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Alan Turing: The Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film "The Imitation Game" Paperback – November 10, 2014
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Alan Turing The Enigma The Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game
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The trivia included rather than pruned shows a lack of writing skill. For example, in early chapters about Turing's schooling, one reads nearly every note sent home by a schoolmaster. But a more major event (nailing Turing under floorboards) was glossed over in a sentence without a comment by the author as to impact, or primary source quote concerning the incident.
More troubling is the utter boring chapter on Bletchley Park. How can this chapter be boring? Yet it is. The explanation and sketches of how Turing's machine worked are unsatisfactory. I didn't learn anything from the authors (and I had several advanced math classes in college). I contrast this with biographies of physicists, contemporaries of Turing but written by writers (Richard Rhodes, for example): gripping books that manage to explain quantum theory or the workings of particle accelerators quite well.
Absolutely unsettling is the jarring way the author skips from topic to topic. On one page he note that Turing accepted his sexual orientation; on the next there is talk of suicide. Again, there is no comment by the author. Considering how Turing's life ended, one would expect more explication here. Related to this topic is the story of Turing and Bob Augenfeld, the young refugee Turing sponsored. Turing propositioning the minor Augenfeld would today be classed as sexual predation, yet the author glossed over it, noting that Augenfeld remained friends with Turing. An alternative explanation might be that Augenfeld hoped Turing would help get his mother out of Vienna, and did not seek to sever the relationship for this reason. This was in 1941.
In summary, this book was slow reading, even for someone interested in the man and the topic. I give it 3 stars because of the importance of the topic and the many contribution Turing made to mathematics and computer sciences.
◘ The biography is thoroughly researched. The author obviously went to great lengths to get all relevant information.
◘ The author understands Turing's work well enough to explain it to the reader in less technical terms, which is no easy feat.
◘ If you are a mathematician or computer scientist, the descriptions of Turing's work will be quite interesting.
◘ The book is too long. The author takes detours into areas that have a connection with Turing's life, but that probably don't need to be explored so thoroughly.
◘ Sometimes the author focuses more on Turing's work than on Turing himself. I think this is in part because of a lack of information on Turing's non-work activities.