Sensation Machines (Paperback)

Sensation Machines By Adam Wilson Cover Image
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A razor-sharp, darkly funny, and deeply human rendering of a Post-Trump America in economic free fall

Michael and Wendy Mixner are a Brooklyn-based couple whose marriage is failing in the wake of a personal tragedy. Michael, a Wall Street trader, is meanwhile keeping a secret: he lost the couple's life savings when a tanking economy caused a major market crash. And Wendy, a digital marketing strategist, has been hired onto a data-mining project of epic scale, whose mysterious creator has ambitions to solve a national crisis of mass unemployment and reshape America's social and political landscapes. When Michael's best friend is murdered, the evidence leads back to Wendy's client, setting off a dangerous chain of events that will profoundly change the couple--and the country.

Set in an economic dystopia that's just around the corner, Sensation Machines is both an endlessly twisty novel of big ideas, and a brilliantly observed human drama that grapples with greed, automation, universal basic income, wearable tech, revolutionary desires, and a broken justice system. Adam Wilson implicates not only the powerbrokers gaming the system and getting rich at the intersection of Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Silicon Valley, and Capitol Hill, but all of us: each one of us playing our parts, however willingly or unwillingly, in the vast systems that define and control our lives.

About the Author

Adam Wilson is the author of the short story collection What's Important is Feeling and the novel Flatscreen. His stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, and The Best American Short Stories, among other publications, and Flatscreen was a National Jewish Book Award finalist and an Indie Next Pick and was translated into German and Italian. Wilson has taught in the creative writing programs at Columbia and NYU. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. Visit him online at

Praise For…

Praise for Sensation Machines

“Reads a little bit like Tom Wolfe in a futurist dystopia. There are full-throated riffs on materialism and tech surveillance, on simulation video gaming, white privilege and the lyrics of Eminem. A spirit of exhilaration fires the book’s best moments. We may be going to hell, but at least it’s fun to rant about.”
The Wall Street Journal

“A witty, incisive commentary on the fallout from a generation betrayed by the promise of the American dream that, it turns out, masked a foundation of greed, broken social structures, and the topsy-turvy values of capitalism first.”
—The Daily Beast

“Brilliant . . . Peel [it] one away, and it’s a paranoid near-future thriller with a deep swirl of dark humor circling around it . . . Wilson is a stylist with few contemporaries.”
Inside Hook

Sensation Machines might be set in the near future, but the concerns that fuel its plot—systemic racism, economic anxiety, and corporatist entities looking to sink laws that could lead to real change—feel decidedly relevant in 2020 . . . The characters are grappling for a better life; they’re also trying hard to keep their souls intact. And in the not-so-distant future, pulling that last one off is even harder than it is today.”

“Wilson forgoes the collegiate joke-making found in his short fiction, and moves into a territory of New Yorker family novels long-occupied by social novelists like Gary Shteyngart and Saul Bellow . . . Wilson handles each chapter of the book’s second and third acts with a degree of care and empathy that makes Sensation Machines something more—more than, say, Aldous Huxley typing out a futurist dramedy for Seth Rogen or Adam McKay.”
—Cleveland Review of Books

“Despite the book’s current relevance, Sensation Machines could have also been published a decade ago, alongside post-Great Recession, New York novels like Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story and Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask, which engage in similar humorous yet sad searches for the heart of a thoroughly mediated world . . . Yet Wilson’s various gadgets are secondary to more lasting concerns of love, grief, inequality, and uncertainty. Wilson wants to believe that human connection, though refracted by capitalism, branding, crises, and augmented reality visors, has not been degraded, that it is not a thing of the nostalgic past or the utopian future but a constant possibility, if we can just stop playing characters in someone else’s game long enough to create it." 
Full Stop

“For a book set in the near-future, Sensation Machines feels pretty damn current. Social upheaval, antisemitism and class wars swirl in the background of the high-intensity novel.”
—Hey Alma

"With remarkable grace and wit, Adam Wilson puts the stethoscope to our national heart and diagnoses our deepest ills."
—Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine and Intimations

"Sensation Machines is pitch dark and pitch perfect—a whip-smart take on marriage, capitalism, grief, and loneliness in a farcical, not-so-distant future. Adam Wilson effortlessly toggles between wry humor and genuine existential dread; the result is lyrical and lewd, brilliant and bleak."
—Kimberly King Parsons, author of Black Light

"Adam Wilson is a prose savant, and Sensation Machines is a not-so-small miracle. With its precise details about our current moment, profusion of voice and sound, Wilson's new novel brings to mind everyone from Saul Bellow to Paul Beatty, Grace Paley to Zadie Smith. But his ideas and his syntax and his humor are entirely his. This is a great book by one of our funniest smartest sharpest contemporary novelists."
—Daniel Torday, author of The Last Flight of Poxl West and Boomer 1
"Sensation Machines is precision-engineered to entertain, enlighten, and unsettle. Adam Wilson is a master craftsman with a globe-sized heart."
—Joshua Cohen, author of Book of Numbers

"Sensation Machines is part techno-political thriller, part social satire, and part family drama, and it succeeds wonderfully on all fronts. The book is smart, funny, and fast-paced, with lots to say about the mess we're in, but the thing that has stayed with me is its heart. Adam Wilson exemplifies that old Pynchonian dictum: Keep cool, but care."
—Christopher Beha, author of The Index of Self-Destructive Acts

"Wilson’s observations are often sharp-witted, extracting humor from sources like video game addiction, cryptocurrency, and herd mentality . . . as Michael and Wendy’s marriage fractures, the author carefully braids their individual narratives to a satisfying, if inevitable, crescendo. This feels all too real." 
Publisher's Weekly

"A deft juxtaposition of contemporary American classes on par with Richard Price's Lush Life." 
Kirkus Reviews

"Wilson delights with his pop-culture savvy, crisp prose, and unapologetic observations of revolutionary aspirations."

"[A] biting comedy of a post-Trump America . . . A murder, next-gen tech, videogame addiction and every kind of illegal drug figure into Wilson's lulu of a plot, but the pleasure here is the sharpness of Wilson's prose, his observant satire and the richly evocative feelings of loss." 
Shelf Awareness

"A delayed bildungsroman for a whole generation . . . It draws upon Occupy Wall Street, criticisms of neoliberalism, the affronts represented by the presidency of Donald Trump, and New York cultural mainstays . . . As its earnest leads laud fairness but establish themselves as the greatest impediments to progress, Sensation Machines nods to the adage that, the more circumstances change, the more they stay the same." 
Foreword Reviews

"Adam Wilson’s new novel is the first entry in a genre we might soon call ‘American pre-topianism’ . . . There’s grappling with internalized misogyny, hedge funds collapsing, treatises on Eminem, and oodles of invasive technology, and at the center of it all are Michael, Wendy, and a murder that might upend the whole country’s order. If each generation has a defining emotional bearing, like Gen X’s stranglehold on apathy, and the Boomers’ late-stage lurch from idealism into me-me Zen selfishness, Wilson posits the Elder Millennials (the Oregon Trail Generation) are perhaps defined by a strange sort of grief—an unshakable hope in the hopeless. It’s the kind of book that’s hyper of-the-times in order to understand recent history, and Sensation Machines understands America so well it’s almost mean." 
Chris Lee, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
Product Details
ISBN: 9781641292863
ISBN-10: 1641292865
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: September 7th, 2021
Pages: 384
Language: English

How to read more
( Birmingham Museums Trust’s Digital Image Resource shares thousands of images that span decades of Birminghams vibrant past)

How To Read More

If you love reading, but for some reason you read less and less, know that everything is fine. It happens.
Our lives today have so many things that distract us - how can we not put books away when all these movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, social networks and endless surfing in online stores are around ...
Yes, it's really hard to resist, but you certainly can!

In this article, we want to share with you some tips to read more often and more successfully.
These are some notes and some practices that we have collected for our SUNDOG BOOKS readers club.
And maybe it will bring more books into your life!

Why do we want/need to read more?

To start reading more, you have to understand why you need it.
And you will be surprised, but your goals can be quite varied:

- for work
If you read a lot on duty, then you definitely need to speed up the process. The logic here is simple: read faster → work faster → more time for books for yourself.

- for education
you need this for your educational career or sometimes you just want to read to learn. And, with all the new alternative ways to gain knowledge (podcasts, online courses and videos), the book still does an excellent job of this task too.

- for self-development
all exercises for increasing speed, one way or another, improve cognition and memory.

- for fun
because good books always = fun!

Book lovers have an additional special goal for reading more often. If you love literature, you will understand what we mean: you want to catch everything - to follow modern literature, and not forget about the classics, look into non-fiction and children's publications. And there’s so much you want to reread! The goals are ambitious, but attainable if you read a lot.


And so - How to read more:
We will tell you about the methods that we use ourselves. Perhaps some will suit you as well.


15 minutes a day

You've probably already heard this rule: if you want to start a healthy habit, devote 15 minutes a day to it. Once upon a time, we all read irregularly, in jumps and starts. Sometimes we cannot open a book we have begun weeks ago. Therefore, you should decide to create a rule: devote at least 15 minutes a day to reading. Try reading before bed, or maybe during lunchtime, or even when you are having your morning coffee.

You will see progress immediately. You will notice that almost always your 15 minutes will grow into half an hour or more. But the most remarkable thing is that in three weeks your hands themselves will be looking for a book.


50 First Pages
This method advises - If the book hasn't hooked you from the first 50 pages, put it aside! Life is too short to read uninteresting books.

It is necessary to change the approach to books. At first it will be hard for you to stop and put the book down. Even if we put the book away, it will seem to reproach us from the shelf, mocking us as quitters. But in the end we should come to one simple thought: if it doesn’t hook your attention, you should not force yourself to read it.

***Fifty pages is not a bad test. Not the most objective, but definitely effective. It helps to determine whether it interests you or not, and whether to spend time on things that do not excite.


Reader's Diary

This should be used to improve the quality of reading - to make it more conscious. For starters, it can be a simple notebook with headings:

  • Author
  • Year of publication
  • Main characters
  • Scene
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Quotes

And, yes, a reader's diary is not a thing about quantity, but about quality. But, it can also motivate. When you open your diary and start looking at quotes (especially quotes), you immediately really want to read.


Maybe a Book Bet?
Several people can participate. Members of the betting group can come from friends, family, and also your colleagues. And of course you can set your own rules for participation, but we'll give you a simple example:

Everyone in the group should read and review a book over the course of a month with weekly updates. Anyone who does not finish a review buys the book for all other participants for the next month.


Speed Reading

Another effective way to increase the amount you read is speed reading. The logic here is simple - the faster you read, the more books you can enjoy.

*There are many online courses on speed reading, and you can also study on your own using instructional books. But, it is worth noting that this is a serious learning process that will require some effort on your part.



Reading every day is quite attainable, the main thing is to try to make it a habit.
Sometimes, instead of heading for Facebook, try opening a book and soon you won’t even remember why you needed to wander around social media.
And also - don't forget about audiobooks. They are a cool way to take the load off your eyes sometimes and just immerse yourself in the story. Some books are really strong in voice acting.


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