Benjamín Labatut author


Publisher:Pushkin Press

Published:7th Sep '23


Available for immediate dispatch.

The MANIAC cover

the author of When We Cease to Understand the World: a dazzling, kaleidoscopic book about the destructive chaos lurking in the history of computing and AI 'Monstrously good... Reads like a dark foundation myth about modern technology but told with the pace of a thriller' Mark Haddon John von Neumann was a titan of science. A Hungarian wunderkind who revolutionized every field he touched, his mathematical powers were so exceptional that Hans Bethe - a Nobel Prize-winning physicist - thought he might represent the next step in human evolution. After seeking the foundations of mathematics during his youth in Germany, von Neumann emigrated to the United States, where he became entangled in the power games of the Cold War; he designed the world's first programmable computer, invented game theory, pioneered AI and digital life, and helped create the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was the darling of the military industrial complex, but when illness unmoored his mind, his work pushed further into areas beyond human comprehension and control. The MANIAC places von Neumann at the center of a literary triptych about the dark foundations of our modern world and the nascent era of AI. It begins with Paul Ehrenfest, an Austrian physicist and close friend of Einstein, who fell into despair when he saw science and technology become tyrannical forces; it ends a hundred years later, in the showdown between the South Korean Go Master, Lee Sedol, and the AI program AlphaGo. Braiding fact with fiction, Benjamín Labatut takes us on a journey to the frontiers of rational thought, where invention outpaces human understanding and offers godlike power, but takes us to the brink of Armageddon.

'Monstrously good... Reads like a dark foundation myth about modern technology but told with the pace of a thriller' - Mark Haddon

'Labatut's voice comes from the future, to free us from the curse of our present' - Wolfram Eilenberger, author of 'Time of the Magicians'

'Darkly intelligent and feverishly propulsive' -Observer

'Brooding, heady... addictively interesting... gripping, provocative' - Wall Street Journal

'Virtuosic... Labatut is that vanishingly uncommon thing: a contemporary writer of thrilling originality... The MANIAC is a work of dark, eerie and singular beauty' -Washington Post

'You just throw up your hands and think, Who cares what discourse label we assign this stuff? It's great...' -New York Times

'If you've yet to sample Labatut, stop wasting time. Get on the Labatut train.' -BookMunch

'Talent, ambition, skill, intelligence - [are] present in abundance.' -Guardian, Book of the Day

'Captivating' -Irish Times

'Thrilling - and chilling [...] A gripping read.' -Marie Claire, Best Books of 2023

'A dark, strange novel by a rising literary star' -New Scientist

'Intoxicating... this marvel of a book, which inspires awe and dread in equal measure, is stalked by the greatest terrors of the 20th century, yet its final heart-stopping sentence makes clear the greatest terrors are yet to come' -Daily Mail

'As addictive as a true crime tale' -Mail on Sunday

'Absorbing... perfect for anyone thirsting for more nuclear anxiety after watching Oppenheimer... reads like the physicist Carlo Rovelli crossed with the cosmic horror of HP Lovecraft' -Chris Power, Sunday Times

'Both entertains and provokes... [Labatut's] infernal vision of science captures something of the unsettling vertigo of living right here in the Anthropocene after all' -TLS

'Emerging as the most significant South American writer since Borges... there is no one writing like him anywhere in the world' -Interview in the Telegraph

'Brilliantly cerebral'- 5*Sunday Telegraph

'Praise for' - When We Cease to Understand the World:

'A monstrous and brilliant book' - Philip Pullman
'Mesmerising and revelatory' - William Boyd

ISBN: 9781782279815

Dimensions: unknown

Weight: unknown

368 pages