Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



In association with Amazon.it - Italia

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Peace Machine

Özgür Mumcu

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Peace Machine

Title: The Peace Machine
Author: Özgür Mumcu
Genre: Novel
Written: 2016 (Eng. 2018)
Length: 221 pages
Original in: Turkish
Availability: The Peace Machine - US
The Peace Machine - UK
The Peace Machine - Canada
Die Friedensmaschine - Deutschland
  • Turkish title: Barış Makinesi
  • Translated by Mark David Wyers

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B- : enjoyable bits, but doesn't come together sufficiently

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Hürriyet Daily News B- 16/5/2018 William Armstrong

  From the Reviews:
  • "The Peace Machine is his first novel and it shows. The narrative skips along briskly from one scene to the next, often leaving the reader adrift amid a whirlwind of set pieces. The novel is set in the years before the First World War but we get little contextual detail and little sense of mounting tension. Although the novel is very dialogue-heavy, character development is almost non-existent. The translation successfully captures an unaffected sense of period language, but the vivid imagery and shallow characterizations of The Peace Machine sometimes feel like they would work better in a graphic novel. Ultimately the book feels like a missed opportunity, full of interesting leads too hastily executed." - William Armstrong, Hürriyet Daily News

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       The Peace Machine is set in the late 19th and then early 20th century and begins with its protagonist Celal as a child, on the run, setting the stage for how the novel itself skips hastily along. Throughout, Celal is on the move a lot, as the novel jumps around from Turkey to France and Serbia. In 1880, when he is working in an Istanbul slaughterhouse, the strong young boy saves a well-dressed man from a run-in with a bull -- and the man thanks him by taking him in, promising: "I shall raise you as if you were my own son."
       And so Celal goes from "streetwise orphan" to being the son Arif Bey never had, growing up in the household of "perhaps the wealthiest man in Manisa". The smart young man gets a proper and good education now -- sent to Marseilles for high school -- and then inherits Arif Bey's fortune at a very young age when his benefactor dies. Among Celal's sidelines: a remunerative gig secretly writing "those notoriously popular French erotic books, the kind that was strictly forbidden yet read in secret by students, corporals, generals and parliamentarians alike", which he publishes (n an elaborate, complicated process) together with a close friend he made in France, Jean.
       When he is told that Jean has been killed, Celal leaves Turkey and heads back to France. There he learns of a 'peace machine' Arif Bey seems to have been involved in building -- and meets Céline, the artist who has been providing the illustrations for his dirty books, and whom he has long been fascinated by. He gets involved with those around the peace machine and their grand plans, leading him to Serbia and the turmoil at the local court surrounding King Alexander and his considerably older wife, the queen who has failed to produce an heir.
       For a while, the story sticks closely to history, with Celal, under an assumed name, involved in the periphery of events that lead to the 1903 assassination of the Serbian king and queen. There's also a circus -- and, of course, that seemingly so promising peace machine (whose effects, however, only work close-range, at least until they can find enough energy to really power it up ...).
       The peace machine itself remains a vague sort of piece of technology -- Mumcu rather too easily avoiding offering much detail. So, for example:

Celal troubled himself little with the machine’s technical details, as he realized that he would never grasp how it actually functioned.
       Similarly, another character admits: "I understand nothing of electromagnetism, or of how the peace machine works".
       Still, set at a time of increasing political tension -- acute in a Serbia in the Austro-Hungarian shadow -- and with technological advances like ... Zeppelins threatening to reshape modern warfare the concept would seem to be a timely fit, an idealistic project to save humanity from itself at a time when things threaten to go up in flames (as even the circus here does ...). So there's obvious potential to and behind this idea -- but Mumcu rather badly underdevelops it: if he's not willing to explain how the peace machine is supposed to work in much detail, the least he could do is show it in action -- and there's decidedly too little of that as well. There is some action and excitement surrounding the use of the machine, and different attitudes towards unleashing it, but it comes rather late in the day and feels rather weak. Indeed, the peace machine ultimately feels fairly incidental to the whole story, good for an episode or two but not worth more of Mumcu's time, as he instead keeps readers busy with other episodes and escapades -- entertaining stuff, but not really helping add up to a bigger or more cohesive story.
       There are some enjoyable chapters here, but much is leapt and skipped over, too. A bit of variety in the presentation is welcome -- a short play is squeezed in, and a few news reports ("Telegram from our local correspondent") are used to summarize some of the events of the day(s) (though there's no sampler of Celal's erotic writings ...) -- but it doesn't keep the story from sputtering. The 1903 killing of the Serbian king is a reasonably interesting historic moment to zoom in on, but does leave the reader wondering why other events around that time aren't put to use as well. As is, it this central event in the novel still comes across more as a small blip in recent history than pivotal.
       As to any steampunk aspirations, The Peace Machine disappoints on that count as well: the machine is simply too vague -- and ultimately insignificant -- to impress (or even matter) much.
       Quite a few of the episodes in The Peace Machine are entertaining, and nicely presented by Mumcu, but the discontinuities are too frequent and the rather slapdash piecing together of story makes for an oddly shaped novel that doesn't really come together.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 June 2019

- Return to top of the page -


The Peace Machine: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Turkish journalist and author Özgür Mumcu was born in 1977.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2019 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links