Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.
The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.
A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.
Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.
Praise for Machinations
“A tension-filled story of loss, loyalty, and forgiveness, with abundant Terminator-style shoot-em-up scenes and a snarky, kickass female warrior. I inhaled it!”—Jennifer Foehner Wells, author of Fluency and Remanence
“Powerful and fast-paced, Machinations is an action-packed SF thriller loaded with fantastic characters and gut-wrenching emotional twists. Hayley Stone had me from page one with Rhona’s story of desperation, survival, and the amazing depths of love. Stone perfectly interweaves Rhona’s fight for humanity’s survival with the deeper experiences of trust, loss, and love all wrapped in a ragtag band of courageous survivors, each with their own gripping tale. The prose is stunning, the action is nonstop.”—Linnea Sinclair, author of Gabriel’s Ghost
“A clone’s wry inner voice propels this tale of a machine uprising, and how the rebel leader’s genetic copy must step into her late original’s combat boots. Rhona is a great protagonist, and Hayley Stone creates terrifying opponents in the rebellious AIs. An SF techno-thriller with heart and soul.”—Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and The Shiver
“Machinations is a thrilling fusion of action and heartbreak, with quick pacing, rich characters, and a one-of-a-kind story. A great debut.”—G. T. Almasi, author of Blades of Winter and Hammer of Angels
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
There never were any refugees.
No gutsy survivors who finally discovered the trick to broadcasting a distress signal. No last-minute stragglers who escaped extermination in Skagway or Whitehorse. Around us, there’s snow, ice, and the disemboweled city of Anchorage in the distance, its skyline mutilated and squashed, filled with the crushed leftovers of businesses and people’s homes. I know from a previous visit that the sea is also slowly devouring the metropolitan area, making a Slurpee of downtown. But there were never any refugees.
This is a trap.
The realization drills through me seconds before the ground erupts and bullets slam into my chest, knocking me flat on my back. For the first few seconds, I think, I’m okay. I’m okay. Because that’s the point of body armor, right?
I fight to make my legs work, make them obey my command to get up, get moving. But I can’t feel them. An unexplained warmth slides up the back of my suit as my mouth fills with the taste of a dentist’s office. That last detail stands out in my mind, looming over everything else with terrible precision—reality fashioned into a bloody spear, the tip driven into me. This is what the inside of my lungs tastes like.
Nope. Not okay.
“Rhona!” Camus screams. He crunches toward me, but the sound is muffled by the snow piled up around my ears.
“Camus,” I gasp. “Camus. Camus.” His name is a prayer. Like I’m calling on him to save me.
He drops to his knees. His features—the long, aquiline nose, the cheekbones as high and sharp as his eyes—have gone dark, thrust into shadow by the aureole of light behind his head, like a medieval icon in reverse. Maybe it’s better this way. This way I can’t see his face pinched with panic. I only feel the kiss of his dark hair tickling my cheek as he strains to lift me back onto my feet.
I cry out as I’m moved, spitting up dark blood onto his pristine, white snowsuit. The bloodstain is like a melting Rorschach pattern. What do you see?
“Don’t,” I mumble. “It’s too late. Camus, it’s too late.”
“No,” he says. Tries again.
And again I cry out. “Camus!” I press a weak hand against his shoulder. “Stop. Please.”
Blood continues to dribble from my mouth, and when I go to wipe it away—like ketchup, or mustard—it gets on my glove and leaves a long streak along the arm of my jacket. The gaping hole in my chest wheezes when I try to inhale. I feel like a balloon, except I don’t want to float away.
“We have to get you out of here.” He smooths my hair back from my face with a gloved hand, and the reddened strands stick to the crusted ice. In the moment, I hate that glove. I want to feel his skin, his lips, the crush of his body, one more time. “The machines—”
“They’ve already done it.” I inhale sharply, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to breathe. “Look at me, Camus. I’m a pincushion.”
A smile surfaces on my lips, like a corpse floating to the top of a lake. Apparently even dying can’t diminish my sense of humor. Good for me.
The wind must be a northerly, because it’s blowing smoke into our eyes, enveloping us in a shroud of pale gray. The smell of ash seems appropriate, like it’s the end of the world. And the noise . . . I still hear the whir-whir-whir of machines nearby, explosions of electronic static, and also meatier sounds, the carnage of metal plunging into flesh.
They’re dying. My team, my friends, they’re dying. Because of me.
“You have to leave me,” I tell Camus.
“Not going to happen.” Camus grabs my hands and places them firmly on the sucking chest wound to seal it and tells me to hold them there. “Exhale,” he orders, and tips me onto my side, trying to make it easier for me to breathe with the lung that isn’t breached. When that doesn’t seem to work, I complain, and he eases me back into a seated position. I slouch into the cavity of his chest.
And all I think is He doesn’t know.
My mind’s unraveling like a spool of thread that’s caught on the wing of a fighter jet. I should tell him. I should . . . tell him. About what I’ve done.
Might be the last chance . . .
“I’ll come back to you,” I murmur, head lolling against Camus’s shoulder. My vision is beginning to blacken. He’s disappearing—or I am. Either way, it’s getting hard to see him, to see the face I love above all other faces.
“Rhona,” Camus says, and my eyes are pulled to his mouth as I try focusing on his words. “Rhona, stay with me. Keep awake. Keep your eyes open. Hold on. Help . . .” I know what he wants to say. Help is on the way. He wants to reassure me, give me something to cling to. But help’s not coming. We were the help.
His hand clutches mine, willing me to stay. I wish I could.
Oh, God, I don’t want to die.
Tears spill onto my cheeks, warm. I don’t know whether they’re mine or his. “I love you,” I say, the words half-gargled in blood. He cradles me to him, leans down, and I taste the ash on his lips, dry and chapped from the wind. They bump and scrape against my own—so real, so tangible—and I struggle to rise back to consciousness like a princess awakened from a curse.
“I’ll come back to you,” I repeat dumbly. “I won’t—I won’t leave you to fight alone.” The thought occurs to me that he won’t understand what I mean, but I don’t have the breath or energy to elaborate. Words clot in my throat like honey. My breath rattles around the metal in my chest, and it’s impossible to organize my thoughts into a formation that makes sense.
At least the pain is beginning to ebb, which is nice, but also bad. Not like I needed another sign to tell me what I already know. What the taste of the inside of my lungs has already told me.
“Rhona! Fight it! Don’t close your eyes!”
I’m sorry, Camus.
“Help! I need the medic here now! Where’s the goddamn medic?” His voice cracks on the last word, hitting a high note.
“Commander!” someone answers him, a million miles away. “We have to go! Now!”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wow in a good way. I loved the story. The writing was great and kept you reading. I loved the heroine!
Every once in a while I come across a novel that clearly isn’t written for me. This doesn’t mean the novel isn’t a wonderful book on its own or isn’t worth someone else’s reading efforts; merely that for myself something didn’t “click”. I wasn’t satisfied on a base level with this book and I’m not certain if it was the main character, something about the plot, or the writing style – but this one just didn’t cast the same spell over me as most post-apocalyptic novels tend to and I couldn’t really put my finger on why. Rhona Long is a survivor – a survivor who, after her death, has herself is cloned so that she may continue leading the human existence against the machines that crushed civilization. The vestiges of humanity need a leader to hold hope of overcoming the mechanical horrors they created in hopes of making human life everywhere easier. Unfortunately, an attack occurs on the bunker where Rhona’s clone is being grown and she must flee with her life without having any memories of her life before waking up in the cloning tank. Meanwhile, Camus, the new leader of the human resistance and Rhona 1.0’s lover, struggles to accept the return of the love of his life in the form of a clone who remembers nothing. Rhona did not tell Camus about the clone program and he struggles to fight his attraction for the clone-who-is-not-her. It’s a tall order when any novel attempts to create a narrative so close to the original Terminator story line: the end of civilization due to the computers we created to make life easier, the computers hunting humanity because we are a threat, the life of survivors hiding from these machines. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to read a novel that really captures the complexity and genius behind the Terminator franchise. Machinations also failed live up to it’s iconic predecessor and quickly becomes a novel about a clone finding her way in this new world and invokes a love triangle to add a little more suspense into the mix for female readers. Machinations is an interesting entry into the post-apocalyptic genre that will please readers looking for plenty of intrigue and romantic suspense. The fact that Machinations did not live up to my admittedly over ambitious expectations wasn’t at the heart of my dissatisfaction with Machinations. I couldn’t connect with the main character and half way through I wasn’t invested in the characters - not for a lack of effort on the author’s part with her colorful character histories, the evolution of clone Rhona understanding of the world and some interesting character interactions. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for this sort of novel, I’ll never know. Machinations just didn’t engage me emotionally or intellectually for some unknown reason. I'm relatively certain, regardless of why I didn't enjoy this novel as much as anticipated, my issues were probably due to the fact that a basic ingredient was missing for me. I definitely suggest others check out Machinations if they are a science fiction or post-apocalyptic romance fan. This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction, love triangles, romantic suspense, novels that end with plot twists and love interests with English accents. Received in exchange for honest review from Hydra Books
Their directive: Stop the wars that have plagued the world since time began. It seems like an eventuality more than science fiction. Humans want it all, they want to control everything, but what happens when the machines they create take their directive to a logical conclusion on their own? To end wars, eliminate the cause, the human race…and the war begins in all of its brutal ugliness. Rhona Long became the symbol to rally behind, the voice heard around the world. Not one to shy away from danger, she would be front and center on every mission, until that fateful day she was killed. Once again, science and medicine come to the rescue and Rhona awakens to find herself healed and almost whole, except for those spotty memory losses. She is herself, but not. She is her own clone and this is her story of loss, love, and the struggle to fit in again in a world who doesn’t even know she died. Does she still have that brilliant edge that made her a leader? Is her mind still able to cobble victory out of the most dire situations or will she become a figurehead for the survivors who depend on her for their strength? And love? How can she feel the same for the man she once shared everything with while he has become a rigid rock of resistance and apparent hate? Gritty, suspenseful and definitely one of those “what if” stories, Machinations by Hayley Stone has pretty much stripped the glamor of a future filled with robotic beings and near perfect cloning to its core. Dramatic, intense and thought-provoking, we are afforded the opportunity to share Rhona’s thoughts, actions and reactions as she interacts with those she both commands and loves. Page one and I was underground with the humans, hiding out from the machines on the hunt to extinguish them. Watch heroes rise and fall in death as they give their all for others to live one more day. Understand the machines, they do not act out of villainy, they were created and programmed by humans to be the best they could be, to be sentient. Ms.Stone doesn’t tell us what to feel, she presents her tale and leaves the rest to us. Could you love the clone of your heart’s true love? Would you trust them with your life? Can they really be the same person they once were? What of the machines? Was it the arrogant ignorance of science that created humanity’s own demise? Were they too good at creating their monsters or not good enough? This isn’t a joy ride into the world of science fiction, this has meat and depth, as well as flawed humans trying to create an unknown future with no script to work off of. LOVED it! I received this copy from Hydra in exchange for my honest review.
MACHINATIONS is what every TERMINATOR sequel after T2 should have been. In her riveting debut, Hayley Stone deftly weaves the story of a woman whose life was literally taken from her, only to be reborn as a clone of herself. Not only is she the hero who must lead the ramshackle remains humanity against their artificial oppressors, Rhona Long also has to reassemble the pieces of her own shattered self and reclaim a life that’s not actually hers. Rhona is a truly badass, but flawed female hero in the tradition of Sarah Connor, Ellen Ripley and Imperator Furiosa. Stone’s writing is tremendous - full of crisp descriptions, snappy dialogue and strong metaphors. From page one, the reader is submerged in the horror of MACHINATIONS’ world and her skillful prose takes you on a breakneck ride from there. But beyond the vivid recounting of a robopocalypse, MACHINATIONS’ biggest takeaway for me was the depth of relationship between Rhona and the two male main characters - one her former self’s lover and the other her childhood friend. I empathized with Rhona’s struggles - juggling the relationships of a life she didn’t live, while reconciling who she is now and own place in a world she’s tasked to save. The bonds of friendship and love that Stone explores were one of the great strengths of MACHINATIONS for me. Against the backdrop of a robotic doomsday, Stone’s focus on the joy, the heartbreak and ultimately the enduring spirit of human relationships imbues MACHINATIONS with a tangible sense of hopefulness that stories in its genre often fail to convey. Highly recommended for anyone seeking a story with a great mix of intense action sequences and heartfelt character moments.
[NOTE: I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.] 1.5 stars. Not quite an OK story for me. There were several deal-breakers here, including the "bland" narrator, the romance part, and the 1st person POV present tense narration, not to mention the science & technology parts that weren't detailed enough. First, present tense: I find it very difficult to make this type of narrative voice work, and often it just doesn't at all. I can't exactly pinpoint how exactly, but I know it made me cringe often enough that I stopped counting. It doesn't bother me so much in short stories, although I suspect that's because they're short and I don't have to trudge through that tense for a whole novel. Second, Rhona herself. I couldn't bring myself to care. Sure, we have that first chapter scene, and it seems intense, and... that's all? After that, she wakes up as the "new" Rhona, yet it's difficult to compare her to the one she has supposedly replaced. Perhaps because the novel doesn't show us enough of the "original Rhona". Perhaps because the new one is too self-centered and not active enough to stand by herself, watching from the sidelines half the time. Of course there wouldn't be any point if she immediately found herself again, was the exact same person. I just wish she had been more than a woman who mostly behaved like a somewhat shy teenager—and this brings me to... ...The romance: too much of it, and, as in too many novels, the only real form of validation. The whole quest-for-humanity part, Rhona having to find out whether she IS Rhona or merely a carbon-copy without humanity nor soul, is definitely an interesting theme... but why do such things -always- have to be presented in the light of romance? As if only True Love (whatever that means) could validate one's existence. Who cares that Sam, her best friend, is with her all story long and doesn't give a fig about whether she's Rhona or not (for him, she's his friend, period)? The really important part is to find out when The One True Love finally acknowledges her. And I feel all these stories completely miss the point: that there is so much more to a person than their so-called significant other, that they're the sum of so many more factors than just that one restrictive form of love. Meanwhile... ... the machines, the science, the technology: too few and too little of those, considering the blurb that made me request the book at first. This story would've benefitted from more explanations when it came to the cloning part, considering how it permeated the whole narrative. Rhona is a physical clone, but her memories (or part of them) were also transplanted. How? A chip to map neural pathways and transfer data is briefly mentioned, yet much more was needed here to satisfy the vague scientist in me (I don't think I'm asking for too much here). As for the machines, they weren't present enough in order for the human survivors to be truly pitched against them, as well as for Rhona to be fully confronted to her new "nature" that, in a way, made her a biological machine. They felt more like the threat in the background, over-simplified, although they could've been made more "alive" (no pun intended here: I really think there was potential here for a chiasmus between human-Rhona-turned-thing and things/machines-turned-sentient). This novel should've grabbed my interest, for sure, but it turned out it wasn't for me. Alas.
Although the book is set in the future during a take over by intelligent machines, the themes of love, loyalty and heroism are always appropriate. The kicker in this story is the reanimation of a fallen leader in the form of a clone. While the clone is effective as a replacement for the inspirational leader, the problem comes in the reinstatement of personal relationships. Elements of politics, betrayal and strategies of war are on display as the remains of the human race rises against the intelligent machines that have destroyed the planet in a program to create peace. The main characters are well-developed and likeable. The writing itself provides a "bare bones" image of the structures of the remaining humans. The story develops a great deal of suspense in both the personal and war relations.. The weapons and tactics of the future are imaginative and engrossing. The story ends on an optimistic note despite the dark future of human eradication by machines. Great action and lots of food for thought make this a stimulating book. Definitely more of this story is coming.
In this post apocalyptic saga, the world is well into a new age in which machines wage war against mankind, and there is a good chance they may prevail. National governments have already been brought down. The irony is that the machines were programmed to bring about the end of war. The plan they came up with was uniting humanity in defense of a common enemy: the machines. A charismatic leader among the people believes that struggling survivors may lose all hope should she be killed, so she has made a secret plan to have herself cloned, should the need arise. Rhona Long is killed in the arms of her fiance' in the midst of battle in the opening pages of the book. We pick up her story as she awakens in a vat that has served as an artificial womb. But the process is interrupted by an attack on the remote lab, and she is abruptly helped out, and goes on the run with the scientists who were monitoring the process. She is almost an exact image of herself, but there are some gaps in her memory. They are in remote Alaska and need to get back to the secret headquarters of the survivors, which is within Mt. Denali. She and one of the scientists finally make it back, but not before nearly being overcome by battling machines. Rhona is shocked that she must prove herself all over again. Some, including her fiance', see her as "other," not truly the same person. But again, the strength of the enemy draws the humans together in spite of differences, and Rhona is able to prove, at least to some, that she is still worthy to be thought of as Rhona, a human being, who selflessly sacrifices for the good of others. I received the book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I enjoy sci-fi, and enjoyed most of the book. I did feel like it wrapped up a little too neatly, and didn't truly resolve the dilemma of whether a clone can completely become the original human.
I was given an Advanced Review Copy in return for a honest review. I liked this book. Wasn't too sure how I would feel about it when I accepted the ARC, but I thought this post apocalyptic dystopia was very well written. The idea of robots and advanced technology being the root cause in creating the setting, of this novel, was unique and refreshing, though unsettling. The clone aspect was equally interesting and intriguing to explore. In all, hard book to put down, from a new to me author, and I'm sure I will read more. - Sarah