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Galatea 2.2

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  1,680 ratings  ·  155 reviews
After four novels and several years living abroad, the fictional protagonist of Galatea 2.2—Richard Powers—returns to the United States as Humanist-in-Residence at the enormous Center for the Study of Advanced Sciences. There he runs afoul of Philip Lentz, an outspoken cognitive neurologist intent upon modeling the human brain by means of computer-based neural networks. Le ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by Picador (first published 1995)
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2001 by Arthur C. ClarkeI, Robot by Isaac AsimovDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. DickNeuromancer by William GibsonThe Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
Best artificial intelligence books
31st out of 132 books — 258 voters
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. RowlingMemoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Best Books of the Decade: 1990's
318th out of 1,502 books — 1,840 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Nov 02, 2010 Joshua Nomen-Mutatio rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Romantics, Scientists
Shelves: fiction
This book is about relationships—the relationship between the humanities and the natural sciences, both within and beyond the walls of the academy and the lab; between cognitive neuroscience and literary fiction; between the romantically entangled; between human beings, period; between mind and matter. Richard Powers—an author I now have tremendous affection for—strikes an impeccable balance in his use and examination of these varied relationships. Consequently, this book was both intellectually ...more
Nov 02, 2010 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ALL OF *YOU*!
Recommended to Jessica by: leetle brother, eric simon, my flesh sings out, etc.
I hate the Internet because of the comments section. On blogs, on YouTube, on the New York Times website, the hate-filled, aliterate hive mind rules, spewing bile and LOLZ and telling a truth about humanity that I can't bear to face. That truth is that we as a species have blown our legacy. These great big brains with their potential are just atrophied damaged lumps, twitching out asinine trivialities and ignorant, brutal crap. The Internet makes me embarrassed to be human, embarrassed even to b ...more
Nov 16, 2010 Manny rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Software geeks who like books
Recommended to Manny by: Jessica
People see different things in this unusual book. Let me start with the undisputed facts. The novel is written by Richard Powers, and its narrator is a character also called Richard Powers. The narrator and the author share a good deal of personal history. Among other things, they have both written three novels with the same titles and, as far as I can judge, similar content. They are both Americans who lived in Thailand when they were children, moved to Holland when they were adults, and learne ...more
Ian Heidin-Seek
Measurement for Words

This novel seduces you, both emotionally and intellectually. It starts like a romance, albeit one set on campus, but ends up an exceptional work of meta-fiction.

The first person narrator, an author, a homonymic namesake of the real Richard Powers, has written four novels that sound like the ones on my shelves, has suffered the break-up of an 11 year old relationship while living in Holland, and is now confronting writer's block.

He is ostensibly "working" for 12 months as a
post: Well, I did it, I finished the fucking thing. And I continued to hate it, all the way to the end.

I just never got it. It seemed so overblown, so overdramatic, so so so overwritten! Sure, it's a story about artificial intelligence, which I suppose has to be written about metaphorically. But oh my god, the density of metaphors was just suffocating. Plus the emotions our "hero" developed for his machine? Come on. I never for a second bought it that this guy would develop this depth of feelin
My thoughts on Richard Powers have been expressed before. He remains a divisive figure. Many doubt his prowess. Some find him too American. This could be an example of Asperger's literature. I object to that last sentiment. This is a novel with heart. Somewhere between artificial intelligence and Ani Difranco, Mr Powers afforded voice to a muddled world of emotions and violence: both somehow framed in the altered world of office hours. His ouerve often appears to be talking therapy. He's backtra ...more
G.R. Reader
I hate to be the one to tell you, Richard, but you're just not geeky enough.
MJ Nicholls
Jan 23, 2011 MJ Nicholls rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to MJ by: Stuart Kelly
Shelves: novels, merkins
An astonishing masterpiece from a genius with a horribly schlocky name.

The reviews by MyFleshSingsOut and Manny are amazing, so read those for specifics.

And read Oriana's review for an hilarious savaging.
May 05, 2012 AC marked it as i-get-the-picture
Shelves: science-fiction
I don't think I know enough science to read this (novel though it be) -- well, I KNOW I don't. And what's worse is realizing that, as advanced as this stuff sounds, it's already nearly 20 years old (1995). Yikes!

I guess that explains my interest in the Middle Ages... in a real sense, I'm still living in them.

Anyway -- it seems like a pretty impressive book.
I can't wrap my head around this book. Usually, that's a good thing: it requires effort; it's just that little bit too complex; it's stretching me in some new direction I've never been.

Galatea 2.2 isn't really any of that, or at least not consistently. It's just frustrating.

That's not to say there isn't some payoff through the frustration: the prose is stellar -- rich and fantastical. Helen is adorable and touching, in her way (though she's the only character who is, and she's a machine, so), an
While reading this book, I grew annoyed and disliked so much of it. The gimmicks frustrated, the narrator while intelligent was almost dislikeable in how much he overdescribed things, I never cared for C or even the Dutch really, and the neuroscience both seemed above my head and at times laughable (even their second iteration is miles ahead of AI theory now, and they were two men, one of which wasn't a scientist but a writer).

But then I put it down and did something I haven't done since I read
Jan 31, 2008 Rob rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: computer scientists with nougat and nuts
Shelves: singularity, 2007
SHORT VERSION: Galatea 2.2 is (in essence) Richard Powers' novelization of the ideas laid out in Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach . It's well-crafted (if a bit pretentious with the language at times) and (with no small irony) a bit recursive. It's also tragically humanist. I was half-blind with cross-eyed, hopeful denials of determinism toward the end there; or perhaps I'm thinking of naive humanitarianism? Helen's cynical abandonment (a cognitive suicide) was not anticipated but neit ...more
Sorry Richard, this just doesn't work. I have not read anything by Richard Powers before, so I had no preconceived notions about him. Unfortunately, I was not impressed. Maybe, as one reviewer said, I am not smart enough. I certainly missed many of the literary references, but was this book supposed to be targeted at English majors with an interest in artificial intelligence? I don't think so, because there are only two and one of them is Powers.

This novel failed me in several ways. First, as a
As a big enthusiastic fan of Powers' work, I was really looking forward to reading Galatea 2.2 - this time though, he was, I am afraid, really too smart for me.
Started out with this book as bedside read - not a good idea.
Got more into it when I moved it to the pile of "books to read when really in a good and concentrated mood - and when sitting upright".

Still, whenever I thought he got me hooked with the really good and Powers-like smart story on the difficulties of love (and expressing those fe
Frank Hestvik
This is a fairly dense book, ambitiously covering a lot of ground: the writing and reading of literature, relationships of love, humanism, neural network sci-fi. It is a semi-autobiographical (semi-fictionalized? the cup is half-what?) narrative about an author named Richard Powers who is tasked by a (seemingly fictional alter-ego) scientist to teach a vast neural network to read. Not just read as in simply parse words into some syntactic hierarchy and extrapolate semantic facts, but to read in ...more
In this novel Richard Powers uses language and literary references with a sharp pen, deftly weaving them into a moving and beautiful narrative. The novel describes the building of a literary thinking machine. It is a machine that gradually matures over the course of several iterations, but in the end it is a life of reading that fueled all of his loves.
The novel is pseudo-autobiographical: the narrator is named Richard Powers and there is discussion of the four novels he wrote before Galatea 2.
Oct 31, 2014 Eva rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: kindle
Powers writes a very smart story, full of neuroscience and computer science, but also poetic and touching. It's the story of the evolution of an artificial intelligence, that grows up by having an author - who lost the joy in writing - read the old masters to it. The conclusion might have been a too neatly wrapped up parable, but it makes a beautiful ending nevertheless.

And obviously - the author in the story being a version of Power himself - it makes you wonder which parts of the tale are aut
Brad Johnson
Jan 19, 2012 Brad Johnson rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Thinkers who think about thought.
Recommended to Brad by: Required for Literature & Technology class
The story spent a lot of time with the technical aspects of what thought and sentience are all about. It's necessary information in order to understand the whole story properly, but it makes for a lot of difficult and dry reading. The author makes a valiant attempt at making it interesting, but the book requires a great deal of slogging through technical mud.

That being said, I still gave it 4 out of five stars due to a wonderful ending that made it worth trudging up that 300 page hill.
My first book by Powers. This is how a novel would turn out if someone like Daniel Dennett had a wit and humor to match his intellect and could write a novel. If you’ve read Dennett or some other brainy scientist-philosopher and have been humbled by their frighteningly superior intellect and knowledge, you may get a similar feeling from reading this novel. I’m bowing to you, Mr. Powers.
Though I had to make this a quick read for a class, and though this isn't a book I'd have picked out for a pleasure read, I found myself enjoying Powers book. Immediately into the read, I was grabbed by the nuances in language the author uses such as interesting oxymorons ("pained palliative"), certain people and places are given initials instead names, and other figurative language ("her frustrations hit me in the face like a paternity suit). Most striking is the relatable experience I share wi ...more
Carmen Daza Márquez
Richard Powers ha sido todo un descubrimiento, antes de leer este libro ni siquiera había oído hablar de él. Y desde mi desconocimiento me esperaba una novela postmoderna experimental tipo Foster Wallace, en cambio me he encontrado con una narración que bajo el barniz metaliterario y ¿pseudo?biográfico presenta unas historias, unos personajes y unas situaciones altamente literarias, en el sentido más tradicional de la palabra. La historia va ganando ritmo e interés a medida que avanza la novela, ...more
Galatea 2.2 is book that feels very 90s. Its prose is littered with postmodernist buzzwords and now obsolescent technical jargon, its parallel plots of the construction of Helen and the failed relationship with C both feel unsatisfactorily contrived and its motifs of globalization and the fear of creeping computerization are both now hopelessly dated.
But even if Galatea 2.2 didn't suffer from these faults, it would also have to contend with the author's unartful "Pynchonian" use of technical met
Keith B
It's my first time to read Richard Powers & I had to keep a dictionary nearby. Abstruse words made methinks is this highbrow literature of 1995?? The author narrates (as Richard Powers) he returns to the US to take residence at Center for Study of Advanced Science & meets cognitive neurologist Philip Lentz. Dual plots: scientific quest/erotic quest. Question is "What is human intelligence?" Lentz: Brain is computer of synthetic neurons. R.P. to help teach the machine classic literature. ...more
William Leight
"Galatea 2.2" is not a book for everybody. Science fiction fans may be put off by its English-departmental touches and its endless references to the English literary canon: readers for whom that description reminds them of, say, A.S. Byatt's "Possession" may find the long strings of neural network jargon impenetrable. But both groups should continue, because they will be rewarded. In the best post-modern tradition, this is a book about, in part, writing a book, ending with the narrator-author's ...more
Krok Zero
The list on pp. 247-248 of this book is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read.
John Chandler
This is one great book. Richard Powers has been accused of flat character development, but I don't think that is the case. The telltale for me was when I felt for the protagonist when C. broke up with him. The emotions, the aspirations, the desire are all there in those complex neurocomputational descriptions and the choice of literary excerpts used to train Helen. I could see how the character(s) would seemingly get lost in the density of it all - if you didn't care to read and appreciate the r ...more
Pygmalion meets IBM's Watson. Powers dives into the process of creating an artificially intelligent program that can compete with a literature student on exams. Along the way, the program becomes more human-like in responses. The technology is portrayed realistically. The results may be a bit ahead of our time. I enjoyed the turns of phrases in Powers' writing. The story felt a bit long. I had recently read Scott Hutchin's "A Working Theory of Love" which covers much the same ground, but to me f ...more
Michael Scott
Galatea starts from the idea that individual existence is of ultimate importance; this is a humanist book, except that one of the main characters, Helen, is a computer-powered individual. Richard Powers builds within this framework on many topics, including despair, love, loneliness, socio-technical relations, the world of academia, rare disease, and the Dutch. The book is brilliant in its depiction of despair--every page you wonder how much lower the whole situation can get, ending with the dev ...more
Richard Powers never ceases to amaze me. I love his musical style; the way he keeps digging up; the way he narrates through thinking while probing the thinking; how he thinks through telling while exploring the way language and communication work; how his novel proceeds spiralling through mazes, moving in a hall of mirrors.

Here he revisits and revives the myth of Pygmalion, telling a pseudo-autobiographical story that intertwines past and present human relationships the narrator –– his fictiona
Vicious Ink
May 01, 2012 Vicious Ink rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: scientists, humanists, intellectuals
Recommended to Vicious by: Teacher
Okay, I want to preface by saying that Powers is a brilliant man. He's an absolute genius and that is apparent in his works. He absolutely deserves five stars for this book. But as this is a personal review and not a critical analysis, I think a few things need to be addressed. I was made to read this book in my college Lit Tech class, and before then had never even heard of Richard Powers. Frankly, his writing is a little too rich for my blood. I certainly don't think of myself as stupid, and i ...more
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Richard Powers is the author of eleven novels. He has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the Lannan Literary Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the National Book Award.
More about Richard Powers...
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“Speech baffled my machine. Helen made all well-formed sentences. But they were hollow and stuffed--linguistic training bras. She sorted nouns from verbs, but, disembodied, she did not know the difference between thing and process, except as they functioned in clauses. Her predications were all shotgun weddings. Her ideas were as decorative as half-timber beams that bore no building load.

She balked at metaphor. I felt the annoyance of her weighted vectors as they readjusted themselves, trying to accommodate my latest caprice. You're hungry enough to eat a horse. A word from a friend ties your stomach in knots. Embarrassment shrinks you, amazement strikes you dead. Wasn't the miracle enough? Why do humans need to say everything in speech's stockhouse except what they mean?”
“I picked up an old microscope at a flea market in Verona. In the long evenings, in my imitation of life science, I set up in the courtyard and examined local specimens. Pointless pleasure, stripped of ends. The ancient contadino from across the road, long since convinced that we were mad, could not resist coming over for a look.

I showed him where to put his eye. I watched him, thinking, this is how we attach to existence. We look through awareness’s tube and see the swarm at the end of the scope, taking what we come upon there for the full field of sight itself.

The old man lifted his eye from the microscope lens, crying.

Signore, ho ottantotto anni e non ho mai Saputo prima che cosa ci fosse in una goccia d’acqua. I’m eighty-eight years old and I never knew what was in a droplet of water.”
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