This graphic biography illustrates the dramatic life story of one of the world's most famous scientists, who at 21 was diagnosed with a degenerative neuromuscular disease and just a few years to live, yet went on to do groundbreaking work in cosmology and theoretical physics for decades and authored the bestselling book A Brief History of Time.
Ottaviani’s dense but highly readable account braids the implacable advance of Hawking’s ALS with his determination to not let his impaired body imprison his beautiful mind. Stops along the way provide helpful side notes on subjects such as relativity to ease understanding of the awesomely brain-twisting reality screws that the book indulges. All of this brightly illustrates the universe-spanning leaps Hawking’s mind took even while his body was confined to a motorized wheelchair and his voice replicated via computer monotone. This might be an illustrated biography, but it’s no children’s book ... details help humanize a man too often remembered for what he did and not who he was.
There's little to surprise in Hawking, especially if you know a bit about the subject's life and have a spitting acquaintance with his ideas. But Ottaviani finds a nice balance between the personal and the theoretical, making this a diverting account despite the familiarity of Hawking's biography ... Along with managing to explain—sans equations—why we should care about black holes and pocket universes, he relates Hawking's life without becoming either sensationalistic or mawkish ... Ottaviani doesn't omit the unlovely aspects of Hawking's personality and private life. While he skates over the details of Hawking's marital troubles, only indirectly alluding to the '90s rumors that his second wife abused him, this restraint feels appropriate. It's offset by a frank, nuanced treatment of his first wife's experiences ... Ottaviani conveys all these layers with delicacy. The same can't be said of Myrick's art, though. Although he does a lovely job illustrating Hawking's theories, his drawings are workmanlike otherwise. It's a real letdown for a narrative that manages to interweave emotional moments with speculations about imploding stars—while omitting all those nefarious equations ... Aside from a lot of physics, Ottaviani doesn't really tell us what was going on inside Hawking's head. But he does prompt us to reflect on what we've got going on in our own.
The conversational, generally linear narrative starts out simply enough but quickly becomes a catalogue of Hawking's many famous contemporaries and the leading theories of the day, which influenced, and were influenced by, Hawking's own work. His personal life is covered as well but is secondary to his achievements. Loose, scratchy linework and bold, high-saturation colors reflect Hawking's bold ways of thinking about the universe. An author's note indicates that though the book is nonfiction, some details were changed to improve the flow of the story ... Packed with scientific theory, this graphic biography of a scientific luminary will appeal to budding physics and cosmology enthusiasts.