Galatea 2.2 review

My review of the 1995 novel Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers. Contrary to more literary reviewers, I did not get the feeling that Richard Powers is good at science or technology.

I only own a few novels, but I bought this one because it’s about artificial intelligence.

It’s a strong book, though not great. It has major surface cleverness, and also lots of deep structure. Every once in a while I’d look twice at some literary allusion and be amazed at how it simultaneously fit into the narrative flow, supported the point being made, and pointed sideways at the book’s theme. The annoying flaws are technical and culture-of-science mistakes and the show-off tone (“look how smart a writer I am!”).

By the way, for those who’ve read it, “U” is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which can be called “Urbana” for short, and the “Institute for the Study of Advanced Science” is the Beckmann Institute. Few details have been changed in the descriptions. There really is a terminal room in the basement of the English building, but there isn’t a bar that overlooks the quad. I knew my graduate education would come in handy someday.

Original version, September 1995.
Updated and added here January 2012.