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I really enjoyed this biography of Alan Turing. I agree with others that the book is very long with extremely complicated ideas and concepts presented. To me it could not have been made shorter without damaging the author's ability to really get the story across. We could not come to know the man, Turing, without going through all the detail of his childhood, education, books read that influenced his thinking and perceptions, and his general take on life. I agree that this occasionally felt a bit laborious at times in the reading, but it was necessary. Further, the author's insights offered great depth to the experience of life in Europe, India, Great Britain and America in the first fifty years of the 1900s. The culture, biases, prejudices and scandals of the time are brought into high relief through Turing's life and experiences.
I usually hate epistolary novels but in this case I loved hearing the letters exchanged between Turing and his family, friends and other scholars. It allowed us to hear Turing's own words and voice. This really brought the story to life for me.
I thought that the narration was gently done with great care. I did not find issue with mis-speaking or stumbles other reviewers have commented on here in reviews. Yes it was plodding and careful, but I thought it went well with the subject matter.
Recommended if you love a really good biography and want to know more about the origins of the computer and the experience of code breaking in WWII. Patience is required to let the story unfold, but I just loved it.
69 of 72 people found this review helpful
While Mr. Turing's personal life became an issue in the early 1950s, the impact of his contribution to modern technology and the advent of computers cannot be underestimated.
This book takes us from the very beginning where mathematics and computation led to the development of computers.
Alan Turing was one of the great intellects of his day.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
Great story superbly read. My only criticism is that the writer could have reduced its length by half without loss of quality.
Then I would have had to give it 5 stars.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
A couple of things stood out in this book. The first is that I am too stupid to fully appreciate this book. The second is that while being brilliant and an influential person in computing, Turing didn't have an interesting enough life to justify such a long autobiography. That isn't to say he doesn't deserve to have his life documented, just that it doesn't make for the best listen. Again this is a personal thing of enjoying lighter biographies like Steve Jobs.
If you are more knowledgeable about computing and maths then you will get a lot more from this book as you will be ale to understand the finer details which made up so much of the bulk of the material. For me it went right over my head and there would be hours when I just switched off.
This book is also a biography of computing and maths as well as Turing. Sadly my maths doesn't go beyond GCSE and I felt I was missing out on a lot while listening.
The narrator was perfect in my opinion. It deserves pointing out.
19 of 22 people found this review helpful
Let me introduce you to Alan. He is a quiet and shy man, but one who mainly gets along with his colleagues. He is determined to tackle large questions and finds that his understanding of mathematics and logic can be applied to aspects of the universe around him, especially in areas that people would deem too messy and without any logic. He is a great proponent of going back to first principles when approaching problems also.
This book has been on my radar for years now. I found it after one of those tipping points where you finally hit the nth reference to a person or idea and you find your ignorance about it embarrassing. By the way, I find that these instances only increase with the more you act upon them. Ignorance really is bliss. Anyway, along comes the film starring Sherlock himself and I found myself highly entertained by the story and wanting to know more. So it was time to tackle this volume and I chose to tackle it by audiobook.
Firstly I want to cover the book and it's difference to the movie, because looking at the words on the print cover, "The Book That Inspired the Film 'The Imitation Game'", it leads you to a sense that a biopic from a biography should be fairly accurate. It seems that the movie took a lot of liberties and while there were not many huge outright lies, there were plenty of distortions, simplifications and exaggerations. There is a little part of me that is offended, but there is another larger part of me that is not surprised. Alan Turing was not a stereotypical genius nerd in a world that did not appreciate him. He did have a huge battle to overcome adversity due to his work being outlandish and misunderstood. It seems like Hollywood latches onto the 'Beautiful Mind' + Sheldon Cooper cookie cutter a little too much. I feel that I should also say that I did enjoy the movie. As far as movies go it was entertaining and also a bit educational. But I guess going into this book I expected a bit more continuity. Cumberbatch's Turing is not Hodge's biography Turing.
Hodge's biography offers a traditional chronological look at Turing's life, from a short section on his lineage to his cremation on the last page. But there is a lot more in here than what you would bargain for. Turing's work and the work leading up it is is explained in great detail. Using the term 'in depth' may be a gross under- exaggeration. There is also a large section focused upon the laws concerning 'perversion' at the time, which Turing was convicted for. If you were to remove the sections concerning math, engineering and law you'll find a book that weighs only a small percentage of the original.
I guess what I am trying to say is that this book is not for the layman. I can only imagine that there will be a lot of copies of this book abandoned on planes, trains and bookshelves because a fan of the movie picked this book up wanting to know more, just like I did. The large sections on mathematical logic I did follow the gist of somewhat, helped along by my greater understanding of maths than the average person. Large sections of this book would only be completely understandable by people with degrees in mathematics. I chose more mathematics subjects in my science degree than the norm, so I have some sense of what is going on in these passages. I pity anyone trying to make it through without some knowledge of this type of maths. If you are a person who hates 'info-dumps' you are going to loathe this book.
But on the positive side, this was the right book at the right time for the right person. I have often found that there is no better way to learn about a person than to find the highest rated biography of that person on Goodreads that is at least 500 pages long. I have been stung with too many shorter biographies that leave me unsatisfied and finding out more information on the person's Wikipedia page. I wanted to know more about Turing and my god I found out a whole lot more.
Of course it's not all about volume. Both the writer and narrator kept me entertained for just over 30 hours. The writer was sympathetic to his subject and yet portrayed his great failings also. I really do feel that I met a person who I can call a hero (I hate that word and I am sure that there is a far greater compliment). Turing had great determination, a high regard for the truth in his work and personal life, and a scientific approach to everything he undertook. He may be known as being a mathematician, but he was an even greater scientist who straddled fields in a time when fields were clearly defined. He often found that there was no perfect audience for his papers and that some fields would only appreciate some aspects, while other parts would not be understood at all. He was converging the sciences with mathematics.
So despite all the negatives that I noted earlier, for me not only a book to be treasured, but an introduction to a man that is greatly misunderstood and hugely under-appreciated. I want a portrait of him up on my wall alongside my Darwin portrait. I am going to get my hands on some of his writing and try to get my head around more of the maths.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
While Alan Turing had an inspiring and awfully interesting life, this book is very technical. Unless you like to hear for a whole minute straight of hearing nothing but numbers, then this book is not for you. Reading is done very well but with the technicality of the book, it's very hard to grasp an ordinary reader.