My guess is that many of the reviews of Alinea are going to try to define the book, and invariably there'll be a comparison to The French Laundry Cookbook. They're both gigantic hardbacks with unwieldy dimensions and an obsessive focus on precision. Not to mention that there's a nice human-interest angle to the fact that Thomas Keller was Grant Achatz's mentor. But the books are more different than they're alike.
They should admit that this is a recipe collection that's unapproachable for most people, and sell it like A Day at El Bulli. Not to cooking from, but more as a source of inspiration. Or, alternately, they should present this as a real cookbook, with a straight face. They should be saying "these are the recipes, cook them. If you can't cook them, don't purchase the book."
Here's an oversimplification: French Laundry is accessible. Keller's whole thing, his metier, is taking everyday food (lettuce, cheese, oyster, chocolate) and doing it up in such a way that its essence is revealed. The portions at his restaurants are so small because the one bite of marrow that you get is all you need - it is one perfect bite of marrow, it is the platonic ideal of marrow, reduced and contextualized to contain all marrow of all cows on all ranges in that one bite. What Keller does is edit food down, distill it, and that's something people can do at home. If they can't do it at home, it's still something they can wrap their heads around.
Imagine a lamb chop, but it's the best, most succulent, most intense lamb chop you've ever had. Imagine it melting in your mouth. Imagine it surrounded by peppery greens whose flavors are so intense that they seem to crystallize. You can do it, right? Your mouth is watering. All you have to do to describe Keller's food is name the ingredient, and then say "and now imagine that as the best, most intense version of that possible." Keller is accessible.
Achatz, on the other hand, isn't. Imagine a blackcurrent. Now imagine it's on a sheet of tobacco-flavored whipped cream, made with a crushed cigar, and the cream is set using gelatin so it doesn't feel in your mouth like whipped cream. And top that with smoked salt, and bee balm, and peppercorns. Imagine that. Are you imagining it? Is the flavor in your mouth? Alinea isn't accessible in the same way
In the right context, this lack of accessibility isn't a bad thing. It's what makes eating at Alinea so extraordinary, that the flavors and sensations and textures are turned inside-out and on their ear. A meal at Alinea isn't a meal - it's multisensory performance art, it's the culinary equivalent of dropping acid, it's palate-expansion.