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Customer Review

on January 29, 2008
Janna Levin's novel, "A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines", describes the autistic and freakish thoughts and lives of Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel, but curiously interspersed with false snippets (so we're told) from the thoughts and life of the author.

Much of the book is well written and follows known biographical facts about Turing and Gödel. Levin's description of Turing's punishment for homosexuality and his consequent suicide will break your heart.

What's missing from the novel are adequate descriptions of (1) the discoveries of Turing and Gödel and (2) the transcendent mental states those men must have entered.

What would it be like to make those discoveries? What pain and humiliation would some of us endure if we could enter a Platonic realm of unchanging, metaphysical reality, as Turing and Gödel did, and discover--not merely dream about--the incompleteness of mathematics and the physical basis of human thought?

If the missing descriptions had been included, we could better appreciate where Turing and Gödel lived: among the gods, human freakishness be damned.
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