Customer Reviews for

A Working Theory of Love

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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5 Star

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  • Posted October 8, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Sometimes absurd but unblinking and inviting

    Scott Hutchins' debut novel starts out with elements of the absurd but he tells it without blinking, with such a steady tone and an even hand that (eventually) drew me in. Neill Bassett is a thirty-something divorced man living in San Francisco who could best be described as listless and probably a little depressed. His job is to help develop a natural sounding language software to allow a semi-sentient computer to converse with humans, using the extensive diaries of his late father as a teaching tool. Thus, Neill converses with a computer that uses the words of his dead father to answer back to him (thus the element of absurdity). But Hutchins doesn't treat this so much as an exercise in absurdity (as, say, Douglas Addams would) as a semi-realistic metaphor. Neill has trouble connecting with real humans and even with himself, but his understanding of humanity comes from a computer. Neill's father wasn't able to sort out his own emotional life (he committed suicide) but is, in a way, able to connect with his son posthumously through his diaries (albeit in a computer voice). The logistics of this sort of language software research probably isn't very realistic, but the important story is that of the humans not the technology.

    I loved this book, but for a lot of the same reasons that other people didn't like it, so I feel I should explain. The character of Neill is a little hard to connect to. He's mopey, he's passive, he's not fully engaged in the world. But that's the point. It's his journey that is the real story. In tone, it reminded me a little bit of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, even though I despised that book. I guess it's just a matter of taste. While I found the characters in Franzen's (incredibly popular) novel so unlikable that I couldn't enjoy his literary efforts, there was something in Hutchins' melancholic characters that resonated with me. It's a book that I was glad I stuck with.

    Plus it was fun to spend some time (albeit from my armchair) in San Francisco, a fascinating city that I have never visited but love reading about.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 26, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    There is no huge action in this novel. I guess it¿s something of

    There is no huge action in this novel. I guess it’s something of a character study, largely taking place in the main character’s head. He’s basically a good guy that was messed up by his father’s suicide. He’s not quite sure how to love or how to be in a relationship. The story is about a software company, using the guy’s conservative dad’s extensive personal journals as the basis for an artificial intelligence program. An attempt to create the first thinking computer. The guy is hired to interact with the computer program in an attempt to help “bring it to life.” The book is interesting in that it causes you to ponder what the nature of love is, and what matters in life. While these are deep topics, the book doesn’t really analyze them deeply. I enjoyed the book for what it is.
    Michael Travis Jasper, Author of the Novel “To Be Chosen”


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    Posted November 29, 2012

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