Richard Powers’ Galatea 2.2 is part science-fiction and part metafictional memoir. Unfortunately, in the twenty years since its publication, computer technology and neuropsychology have advanced to the point where Powers’ novel feels dated and quaint.
However, the more interesting parts of the novel are the main character’s, also named Richard Powers, memories of his failed relationship with a woman known only to the reader as C. The artificial intelligence that Powers and Dr. Lentz work to build serves as a repository for Powers’ reflections and spurs him toward further thoughts of C. We see the arc of a relationship as Powers and C meet in university. We see how writing played an important role in their relationship, with Powers creating a world specifically for C. When that world is published as a novel, what was once intimate becomes open to the masses.
The audience for Powers’ novels was always C. What does it mean when that audience then becomes everyone? In this way, something enters their relationship. It’s not another woman, but it’s something that breaks their bond.
There were times when I loved reading this novel and there were sections I struggled to get through. Ultimately, it’s a smart novel about love and memory, but it feels bogged down by its obsolete technology.