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Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life Hardcover – 4 Mar 2002

3.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; First American Edition edition (4 Mar. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571178790
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571178797
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 671,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

Gaby Woods' Living Dolls is a playful exploration of the history of artificial creatures and their inventors, which starts in 17th-century France and ends in the robotics laboratories of Tokyo and Massachusetts. Ultimately the book is concerned to provide a Freudian account of "what troubles us when we are faced with certain versions of ourselves--bionic men, speaking robots, intelligent machines or even just a doll that moves". The dolls, robots and androids that Woods explores all create anxieties that offer "a fundamental challenge to our perception of what makes us human".

Woods' fascination with artificial intelligence begins in the 17th century, with Descartes' formulation of man as a machine, and Jacques de Vaucanson's flute-playing android, accompanied by an artificial duck that digested its own food, first exhibited to popular amazement in Paris in 1738. The book then tells the bizarre stories of other examples of artificial bodies, including Wolfgang von Kempelen's Automaton Chess Player, attired in the manner of a Turk, Edison's Talking Doll and John Nevill Maskelyne's 19th-century automaton, Psycho. Living Dolls is an amusing and well written story of the "uncanny" nature of artificial life, although some readers might feel that it is higher on entertainment than serious philosophical reflection, in dealing with a subject that many postmodern scholars have explored in greater depth. --Jerry Brotton


A haunting account of the wilder fringes of mechanical ingenuity and human self-absorption. -- Evening Standard, 25 February 2002

A masterly, elegant and thoughtful cultural history of the life-imitating machine. -- Sunday Times, 24 February 2002

A rigorously researched and grippingly narrated weaving of tales of the quest for mechanical life. . . A captivating read. -- Financial Times, 23 February 2002

A splendid history of mechanical magic which kept me enthralled with its original research and marvellous story-telling quality. -- Roy Porter

Wood seems peculiarly sensitive to the fantastic flirtatiousness which envelops dolls, miniature machines, seemingly living constructs. -- Observer, 24 February 2002

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Customer reviews

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Top customer reviews

16 April 2002
Format: Hardcover
Comment| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
22 May 2003
Format: Paperback
Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
15 March 2002
Format: Hardcover
Comment| 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse

Most helpful customer reviews on 2.4 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
R. Newnham
3.0 out of 5 starsFascinating, but dry
7 January 2011 - Published on
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
5 people found this helpful.
Robert Jones
3.0 out of 5 starsMechanical Life
2 October 2009 - Published on
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
One person found this helpful.
3.0 out of 5 starsAn enjoyable exposition, but offers no challenge to the reader.
2 January 2013 - Published on
Format: Paperback
3 people found this helpful.
1.0 out of 5 starsThis is probably the worst book..
16 September 2006 - Published on
Format: Paperback
5 people found this helpful.

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