My review of this book is biased for two reasons. First, Artificial Life interests me for a long time, and I knew quite a lot about it prior to reading this book. Second, I'm a great fan of Steven Levy. His masterpiece "Hackers" is a strong candidate for my most favorite in the non-fiction category. It's one of those books I can just pick up, open on a random page and just delve into it, enjoying every moment. I've also read his "Crypto" book, which is also great, though not as great as "Hackers".

With these two biases in mind, it's easy to guess that my goal in reading "Artificial Life" was not to really learn about the subject, but rather to enjoy Levy's great style (he really has a way to excite you about geeky stuff !). I was really excited when I saw that Levy has a book on one of my most favorite subjects.

It's hard to assess the depth of this book. It is obviously "for dummies", which is good for some people, but not for those who already read about a-life. And Levy's style, his great way of telling these things, doesn't show through half as well as in other books I've read. I have no idea why, maybe he's less knowledgeable in this subject, or the people whom he interviewed for the book didn't tell a lot of interesting stories. In any case, I got quite dissapointed.

Dissapointed because the book didn't tell me almost anything new, bar a few historic stories I didn't know about. But it's not the biggest dissapointment - I really expected Levy's usual style, and didn't find it in this book. Most of it is quite dry, with only a handful of sections as exciting as I'd expect from the writer. The only really interesting part is the last one, where Levy delves into the philosophy of a-life and its implications.

The fact that I didn't like this book doesn't mean others won't like it. As I mentioned above, the book had to comply to very high standards to overcome my biases. Other people, who either don't know about a-life, or haven't read Levy's previous books, may actually like it.


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