Barry, Max. Machine Man. New York: Vintage-Random House, 2011. "A Vintage Contemporaries Original." More originally published (appropriately) in small parts and in different form on Barry's website, becoming both a published first draft and a "meta-work (The Annotated Machine Man)": see "Acknowledgments" (pp. -76).
Very-near-future or contemporary satire moving into SF themes on prosthesis, in the tradition of, among other works, Bernard Wolfe's Limbo, dealing with cyborg transformation toward the "transhuman," personality uploading into a data-storage device, and other tropes on the human/machine interface and interpenetration.
The protagonist-Narrator is Charles Neumann, Ph.D., whose name may be suggestive for many readers: Charles Darwin and evolution, plus John von Neumann for many things, including what we now call cybernetics and for self-replicating "von Neumann machines." Quoting part of the Wikipedia synopsis,
Charles Neumann is a mechanical engineer working at Better Future, a military research company. After losing one of his legs in a hydraulic clamp, he begins to tinker with leg prosthetics. The replacements he builds are so advanced that he amputates his remaining leg in order to make full use of them. [...] Over the course of events, Neumann gradually replaces more body parts [and "parts" is a key word in this work] with machinery, suffering various psychological side effects in the process. After first being rebuilt from the neck down as a machine soldier, his mind is eventually uploaded into a computer.
The novel begins with the sentence, "As a boy, I wanted to be a train" and develops this idea with great economy in a short paragraph ending "What I liked was pretending my body was two hundred tons of unstoppable steel. Imagining I was pistons and valves and hydraulic compressors." When a friend suggests young Charles wants to play robots, that doesn't seem right to Charles, who doesn't like general-purpose devices doing many things badly. He "was not a fan of robots. They were bad machines" (p. , end of page. Stories like C. L. Moore's "No Woman Born" and Damon Knight's "Masks" show characters dehumanized within machine bodies; Charles Neumann may fulfill part of himself with total prosthesis, and then digitalization and going from mechanical to cybernetic. Significantly, he likes his body — indeed asserting "I loved my body" (p. 261; ch. 13) — as it becomes increasingly efficient, effective, and what a reader might see as Neumann seeing as elegant by engineering criteria, and powerful. The problem for him is that his mechanical parts also increasingly threaten to take over.
(The next to last chapter of the novel — ch. 13, followed by a kind of epilog numbered 0 — begins with a significant flashback and apparent aside of Charles at 19 putting a dollar into a vending machine, pressing the correct buttons, getting nothing except angry, and slapping the machine and saying "Fuckin' machine." Not long thereafter, he sees "another guy" staring at the vending machine, and before Charles can "tell him it was busted [...] slapped its side [...] and said, 'Fuckin' machine." Aside from this incident's disturbing Charles's sense of uniqueness, it more importantly undercut his idea of himself as "an independent animal, exercising free will in order to elicit predictable reactions from an inert vending machine": it seems equally possible that "the vending machine was choosing to withhold snacks in order to extract predictable mechanical reactions from young men" (pp. 249-50). So Dr. Neumann's getting both agency and power from adding mechanical "parts" with his prostheses, and losing agency to them can be seen as an extreme example of a standard danger seen in mechanization (etc.) — with E. M. Foster's "The Machine Stops" as one classic example — and expressed well with Charlie and the vending machine.
The novel is also a love story and a satire of working life and life more generally as a figurative cog in the figurative mechanism of a very nasty corporation, which the ironically named Better Future is. Note also satire on bodily improvements and the soft dystopia of consumerism; cf. and contrast such works as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Terry Gilliam's film BRAZIL.
RDE, Finishing, 21Aug19