Review: Galatea 2.2

Posted on Jan 11, 2004

In Galatea 2.2, what I find most impressive and interesting about Powers is that his books deal with real science in intelligent ways. One of the reasons The Matrix was so exciting was that there were so many interesting ideas brought up, all of which could pass an initial quality or (in)sanity check. They didn’t even get through Reloaded before their contrivances lost all touch with real scientific thought. Powers not only avoids these traps, he makes the science dance. He marries the language, the ideas with his own. He is constantly reaching for the frontier, but never violates the bounds of what’s real and observable– for whatever that’s worth. When a writer has earned credibility, it makes the flights of fancy so much more enjoyable.

Since I’ve already broken out one movie comparison, I’ll do another. In Adaptation, the writer puts himself in his screenplay and refers to other work that he’s done. But it’s not to enhance the work, it’s to distract from it. It is the story, something about the dangers and/or inevitability of selling out. To tell you the truth, I had really stopped caring. If you’re going to be clever about your own cleverness, you better be damn good at it. I enjoyed parts of the movie, but ultimately, I found it wanting. Watch as I sneak in a 6.2/10 for it.

Powers writes himself in as the main character. He refers to all of his previous works, describing the framework that they came from, within the context of the story he’s telling. At once, the words and stories are affecting. I saw books that I had read and loved in a new frame, with a new appreciation. Then, you start to wonder if it’s actually true, if this book was an exorcism. There are so many different ways to tie the events together, you’re starting to wonder about your own perceptual matrix, and how Helen (that’s the neural net) could ever keep up.

She can’t, but this book can (and does) make my top ten. I can’t think of any deductions besides that fact that I still enjoyed The Goldbug Variations more. Probably just because there were twice as many pages. You won’t regret spending time on them. I’m going to give it a 9.7/10.