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A nice quick read, but very imbalanced, frustrating and not what you hoped for
on 12 March 2014
Starts off well - nice, brief passages describing his richly eventful childhood. Its a different time indeed where someone of poor parentage still gets to spend years abroad at a time, have a large house in London, get into Oxford, and never seem to worry about money.
His fast, efficient progression into academia swiftly turns into some ridiculously complex prose - terms, theories and jargon are relentlessly thrown out as if its a private conversation with someone of equal knowledge for such things. I couldn't help but wonder if there was some slight agenda going on here, to purposefully lose the audience and (unnecessarily) prove some intellectual superiority. I tried my best with A Brief History of Time and there were only certain bits I couldn't get my head round. I couldn't understand MOST of what he was writing about here, which was especially undermining and frustrating as it followed something that read like a school essay.
Why is this book annoying? Because it completely avoids the human element - there's no real mention or discussion of struggle, personal challenge, changes of mind, heart or motivation, friendships, love, personal humanistic realisations about mankind or man's relationship to the earth and technology. An autobiography would have been the ideal opportunity to learn about his thoughts and reflections, but instead it just becomes another scientific jargon-purge.
This shift in tone, as well as absence of humanity is so overt and remarkable, that I was left feeling that he might have dissociated a large part of his emotional world. Maybe because of unresolved grief or trauma, maybe a resistance to the press snooping over the years, who knows.
Its astounding that the reasons, and his feelings, behind his first divorce and second marriage are all tied up in literally two lines of text, yet whole chapters are devoted to "Imaginary Time" and "Time Travel" which have absolutely no inherent value to the casual reader, nor anything to say about Stephen Hawking himself.