PositiveThe Times (UK)Slowly, through [Mlodinow] descriptions of cheek twitches, raised eyebrows, stilted dinner parties and snatched glances, we too see through the motor neurone disease to get a sense of the man himself. Or at least we think we do ... The problem with writing about Hawking in his later years is there is so little to write ... The picture that emerges is not so big on twinkling eyes — a bit more on the frustrated, fallible and occasionally infuriating side. And it is all the more human for it ... Mlodinow gently shows us he was also rude, vain and inconsiderate. He was habitually, unapologetically late, he held court like an emperor and he could be utterly crushing when he wanted to be ... When someone speaks at a few words a minute, they don’t always make for good copy. This is one reason why Mlodinow is forced to go back to a time when Hawking did say things ... Mlodinow is a good writer. You are unlikely to find a better primer to Hawking, or to his physics. Even so, much of it is, to use a journalistic term, a \'cuts job\' — stories drawn from other sources. At the end we are left with as good a picture as we are likely to get of a man who was surely the most improbable global celebrity of the early 21st century. Yet I’m not sure how much closer we really are to knowing what was going on behind that twitching cheek and lopsided smile.
PositiveThe Times (UK)... beautifully written ... These are books that, like passengers on a 747, see human society from above — that weave multimillennia-long narratives of gradual change shaped by geography, geology and biology. It is impossible to read Transcendence without finding echoes of the others that have gone before ... We read these books for anecdotes and insights, for tidy explanations of an untidy world. Transcendence is full of such nuggets ... At her best Vince takes dizzying leaps, making connections between archaeology, anthropology, genetics and psychology. She is especially good on the delicate interplay between genes, environment and culture ... Some of this will be familiar ... But even on well-trodden ground, Vince steps with lightness. She also avoids some of the misplaced certainty of her peers — reminding us of the ambiguity in all of this. Not least in whether we should be the apes telling this story at all.
PositiveThe Times (UK)\"Devlin is an academic. The way she tells it, she has found herself largely by chance in this research topic — and was then surprised by the media interest. She shouldn’t be. Sex robots throw up some wonderful dilemmas, from the salacious, to the existential, to the philosophical, to all three at once ... This book at times romps through philosophy, technology and social history. One of Devlin’s achievements is to humanise the sex robot makers and the users — we are invited not to laugh at them, but to understand them. However, the breadth of its ambition can leave Turned On feeling a bit shapeless. There are points where it is not always clear where Devlin is leading the reader. Ultimately, though, her conclusion is that society has nothing to fear from the sex robot, and the \'future of intimacy is not bleak.\'\
PositiveThe Times UKIs there anything worse than insomnia? Narcolepsy for a start, says Tom Whipple ... Sleepyhead is about Nicholls’s narcolepsy, but it is also about why the insights it has given him should matter to any of us who have had sleep problems. And that’s most of us ... There is a telling passage in the preface to the book, where Nicholls said he had planned to write a book solely about narcolepsy. \'My agent and publisher encouraged me to go further.\' I bet they did. Those parts of the book about his personal experience, where he expertly weaves anecdote and science, are definitely the strongest. Luckily, even when the book is broadened out to wider sleep problems, these passages are still the majority of the book.