by Begoña Suárez
The action takes place in the fictitious university of Gloucester throughout the course of a term. The novelist and recently bereaved widow, Helen Reed, has just arrived from London with the aim of teaching a course on creative writing in addition to changing of scenery to get over her husband’ loss. She soon builds up a friendly relationship with Ralph Messenger, the director of a Center for Cognitive Science, a research institution devoted to studying the subject of consciousness and artificial intelligence. They keep quite long conversations about the study of consciousness and the processes of thought. Whereas Ralph investigates their physical and quantifiable aspects Helen is unwilling to think that beliefs and human emotions can be reduced to a series of impulses in the brain. In spite of having very little in common their intellectual talks develop into a deeper relationship and a torrid secret affair.
On the one hand, the novel offers an exhaustive exposition about the scientific investigations into the nature of human consciousness. On the other it features the collision between two different worlds represented by the two main characters who expound their unequal theories of cognitive science, two people who have to struggle to understand each other. Sciences versus Humanities. Ralph Messenger versus Helen Reed.
Both of them show us huge differences in belief and temperament. Ralph is the brilliant, intellectually restless and narcissistic successful scientist; Helen, the enigmatic, discreet, long-suffering and shaky classic novelist. The book brings out their contrasting attitudes to social morality. The strong moral conscience of the loyal Helen who is in mourning for her husband collides with womanizer and adulterous Ralph who, adored by women, does not miss any opportunity for extramarital activities. There are other very well drawn characters; all of them are recognizable, believable types. For instance, the bright and ambitious as well as social climber young scientist Ludmila Lisk; the cynical and practical Carrie Messenger who consents to her husband’ infidelities; or the weird Professor Douglass who has been downloaded child pornography from Internet.
Thinks is one of the cleverest and most original comedies I have read for a long time. The main originality is that the plot is presented by a narrator in third person and alternatively by the two main characters in first person. This technique gives the reader the possibility to explore their thoughts and feelings. The best part of the book is the possibility to go deeper in other people’s mind. The technical language use in the long discussions about artificial intelligence makes some passages hard to understand. Furthermore for something that is not interested in the consciousness world I found this part extremely boring. In any case I enjoyed reading it to such an extent that I have already started to read another book by the same author.