Gripping, but bleak -- reading this semi-autobiographical work sometimes felt like watching a car accident unfold. Richard Powers, the character, is artist-in-residence at a thinly disguised university. To win a bet, he and a misanthropic genius must build a neural net that can pass a masters comprehensive exam in English. Technical issues are obviously glossed over, but there are some good thoughts about the cognitive process. The more absorbing storyline concerns Powers' failed romance with C., his interaction with his colleagues, and his growing obsession with a grad student. I consider Powers to be one of the best contemporary authors; as a bonus, he writes good scientists.
copyright © 1997 John Regehr