Natalie E. Ramm's Reviews > A Working Theory of Love

A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins
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Jul 17, 2012

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Read from July 10 to 15, 2012

Neill's father, Dr. Basset, kept fastidious journals before he committed suicide. And when Amiante Systems uses these journals to create an intelligent computer, they hire Neill to humanize the computer. Daily conversations with his computer-father send Neill's life into turmoil. And when the computer starts to think rather than just relay information, Neill is faced with a bit of an existential crisis. Did he ever really love his father? Could he have prevented his suicide?

While all this craziness is happening, Neill meets Rachel. She young, lost (like him), and impressionable. She was supposed to be a one night stand, but there is something about her that keeps her on his mind, despite the occasional run-in with his ex-wife and dating another women.

In the midst of everything, Neill is creating a theory of love. What does it mean to love your father? Is it wrong not to love your father? What does it mean to love a woman? What does love feel like? Is love what makes us all sufficiently human? (for example, everyone loves someone, whether it's their mother, their friend, or their dog.)

I didn't love Neill's character. I thought he was a bit shallow and wishy-washy. He also seemed threatened by people expecting too much of him, especially women. Neill has self-understanding: he knows that he blames his father's suicide whenever he does something shitty and that it's immature to do so. But he lacks emotional understanding, which means he never really know how he feels about anything and consequently treats people like dirt.

His emotional infancy is a purposeful character flaw (common in contemporary American Literature) that disguises his callousness and makes him a pitiable character. But I'm not buying it! I think he's a total dick. Nevertheless, he goes more deeply into his theory of love at the end of the novel, which redeems him a bit (even though it sounds a bit too sentimental, a bit out-of-character).

All that said, this book could be very funny! Neill has a very dry sense of humor that had me laughing out-loud at times. A Working Theory of Love also raises some really interesting questions about artificial intelligence and the future of love and relationships.
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07/10/2012 page 180

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