The Last Machine in the Solar System
It’s nearly three billion years in the future and mankind has all but vanished with the Solar System. All of the inner planets including Earth and Mars are gone, swallowed up by an expanding red giant, our former sun. The only remnant left of a Solar System that once was and humanity itself is a robot named Jonathon. His creator Nikolai Ohngren, a Ukrainian inventor, scientist, and musician, built Jonathon for one specific purpose to be carried out when the sun became only a dead white dwarf. This the story of the last machine and his recollection of life to the fate of mankind and ultimately the end of our Solar System.
Story and Synopsis
The story of The Last Machine in the Solar System is a short book but long on details. It’s one long monolog by Jonathon as he recalls his life and what he has learned throughout that time. In the end, the story is more a philosophical journey than anything else, going from how Jonathon saw his world for the first time, to life with his creator, to a reflection on humanity’s inability to evolve and strive for survival.
Throughout the book, Jonathon recounts his time on Mars and discovery of Earth wonders yet much of his recounting of his life is reflected back on his creator and his journey beyond Mars to the end. However, even though there is recounting of memories some things were not explained only briefly mentioned forcing the audience to fill in the blanks. Almost three billion years of memories and living culminated to one purpose. This was Nikolai’s plan for Jonathon from the first moment of his creation. All of Jonathon’s monolog and recounting his long life came to an end with this purpose. What is it? it is a mystery billions years in the making and the story’s finale to readers. It all may have been for a specific purpose but the story of this novelette brings so much more to the reader, from the memories of a robot to philosophy, and ultimately to real science.
The story of The last Machine in the Solar System is not just about recounting the past and a philosophical journey, or the grand purpose, or an understanding of humanity and time, within the story there is also a real science involved. This story may be mostly Science Fiction but the real science makes it a better story. In fact, it really makes one think about the real future. For one I actually began to feel emotion for realizing humanity would vanish someday. All that we have built will end and become nothing, just a memory to a robot. It hits you as a powerful reminder that our sun is not infinite and will die one day. A death that is not spectacular with fanfare but one more of insignificance and goes out with a whimper. Our sun will expand to a red giant engulfing Mercury, Venus, and then Earth. From there it will shrink to a cold white dwarf. No Super Nova that creates gas that becomes new stars and planets only just the end of all life in the Solar System including humans, animals, plants, our history, and civilization. This is what the story is truly about, the view of one possible future for humanity, and one that is tragic.
The entire book is one monolog so there isn’t much in the way of character development. However, the characters that do appear are written from the viewpoint of Jonathon. It’s how he sees Nikolai and how he brings up stories related to his past. Nikolai is a character that is relatable with personal struggles and sadness. However, what is missing is how Nikolai came up with Jonathon’s design, and when and how did he construct the robot. All the reader learns is about a purpose and that Nikolai was shunned from the scientific community for discovering the Creativity Quotient. Even gaps in the story of Humanity’s state is unexplained. We have only glimpses and vague details from Jonathon’s memory for the reader’s basis of understanding. However, the novelette isn’t about explanation or getting into the finer details, what it does lack it makes up for the impression that the story gives readers. It makes us think and try to understand our place in history and the future of the Solar System. Our fate depends on what we do or fail to do and that is a message Jonathon is conveying in his recollection of his long journey.
As such the story is not linear. The reader is taken through a journey from past to present to in between. It bounces from time to time. This is actually a good aspect of the book. We have a robot that existed for billions of years, he is not going to hold on to his memory processors perfectly, we expect degradation, but he still recalls details vividly. Just not in a linear fashion. The good news is that all pieces fall into place eventually.
On another note, a good addition to the story is the art. It gives readers a sense of who Jonathon and Nikolai are but also conveys the emotion toward out robot’s story and thoughts. This art also sketches, which gives more of a personal account of events.
Jonathon’s story and the fate of the Solar System
Jonathon is not only the last machine but also the last vestige of humanity and his recollection, his past, and his current state is all that is left. From a life of amazement and wonder to isolation and an incredible loneliness only a robot could endure. Nikolai took Jonathon on a learning mission filling his mind with history, culture, language, literature, and exploration of what humanity and human civilization means. Mars was his favorite place, a world changed with terraforming to sustain human life complete with animals and plants transplanted from Earth. He even spends time at the zoo on Mars learning about all the animals. His Earth exploration was a learning experience and he saw all the great historic sites, natural wonders, and cities but Mars had non-human animals and a different beauty not found on his home planet. From Mars, his journey continued to the farthest reaches of our Solar System until the very end of our sun’s life. With so much time to himself, he spent those millennia trying to understand everything learned. What does he learn and how does he view his existence? the answers are in the book and Jonathon’s testament.
This is a story rich in detail about many aspects of Humanity’s struggles, the fate of the solar system, and all the observations Jonathon had in the billions of years of his existence. Throughout the book, it is evident Nikolai was important to Jonathon and not only as a story to tell but there was admiration for his creator. However, even amongst the adoration, there is sadness for Nikolai in Jonathon and for Humanity. This is explained within the book further. Although the book could have gone more in-depth with Nikolai and Humanity’s past, the philosophical and scientific observations that our last machine contemplates are what makes the book. In the end, it was a satisfying tale and worth a read. A short novelette The Last Machine in the Solar System takes us on an incredible journey that spans billions of years from a thriving Human civilization to the death of our solar system. All stored as a philosophical recollection in humanity’s last remnant and keeper of knowledge.
With so much to explore, learn, and contemplate this book is worth reading for its impact on the human consciousness and an exploration of our own humanity.