Marrow’s Pit by Keith Deininger
Published March 11th, 2014 by DarkFuse
Buy this story at: Amazon
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you DarkFuse!
I have some problems with this short story. Actually a lot of problems. But my biggest one is that I’m fairly certain this story is a ripoff of another short story, The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster. Let me just show you what I mean.
Here is the synopsis for Marrow’s Pit:
Built to encompass the entire range of lifeless mountains, it had always, relentlessly, clanked on and on. Within, vast halls and endless corridors were filled with the sounds of metal on metal, with hissing steam, with squealing gears. In the eyes of its citizens, it was sacred, deified, omniscient. Enshrined in their mythology for innumerable generations, it had gone by countless designations, but its truest name was perhaps its plainest: the Machine.
For Ballard, the Machine is a place of tedium, and ignorance, and cruelty. He sees little use in his mundane job and secretly questions the purpose of the Machine. When tragedy strikes, Ballard is forced to embark on a paranoid journey that will take him outside of the Machine, and everything he’s ever known, over the edge into darkness, past the point of no return…toward the blackness known as Marrow’s Pit.
And here is the synopsis for The Machine Stops:
The story describes a world in which most of the human population has lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual now lives in isolation below ground in a standard ‘cell’, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Travel is permitted but unpopular and rarely necessary. Communication is made via a kind of instant messaging/video conferencing machine called the speaking apparatus, with which people conduct their only activity, the sharing of ideas and knowledge. The two main characters, Vashti and her son Kuno, live on opposite sides of the world. Vashti is content with her life, which, like most inhabitants of the world, she spends producing and endlessly discussing secondhand ‘ideas’. Kuno, however, is a sensualist and a rebel. He persuades a reluctant Vashti to endure the journey (and the resultant unwelcome personal interaction) to his cell. There, he tells her of his disenchantment with the sanitised, mechanical world. He confides to her that he has visited the surface of the Earth without permission and that he saw other humans living outside the world of the Machine. However, the Machine recaptured him, and he has been threatened with ‘Homelessness’, that is, expulsion from the underground environment and presumed death. Vashti, however, dismisses her son’s concerns as dangerous madness and returns to her part of the world.
Is it just me or do those two things sound like the exact same story? Yeah, it did to me too. But The Machine Stops did it better.
This could have been more appropriately titled, Desperate Househusbands or a Lifetime Movie called The Cheating Wife. That’s all we hear about. The Machine and Marrow’s Pit are hardly discussed at all. It is never pointed out how Ballard’s tragic mistake is uncovered by the general populace, only that it is. We are never told about why his life is so unsatisfactory, or why that’s the Machine’s fault, but it is. We spend most of the time with Ballard running around having visions of his wife, hearing her voice in his head, and generally being terrified of everything. It was boring.
I cannot recommend this book. Go read The Machine Stops, it is a much better story.