Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Fer De Lance by Rex Stout.

The FIRST book of the famous Nero Wolfe stories. Virtually impossible to tell that the series is beginning - Stout nailed the characters immediately - very little hints that this was the first of a series. Nothing really - except the rather complicated murder itself. Interesting note: the newly reprinted Wolfe books have historical notes at the end of the book. Little notes from Stout or his publisher and other interesting details. This one includes a Nero Wolfe COMIC STRIP that ran in the fifties.

The Turk by Tom Standage.

Hah. Smarty pants 20th/21st century know-it-alls think they're so smart. Artificicial intelligence, robotics, human versus machine contests... Here we think this is OUR turf, and... it turns out the same questions have been debated and considered years - CENTURIES - earlier. Standage presents the history of the 18th century invention, "The Turk", an automaton that played chess. He does a great job of recounting its wide travels, and playing partners, as well as all the speculation regarding *how* it worked.

I admire how he refrains from spilling the secret till the very end, allowing us to experience the speculation ourselves. I was surprised he omitted mention of the story "Moxon's Master" by Ambrose Bierce (the tale of a steam powered chess playing machine), which was clearly influenced by the Turk

Buy this book or any other and support the Universal Translator Assistant project!

Barnes& Noble.com