In each section of Michael Cunningham's new book, we encounter the same group of characters: a young boy, an older man, and a young woman. In the Machine is a ghost story which takes place at the height of the Industrial Revolution, as human beings confront the alienated realities of the new machine age. The Children's Crusade, set in the early twentieth century plays with the convention. of the noir thriller as it tracks the pursuit of a terrorist band which is detonating bombs seemingly at random around the city. The third part, Like Beauty, evokes a New York 150 years into the future, when the city is all but overwhelmed by refugees from the first inhabited planet to be contacted by the people of earth.