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Great read for Powers fans
This autobiographical/fictional story relies heavily on computerese and multiple plotting. I am a Powers fan, so that helps. There is a love affair that ends sadly, but that is countered by the protagonist's challenge to make a computer respond to literature. Characters are well drawn. Typical of Powers is the amount of research that has gone into it. His style is engrossing. This was followwed by THE ECHO MAKER, which is his best novel to date.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 13, 2003
Worth your while
I understand the reception this book has received from other reveiwers and I should state from the beginning that I am not the world's biggest fan of Powers. I think that of the big three--Powers, Wallace and Vollman that William T. Vollman is the most gifted of the novelists (even though I wonder with some of his most recent works if he is not wasting his gifts). This book is a wonder though and while Powers would seem to be making a fiction out of science and could be judged quickly in his ability as a writer, I think that this is his best work. By fleshing out some of the ideas that started filtering their way into popular conscience in the mid-1990s, namely cognitive theory, Powers would seem to be simply riding a trend. But the work resonates still and having not read it in about 7 years, I recently picked it up for a second run. I was astounded to discover subtleties I had not noticed before. While this book owes quite a bit to the works of Daniel Dennett and Douglas Hofstader, these observations do not take away from what is the true genious of Powers when he is on his game--that he can take the mundane or the scientific and make each look spectacular or simple with relative ease. Before picking this novel up, though, I would suggest at least glancing at a few of the texts I have listed in related titles.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 21, 2002
If I Didn't HAVE to Read It I Wouldn't
I was waiting for it to get good the whole time. It was a good story and I think it was kind of over my head. I had to read this for a Summer Reading Assignment and if I didn't have to read it, I wouldn't. As I got closer to the end of the book, the harder it was to finish.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 22, 2001
Enticing but falls short
This novel has a great premise and starts with great promise, but ultimately falls short. It is the story of a novelist, Powers himself, who is enticed into helping train a neural network, eventually named Helen, to learn enough literature to be able to mimic a graduate student. The story of Helen is paralleled by the story of Powers' troubled relationship with his love C, and by his own story of becoming a novelist. The two threads eventually merge into a lovely parable of love gained and love lost. This is the strength of the novel. The novel, however, suffers from weak characterizations, dull self-centeredness, and, most troubling, insufficient science. Powers paints many characters as stereotypes, with dialog that is often stilted and unnatural. Powers' own story of becoming a novelist is dull and uninvolving. But most serious, Powers fails to bring the science to life. He manages to work in references to terms such as neural networks, training, back propagation, Hebbsian, synapses, but the science is never really explored. It serves largely as a backdrop. This is a shame as Powers truly has an original idea and the science is at the heart of it. But give the book a try; the originality of the premise is worth it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.