy, and addiction in all its forms, Burroughs gives us a surreal space odyssey through the wounded galaxies in a book only he could create.… (more)
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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Absolutely vile and completely insane, The Soft Machine is filled to the brim with sex, drugs, half-cetacean people, meaningless stream-of-consciousness vulgarity, and countless scenes that are generally beyond absurd. A loose narrative throughout, the general premise is about a man who can change bodies who infiltrates various scenarios and dismantles them from within, but even then there's so much more happening throughout and the novel can't stick to any one particular plot point. The entire thing is a maddening journey into a surrealist dystopia where absolutely nothing is taboo.

The biggest drawback is that some of the longer graphic scenes stop being shocking most of the way through and sadly get repetitive and boring, but it always picks back up tremendously and it ends just as weird and abruptly as it begins. Outside of its weaker sections I absolutely loved this.

8.25/10 ( )
  Revolution666 | Nov 14, 2022 |
This was the 1st William S. Burroughs novel I read. The obssessive reiterations of hanging boys ejaculating was disturbing & sickening to me but the overall shockingness of the bk had a profound effect on me. I got the novel b/c its title was the same name as one of my favorite music groups. I hadn't realized that they'd taken their name from this bk. I'd never read anything even remotely like this. Just its formal power was a great jump-start for my nascent experimental writing. According to my notes, I've read this TWICE - a rare distinction for a bk to receive from me. ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
A friend once told me there are "no good books." This is one of them.
I did not find it compelling even as #GayAnalPorn and unacceptable as #ScienceFiction. As #LiteraryFiction it was about average... ( )
  whbiii | Mar 17, 2022 |
Firstly if you don't think you can withstand frequent uses of the words rectum and jism then you may want to skip this one.
Second, most of this book is written in gibberish, i don't know how others handled that but the only way i could read it is by bypassing the forebrain entirely.
In practical terms i read it really, REALLY quickly (without skimming). I don't mean i read the overall book quickly but rather the individual chapters, sentences and words. I read fast enough that the words went in one ear and out the other without any processing from the brain. Which may seem pointless but as they pass through they leave behind a thin residue of imagery, which is really the only thing this novel has going for it.
Ancients temples, shanty towns, snuff films, cannibalism, body switching, time travel, mind control, gigantic machinery and various Lovecraftian horrors are just some of the sights to see, along with innumerable homosexual encounters (many of which seem highly suspect from a legal standpoint).
I liked the imagery, i'm a big lovecraft fan so many of the horror pictures were interesting for me. The speed at which i was reading also stopped the gay sex from being too repellent. There is also a nice use of repetition which makes it somewhat poetic at times.
This is a novel novel. Novel as in novelty. In fact in one of the later chapters it pretty much states that as a goal. Fighting conformity, different merely for the sake of being different, and as a novelty its pretty interesting but that sort of thing only goes so far with me.
I don't think i'm imaging that the library copy i read seemed much more worn in its first few chapters than the later ones. I'm guessing a lot of people have given up on this through the years. ( )
  wreade1872 | Nov 28, 2021 |
Morally and ethically disgusting and reprehensible, but an interesting text. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Nov 8, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William S. Burroughsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Behrens, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harris, OliverEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I was working the hole with the Sailor and we did not bad fifteen cents on average night boosting the afternoons and short timing the dawn we made out from the land of the free but I was running out of veins . . .
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs revealed his genius. In The Soft Machine he begins an adventure that will take us even further into the dark recesses of his imagination, a region where nothing is sacred, nothing taboo. Continuing his ferocious verbal assault on hatred, hype, poverty, war, bureaucracy, and addiction in all its forms, Burroughs gives us a surreal space odyssey through the wounded galaxies in a book only he could create.

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