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A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines Paperback – September 18, 2007
Intrusion: A Novel
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Top Customer Reviews
At the beginning of the book the prose is almost a torture to read: some times overwrought,
'While they continue to play an anomalously quiet game, the pit of dread is jostled and falls deep into the fertile gastrointestinal soil where it begins its life cycle. Will it fester as an ulcer, or blossom into rancid abnormal cells? That depends on how each chooses to tend that messy garden';
and at other times over the top,
'The iron frame of Kurt's bed was a brutal conductor of the chill singeing his hand so sharply as he hoisted himself awake this morning that it might as well have left a burn, and the cloud of condensation that escaped from his damp mouth could have been smoke'.
The narration changes from past tense to present tense in the same paragraph! While her prose changes drastically for the better midway through the book, this irritating tendency to write a single scene as happening in the past as well as in the present continues unabated.
But, amazingly, halfway into the book it seems as if another Levin is writing the book. A Levin who is confident in her craft and skilled in turning a single moment of the story into a soaring monument of poetry. What happened! Whatever happened it happened for the better. Levin takes command of her themes and infuses them into poetic states throughout the character's events.Read more ›
I also found particularly compelling the descriptions of thought itself and the loneliness that can result from getting lost in your own world. I do have a science background but I shouldn't think you need a background in mathematics to appreciate the power thinking has over every aspect of our perceptions.
The subtle melding of fact and fiction is, well, subtle. Not everyone will get it. Not everyone will like it. But if you do get it, it's powerful. This book is special, a little gem.
But while you follow these mathematic achievements, you never get bogged down in their details. Levin does an excellent job referring to the science without derailing the narrative by attempting to explain it. The story is really about the personal struggles of these men of genius, their social ineptness, their anguish, their battles with faith and desire. The two men never met. The story alternates chapters between their two lives - Godel in Vienna in the 1930s and Turing in England from the 1930-1950s. But Turing knows of Godel's work, is affected by it, and their stories feel right being told together like they are.
Reading this book, you can imagine the pain of being socially outcast, of being misunderstood because your genius in one area renders your mind incomprehensible to other people, and your life an oddity that people pity or fear. By doing thorough research into the lives of Godel and Turing, Levin was able to base her fictionalized account on solid ground. What she imagines, with compassion and keen insight, is the anguish of their inner lives. Because of her own background in science (Levin is a professor of physics and astronomy), she understands the mathematics behind Godel's and Turing's achievements.Read more ›
Rather than belabor the content of these men's discoveries, however, A MADMAN DREAMS OF TURING MACHINES focuses instead on these tortured souls, geniuses both, whose lives ran in parallel with but the briefest of near-intersections. As her story alternates between her two protagonists, Levin introduces Kurt Godel as pathologically introverted, a man whose self-confidence can be shattered by the merest "tssk, tssk" from a more outspoken peer who disagrees. Godel, a man who labored in anonymity and whose name is still largely unrecognized by the general public, is presented by the author as having a weak physical constitution, thin to the point of self-starvation. His illness is only compounded by paranoia that he is being poisoned, if not by his food, then by his heating stove.
Alan Turing, subject of the theatrical production "Breaking the Code," is considered by many the father of modern computing. However, he is remembered as much for his homosexuality as for his vital role at Bletchley Park, England, in World War II, leading the British effort in cracking the Germans' Enigma code-making machine.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Smart, accessible, insightful, surprising, etc etc. great on even the second and third read.Published 4 months ago by Simi
I'm not exactly sure how to characterize this book. I love historical fiction, and even fictional characterizations of real historical figures, so I was excited to read this. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Karen D
The elegance, truth, and philosophy in this book is flawless. You feel a part of the lives of the great logician, Kurt Gödel and the brilliant Alan Turing. Read morePublished 7 months ago by mo
Pretentious tone looking to sound better than its actual substance, and even though I understand it is "fiction", voice trying to speak for the subjects is overly... Read morePublished 15 months ago by TuckerMom
I enjoyed this book a lot. I thought the prose was brilliant and the author's descriptions made quite the impact on my mental image of what was going on. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Andrew Canton