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A gentle, witty, but also slightly unconvincing introduction
on 27 July 2007
One should take the title serious, it is very much a beginner's guide. If you are not an absolute beginner to the field of speculation about reality you may find it a bit disappointing. Well I did. It is not actually bad. He writes a nice colloquial style, has a lot of cool references to cool films (like the Matrix, if you didn't guess from the cover art), and he ambitiously takes on the task of presenting a introductory glimpse into a field which spans sociology, psychology, various strands of philosophy: classic, analytic, and continental, and even modern physics with a big dollop of quantum mechanics.
Truly impressive to pack all of that into one book with less than 250 pages.
Why wasn't I impressed then? The book comes in three parts, starting with social reality, he works his way down to personal reality, to final reach out for the physical reality. Or actually he keeps reaching out for the unreality of it all. What looks like a intersting slide into the innermost secrets of the universe doesn't really work though, because the questions and problems raised by social reality don't actually lead to question and problems of personal reality, and the questions and problems of the consciousness don't lead up to problems of quantum mechanics. Would reversing the order have helped. I am not sure. In the end all he does is to list some of the theories and arguments generally discussed about each of the three levels of reality.
Anyway, the biggest problem is that he obviously a physicist who only feels really comfortable in the last part of the book, but even then unfortunately whenever it gets interesting and more involved he just keeps talking about the discussion rather than introducing the reader to it. I guess it would have made the book less small and easy going to try that. But then, he also simply is not the best possible explainer of complicated things. So expect to be edutained rather than educated, you may find you gained some interest in the end but unlikely to get some real insights. The danger, as with all edutainment, might be that one actually thinks one had learned something and only later discovers that one has barely scratched the surface.
Overall, as a point of first contact, it probably does a good job of introducing people to some of the concepts out there and get them interested in the discussion. If you have already made first contact, I'd suggest keep searching for something that provides a bit more intellectual nourishment.