Chris's Reviews > I Am a Strange Loop

I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas R. Hofstadter
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M_50x66
's review
Aug 22, 10

bookshelves: language, maths, science, non-fiction
Read in July, 2010

After having read Gödel, Escher, Bach I couldn't not pick this up.

It covers many of the same ideas as GEB, though thankfully does so without being the same book again (GEB is superb, but I doubt there's much left to be covered without losing some of its charm and idiosyncracies). Less thankfully, the vibrancy and playfulness of GEB have largely disappeared, rather than merely manifesting themselves differently. That's not to say there is none, it's just not so present as in the older book.

As far as the content goes, I think there would have been a significant benefit from a 'less is more' approach to the editing. Some points are simply laboured too often without adding anything. A significant section (i.e. a couple of chapters) beginning just after the half-way point seemed unnecessary, and reading this section almost became a chore. It wasn't actually that it was bad, particularly; but rather dull and instantly forgettable (in fact, I don't now remember what the subject was).

The best of GEB came while Hofstadter discussed mathematics, AI, and other topics which were similarly peripheral to the main point, yet possessed enlightening parallels. This book is largely without such devices and is all the worse for it. A large portion of the book seems to pull off the impressive combination of focusing entirely on the main theme, without advancing it in any significant way. It's only in the last few chapters of the book that it finally comes to life and becomes a truly interesting read.

Those final few chapters, though, were certainly thought-provoking. I'm tempted to say superb, in fact. Though they're certainly not without flaws, the most glaring (for me) being an apparent belief that he has dispatched once-and-for-all 'the question of free will' within two pages, the ending chapters rather fit the description 'redeeming features'. The removal of most of the first three quarters would leave a book which, though much shorter, would be much better.
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