Paul Schreyer’s second young adult novel, The Aging Machine, is a science fiction novel exploring the use of the eponymous Aging Machine. Elmore Fishbein, a greedy inventor, has just invented a machine that uses artificial radiation, which mimics the wear and tear of daily life to age its victims. In exchange for fame and a large sum of money, Elmore has signed his project over to Governor Tom Willis, who has promised to use the dangerous device to fix the justice system.
The first subjects of the Aging Machine are unlikely and unwilling. John and Taylor are two orphaned fifteen-year-olds who are currently living in the Surrogate Care Facility, an industrialized orphanage. After John and Taylor are wrongfully convicted of murdering the superintendent of the facility, they are put into the aging machine and emerge as seventy-five-year-old men. While they try to readjust to their new lives, young journalist Amy Wilson is uncovering the full story behind the machine. Meanwhile, Quincy Nash, a police officer with a savage streak, believes the boys-turned-men deserve to have their lives ended, not shortened, and is willing to do the job himself. Each of the four characters collide on the path to find a researcher whose name is suddenly on the tip of everyone’s tongues: Doctor Scott—a mysterious figure who is hiding a secret about the Aging Machine that could change the world.
While the premise of this adventure story seems promising, the concept is ultimately undermined by sub-par writing. Most of the dialogue feels forced as contractions are rarely utilized. Conversations are hard to follow due to a lack of names and surplus of pronouns. Despite often unusually talkative characters, there’s a lack of meaningful or revealing dialogue.
Finally, Paul Schreyer’s tendency to avoid the use of adjectives leave most of his descriptions confusing. Additionally, his scenes are often repetitive and his characters illogical. Take for instance, young reporter Amy Wilson. In the below excerpt, found on page 178, she’s driving a car next to train tracks where Quincy Nash, John and Taylor are engaged in a fight to the death.
“Amy regained control of the steering wheel after colliding with the train. She pounded the dashboard in frustration.
Twice, she thought, I missed him (Quincy) twice.”
By page 182, Amy’s made three passes at Quincy with her car and has given up. Her dubious ethics and even more questionable driving skills make an already prolonged scene even worse.
It’s also worth mentioning that a chapter earlier, there’s a scene in which Amy hurls herself against a door with enough force to throw a man nearby to the ground. This is obviously impossible and another example of frequently illogical action sequences. The exact quote is below and can be found on page 166 of The Aging Machine.
“He started to form the word fire when the door exploded inward, smashing into his back and knocking him off his feet. He flew through the air face-first…
From the hallway, Amy Wilson had seen Quincy Nash… She knew she didn’t have much time. She backed up and ran full speed at the door, throwing her weight against it. She ricocheted off the door and landed in a crouch, fists tightly clenched and leveled in front of her…”
Ignoring the shallow characters and stiff interactions, this young adult adventure can be mildly entertaining. Governor Willis and Elmore Fishbein share the stage with John and Taylor, and the story switches between political tension and tense business meetings, to learning how to drive and juvenile antics. The idea of an ‘aging machine’ isn’t uncharted territory, but the way Paul Schreyer approaches this concept is. In order to read this book, the reader must puzzle out confusing scenes and muddl
e through bland descriptions. Still, The Aging Machine has its moments. The message behind the book, that youth is our most valuable resource—as well as the questions you’ll ask yourself after the last page—means that perhaps this novel deserves a chance to be read.
|Elliott is a prolific reader of various genres |
who is more than happy to share his opinions on books.
In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, and running.
He is an 8th grade homeschool student in Charlotte, NC.