Thursday, August 03, 2006

God's Debris (book review)

God's Debris is a different kind of book than anything I remember reading recently. It's a work of fiction, but it reads more like a eclectic combination of theology, science, self-help and philosophy. It certainly doesn't read anything like what you might expect from the creator of Dilbert.

There is no plot to speak of in the book. Instead it is broken into a series of miniscule chapters, each of which captures a fragment of the Socratic dialogue between the only two characters. The chapters are typically very tightly written, comprising only a couple pages tightly focused on a single concept or idea. This keeps the book moving along nicely and even makes it a surprising page turner. Despite the high idea density I made it through the book's 135 pages in just about three hours.

As I mentioned earlier the book covers an extreme range of topics. Although they mostly hang together well on the overarching topic (the nature of God and the universe), some seem a little tacked on, notably the chapter about relationships. It's also true that what the book has in breadth, it lacks in depth. Very little real information is presented, and each topic is handled so briefly that some readers may be left wanting. Personally I found the pacing to be acceptable, although that may be because I've already seen many of the concepts elsewhere. For example, the discussion about the subconscious as a probability machine is straight out of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. Another, "Willpower", is strinkingly similar to a one of Adams' recent blog posts (though I think the book came first).

I should also note (as Adams does in the introduction) that this book deals heavily with the nature of God, free will and religions in general, and therefore could be rather offensive to some people. Nonetheless, I think anyone with even a moderately open mind would enjoy it.

1 comment:

Renee said...

I've read God's Debris a few days ago, it's quite an interesting thought experiment, isn't it? I was just wondering if you'd spotted any real factual mistakes in the book, because it feels like there are a lot of them (although I can discover only a few - the evolution-hypothesis is clearly nonsense). Not that God's Debris is not worth reading! In fact, I've even recommended it on my weblog ( because I write about similar philosophical ideas.