Brief Answers to the Big Questions came out seven months after [Hawking's] death and put to rest concerns that it would be just a mishmash of recycled material ... Most of the chapters, but particularly Chapter 6, 'Is Time Travel Possible?' and Chapter 10, 'How Do We Shape the Future?,' are vintage Hawking — with the straightforward, engaging style of A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell ... Hawking’s colleagues, friends and family, laboring out of deep respect for him, doing their best to achieve what he intended, have produced a splendid book. Enjoy it, learn from it, and regret that it is Hawking’s last.
The book is quintessential Hawking ... his optimism permeates every page ... Some may criticize Hawking's optimism and trust in humanity's wisdom and scientific prowess as naïve or too simplistic. To that he would probably ask, in his computerized voice and with a twinkle in his eyes, 'And what would you suggest instead?'
The newly-published book, Brief Answers to The Big Questions, finished by Hawking's family in the wake of his death earlier this year, includes insightful answers on topics like 'how did it all begin?' and 'will we survive on Earth?' ... few, if any, of the questions in the book are ones Hawking had not answered before. Brief Answers to The Big Questions was put together as an archive of Hawking’s notes, from answers he had given in speeches, interviews and essays.
Hawking in this book is less brash than he once was ... In Brief Answers Hawking concedes that 'we are not there yet,' and he pushes back his prediction for a 'theory of everything' to the end of this century. But he continues to promote the same ideas that he has for decades ... [Hawking fails] to mention that science’s wounds are at least partially self-inflicted.
... resonant, wry, gently funny ... it is that ultra-distinctive voice (modest, profound, sometimes very funny) that knits this book together. It needs to, because it feels like a hasty edit. There are repetitions, and some science that should have been updated (the 2015 detection of gravitational waves, for example, is missing). And the tone is uneven. Hawking sometimes sounds like a guest speaker at morning assembly ('you all have the potential to push the boundaries of what is accepted, or expected, and to think big') and sometimes like the boundary-pushing, mind-stretching scientist he was. This can cause problems. I defy any non-physicist to understand Supertranslation Hair (one of Hawking’s final contributions to the science of black holes) based only on what is offered here.
I’m not sure who of those people [succeeded by Hawkins] had an overall view of the volume, but I do wish it had been more tightly edited. In a collection of essays or transcripts, some repetition is understandable, but I expected a coherent set of arguments. I stumbled, then, when the same explanations and even phrases reappeared without acknowledgment that the reader had seen them previously ... While I share his stance on such matters, it grates that he makes no attempt to persuade or justify. It is not so much preaching to the choir as sharing knowing asides with them. As such, Brief Answers to the Big Questions feels like a missed opportunity ... If Brief Answers to the Big Questions is a 'best of' collection for fans, Hawking had several great hits. But it is badly remixed and includes a few shaky live versions – not the definitive work he deserves.
Hawking’s writing is a welcome leap beyond those scientists who too often opine on popular topics in a scholarly but humdrum fashion ... Occasionally the writing betrays Hawking’s longtime claim of being an ardent optimist ... His succinct yet insightful Brief Answers to the Big Questions is a book highly recommended for anyone who has ever contemplated those questions, perhaps giving the reader a point of view never considered or even imagined. Such challenges to our own humble minds are among the reasons we read, ponder and explore.
For those readers who invested in A Brief History and perhaps never quite finished it, there is good news: almost everything in Brief Answers is effortlessly instructive, absorbing, up to the minute and – where it matters – witty.