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The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by…

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded

by Jim Ottaviani

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I was hoping this book would be an excellent companion of sorts to the recent film, but it pales in comparison. Like most of Ottaviani's biographies of scientists, this volume is packed with facts but fails to really bring the subject alive for me. And the conceit of trying to frame the narration of the book as an actual imitation game seems like a clever idea but really does nothing but force the narrative into a format that continually distracts. ( )
  villemezbrown | Jul 28, 2018 |
This is a comic (or "graphic novel" if you prefer) telling of the life of one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, who met a tragic end at the hands of an institutionalized prejudice. It is dense at times and is a little too technical for me, but I didn't find that distracting from the overall story of Turing's life. ( )
  neverstopreading | Jun 5, 2018 |
This biographical graphic novel focuses on Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician and logician who could theoretically figure out a bunch of stuff way over my head, and was instrumental in the Bletchley Park efforts at decoding the German system Enigma during World War 2. The structure of the narrative gives different people in Turing's life turns about talking about him - his mother, school friends, co-workers - and took a little getting used to as I had to pay attention to who was narrating at any given time. Well done and intrigued me enough to want to read a full length biography. ( )
  bell7 | Aug 1, 2017 |
This is a biography of the brilliant mathematician who basically created modern computer programming as well as the hardware to run it on - all while he was working on decrypting German U-Boat codes during World War II. Though this is a "glorified comic book," it's not easy reading. There are complex ideas being presented not only in terms of math problems and concepts, but sociological and philosophical issues as well. It really requires at least a couple of read-throughs to get a sense of even a fraction of the breadth of Turing's life and impact. This is definitely for the YA STEM crowd and up (unlike Ottaviani's other efforts which skew to younger audiences.) Colored ink panels, soft color pallets, detailed drawings. ( )
  Tanya-dogearedcopy | Aug 21, 2016 |
Even after reading the massive biography by Andrew Hodges, and seeing the movie “The Imitation Game,” I am still eager to learn more about the life and work of Alan Turing. “The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded” is a graphic novel (biography) somewhere between those two, and continues to tell his story in an entertaining and informative manner. This medium, too, is one I am growing very fond of, for its creativity and ease of presentation, in a series of frames like comics, its ability to demonstrate in ways that written text alone cannot. So, do we need more biographies of this man? Yes, and “The Imitation Game” is one of them.

One innovation in this presentation is that people who knew Alan appear to be interviewed, though by whom is not shown. More than any of these people is Alan’s mother, and in memories or flashbacks, we see the people relive their experiences, and Alan himself is the central narrator. At first, I wondered if some pages were missing, the sequence seemed jumpy, and, sketchy (pun intended). If you were not familiar with Turing, many allusions might not make sense, or come across as inside jokes (or similar). Some of the more technical ideas are given more explanation, which is not bad. Another trend is the dodging around his homosexuality, which is more openly discussed as the book goes along – an interesting technique, I like how that was done. Also, those who worked at Bletchley Park during World War II remain unable to speak of their work, which carries historical significance to Turing’s legacy.

Sara Turing, Alan’s mother, is inexplicably interrupted and asked to leave; then, one of the “computers” or “wrens” – women who operated the machines at Bletchley – is brought in, followed by Joan Clarke, Alan’s co-worker and one-time fiancé; Don Bayley at Henslope Park, where Turing went after his second trip to the U.S. and his departure from Bletchley – he was working on radio-transmitted voice decryption at that time; his friends, David Champernowne and Robin Gandy, visiting him at the University of Manchester, after the war; Arnold Murray, whom Alan took a romantic interest in, yet who may not have robbed Alan but blamed someone else he was seeing, the whole incidence leading to their arrest and Alan’s unjust punishment; and Alan’s brother John. Some people even appear as ghosts. Dear Professor Max Newman, one of Alan’s mentors and colleagues, was called in to the court as a character reference, as was chess champion and fellow code-breaker Hugh Alexander, but again, it was Alan’s mother more than anyone who had something to say. I have not read her biography of her son, but I would like to, to further complete the picture. With so many accounts coming forth, there are inconsistencies. For example, Sara Turing says Alan never returned to the U.S. after his time at Princeton, but during the war, he was a sort of ambassador, working with scientists at Bell Laboratories. Also, I don’t know if he wrote quite as many letters in these times as people felt he did (I could be wrong), and he did really like literature and theatre, especially works by George Bernard Shaw. The “Keep Calm and Carry On” signs in background are nice touch, but I thought those weren’t used at that time; however, the activity was off the record, so who knows (and I could be wrong again). But this book picks up on things that the long biography and the movie did not, and focuses on different people, such as Dilly Knox, and events like Winston Churchill’s visit to Bletchley, where Joan Clarke explained their whole operating process. For accented visual and auditory plays, the “bombe” machines are churning away, and generating heat too, such that the computers often worked in their underwear. This book then, like Alan himself, does have some humor.

One thing I find so fascinating, and elegant, about Turing is how the questions that burned inside him came to be part of all the work he pursued or took part in. “The Imitation Game” is such an appropriate title, a thread running through everything – and, Alan loved games, from chess to those he invented, described here like his other experiments. In the author’s note is a fair suggestion to maybe not read this as “pure and objective history,” but it is a fair representation from many perspectives. This is a well-researched and well-crafted book that is a welcome addition to our understanding of Alan Turing. He had a beautiful mind, a beautiful life; so brilliant, so human, and, so tragic and triumphant.

Note: this e-book was provided through Net Galley. For more reviews, follow my blog at http://matt-stats.blogspot.com/ ( )
  MattCembrola | May 5, 2016 |
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This is the graphic novel biography of Alan Turing, originally published on Tor.com (in 2014), here:


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A biography of the mathematician, reveals the story of an eccentric genius, olympic-class runner, and groundbreaking theoretician whose work is still influencing the science and telecommunication systems of the modern world.

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