A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book comes out in October, but I got to read a copy early because of the Penguin First Flights program.
I found it impossible to read this book without thinking of Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart*. It isn't exactly the same setting, but the main character and his much younger lover felt like they had been picked up and dropped into this book, with a few little tweaks. It was the most bizarre sense of déjà vu I've had as a reader. I get a little tired of middle aged male protagonists who don't know what they want out of life and fail at relationships. It is hard to find anything new in that.
But then, even though he reads like a middle-aged man, I find out that Neill isn't middle aged, but in his 30s. The way he is so jaded and releasing his 'porcelain youth,' he may as well be. Neill has a job helping to train a computer program to try to defeat the Turing test. They are using his father's journals, his father who committed suicide when he was in his late teens.
The techie talk got a bit exhausting, even for me, who enjoys books like The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood and Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker. The young girl character was uninteresting and flat. Joining cults, making bad decisions... yawn. I found myself slogging through it, forcing myself to finish. I'd say I reached a point where I wanted to keep reading about 40% in.
The bits I enjoyed were about far less happy relationships - Neill conversing with his dead father now embodied inside a computer, and secretly meeting his ex-wife for coffee. The flashbacks to his failed marriage are probably the best writing in the book - the pain feels very authentic. Next time, I'd want to see more pain!
* - Gary Shteyngart wrote one of the blurbs on this book. My world just crashed in on itself:
"A brainy, bright, laughter-through-tears, can’t-stop-reading-until-it's-over kind of novel. Fatherless daughters, mother-smothered sons, appealing ex-wives, mouthy high school drop-outs—damn, this book's got something for everyone!"
I imagine Mr. Shteyngart says such things because it reminded him so much of his own work! Ha!