Love and Other Thought Experiments: Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020

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Love and Other Thought Experiments: Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020

Love and Other Thought Experiments: Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020

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The characters journey across the different chapters to tell us their stories, both the possible ones and the fantasies that unexpectedly merge with reality. Using philosophical ideas - the 'thought experiments' of the title to tell a story with many threads. She incubates life and death, a paradox that spreads throughout the labyrinthine complexities of the narrative to come.

It mixes philosophy, science, psychology and constructs playful, intriguing and satisfying stories to bring famous thought experiments to life. Sometimes philosophy and fiction meet in strange alleys of literature to produce a piece worth spending a long while pondering upon and this is one such work.The book was written as an extension of a post graduate student project (at Goldsmiths College, London), and I think it reflects that, with its academic and highly formalised creative writing construct.

I mention the subject of her degree and PhD as they so closely fit the character and nature of this book and her University (where she now works) as it effectively excludes her from the Goldsmith Prize – which is where I otherwise may have naturally expected this intriguing novel to feature. At the start of the book Rachel says that she believes that an ant has entered her head through her eye. This experiment is Hume’s Missing Shade of Blue, in which the eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher David Hume put forward the idea that the mind can generate an idea without first being exposed to the relevant sensory experience.At its core, “Love and Other Thought Experiments” attempts to be a commentary about love and the interdependence of human existence, but the random interjections of philosophy and artificial intelligence feel jarringly out of place, diluting the novel’s resulting effect into pure frustration and pretentiousness. Even with the summarized thought experiments giving hints at each turn for the direction in which the narrative is heading, I was completely taken by surprise several times by twists Ward implants into the tale. Also, while I am not familiar with most experimental philosophy and it was interesting to learn about many ideas through this novel, there was one thought experiment drawn from game theory that I was familiar with, The Prisoner’s Dilemma (ch. The prose is sharp and confident, in a way that you very soon get a picture of the characters ( She had become the sort of person she approved of but she wasn’t sure she had chosen anything she actually wanted). And there is also the ant (‘character’) that Rachel thinks crawled into her eye (the ant is essential and brilliantly told in first person in chapter 4).

It is this narrative in parallel with the philosophy which I think really makes the book succeed as a rounded novel. I tried hard to tie the lead-in to the chapter with the chapter content, and most of the time, I really didn't "see" it. A fascinating debut that shows why reading the Booker longlist is fun if the judges do their job right: The Booker has the potential to shine a light on new, fresh, challenging authors.The boundary line between who’s human and not gets pretty complicated once the ant and the artificial intelligence are involved! The second uses the Prison’s Dilemma, although more to establish a forking paths type of narrative as to different outcomes of a young Turkish Cypriot lad struggling in the sea after he has swum too far in pursuit of a football. This is very cleverly done, and at the individual level, a story at bedtime, some of these could be read and enjoyed by pretty well everybody, independently of the overall book. I was interested in Sophie Ward’s citing A Visit from the Goon Squad and Elizabeth Strout Olive Kitteridge as influences on her book’s individual story structure.



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