GALATEA 2.2 by Richard Powers
Kirkus Star


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In a startling departure from his earlier work, Powers turns inward for this fictional memoir: an astonishing novel of ideas that never becomes too talky, and is as complex in texture as his other books. The fictional "Richard Powers'' shares not only his creator's name but also his publishing history, which is given a self-effacing, surprisingly personal context here. As a humanist in residence at a science center in a large Midwestern university, "Powers'' finds himself at an emotional and creative impasse. With three much-admired novels under his belt, and a fourth (Operation Wandering Soul, 1993) in the final stages of preparation, "Powers'' reviews his recent long-term relationship that has ended badly and has left him skeptical of the purpose of fiction. Lonely and adrift, he falls under the spell of Dr. Philip Lentz, an obnoxious and arrogant cognitive neurologist who enlists "Powers'' in his half-baked scheme to teach a neural network to read and interpret a Master's reading list in English. Since "Powers' '' lover, "C,'' never felt adequate enough for her talented boyfriend—even as she nurtured his early novels, she drove him away. Now he has the chance to help develop his ideal mate—an artificial intelligence he calls Helen, his ideal woman whose synthetic voice is his constant companion through the bleak winter. Layering his past and present relations, "Powers'' recognizes his human failings, his unreconciled feelings for his dead alcoholic father (the spirit of Prisoner's Dilemma, 1988), and his ongoing struggle between the scientific studies he abandoned and the art for which he sacrifices a tranquil existence. When moments of tenderness intrude on his relentlessly cerebral life, he bemoans what will never be his. Hardly plot-driven but with each sentence carefully crafted, this profound meditation on poetry and physics, theories of epistemology, and literary hermeneutics also asks, amazingly enough, what it means simply to be human. (First printing of 25,000)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-374-19948-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995


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