Mr. Mlodinow’s memoir genuinely has something to add, insights that are not to be found elsewhere ... Mr. Mlodinow has produced a vivid and compelling account of Hawking’s character, its many strengths and its occasional deep flaws ... Mr. Mlodinow is very good on the small details of Hawking’s condition ... Its glimpses of Hawking’s personal life are poignant and interesting, but I suspect this book will be read chiefly for its insights into Hawking as a scientist. Mr. Mlodinow understands very well, and can explain very clearly, the twists and turns of Hawking’s physics as it developed from his doctoral thesis to the breakthroughs of his mature years ... The great merit of this book is to convey so vividly the dance, the spirit and the prison.
Even before Stephen Hawking died, in 2018, there was an autobiography, two biographies and two biopics. But this curious memoir still feels fresh and worthwhile. As a serious theoretical physicist who co-wrote two books with Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow saw the great man from a unique vantage point. He can delve into intimate details and survey the intellectual high ground ... On the personal side, the book is almost uncomfortably fascinating. It unflinchingly describes the physical challenges Hawking faced and the minutiae of his life with his carers ... The physics here is fairly light, but Hawking’s significance is made clear ... The section on belief, which closes the book, is fascinating. Disappointingly, it is one of the only ones in which I felt I really knew the mind of Hawking. For all the anecdotes and conversations, and all the excellent biographical and scientific summaries, Hawking the man feels elusive. Mlodinow clearly knew and liked him, but I finished the book unsure of whether or not I did. For all that, though, this is a compelling read.
As Mlodinow tells the story of their collaboration, he summarizes the scientific ideas they worked on (as well as much of Hawking's other research) in a clear, accessible way, while painting a nuanced portrait of Hawking himself. Readers who are interested in popular science, cosmology or Hawking's work will find much to ponder here, but Mlodinow's book is also a thoughtful, tender yet unsentimental story of an extraordinary friendship.
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.
... highly enjoyable ... What is refreshing is the absence of the usual adulation of an exceptional mind and celebration of triumph over adversity. In their place is a tender account, full of genuine affection, which doesn’t shy away from Hawking’s intense focus, self-centredness, unpredictability and the difficulties faced by his wives and carer ... For those who have followed Hawking’s career there is a retelling of well-known stories ... That Hawking was famous for his courage, his stubbornness and his sense of mischief is not new. But we don’t often hear about his vulnerability ... These stories, told with humour and fondness, mean that I feel I now know Hawking a little better. I still don’t fully understand his theory of black hole radiation, but I won’t go into that now.
... Mlodinow offers a heartfelt account of his friendship with theoretical astrophysicist Stephen Hawking ...He does an admirable job of explaining the cosmological concepts without overwhelming casual readers. Their working relationship quickly turned into friendship, and Mlodinow gleans many insights into the kind of man Hawking was—passionate, rebellious, funny, warm, unconventional, stubborn, sometimes peevish, often controversial, and unafraid. He was a complex person driven by a passion to understand, overcome the limitations of his disability, and make human connections. Mlodinow renders a satisfying and humane portrait.
Mix[es] remembrance and popular science into a pleasing memoir ... Candidly reflecting on Hawking’s paralysis, he muses that his collaborator’s experience with contradictions in his own life, as a man 'both powerful and powerless,' fed into one of his greatest gifts as a scientist, a knack for “'econciling contradictory theories and ideas' ... This memorable book allows readers to see the human side of a figure who might otherwise seem intimidatingly remote.
... insightful ... Mlodinow doesn’t delve deeply enough into Hawking’s unique brilliance, but he provides an illuminating portrait of perseverance and determination ... A valuable account of an extraordinary man, although most readers will have to accept Hawking’s genius on faith.