In Review

Novel of the week: Bewilderment by Richard Powers 

Powers’s new novel is a ‘ghostly and affecting’ tale that marries sci-fi with ‘family romance’

Richard Powers’s new novel (shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize) is a “ghostly and affecting” tale marrying sci-fi with “family romance”, said Rob Doyle in The Guardian. It centres on astrobiologist Theo Byrne, whose wife, Alyssa, has recently died in a road accident. Theo lives with his “other-worldly” nine-year-old son, Robin, an aspiring environmental crusader who’s suspected of being autistic. Rejecting the “meds” his doctors propose, Theo signs Robin up for an experimental, AI-influenced treatment that involves his emotional states being “synced” with those of his dead mother.

Powers has long explored “complex ideas” in his fiction, and Bewilderment follows in that line, said Sam Leith in The Daily Telegraph. It covers big themes, including neurodiversity and environmental collapse. Yet in other ways, it’s so “direct and simple” that it could almost be a young adult novel. Characters are “untroubled by much complexity”, and the overall message boils down to “exploitative capitalism bad; wonder of creation good”. In short, it’s a little “thin and sentimental”.

Heinemann 288pp £18.99; The Week Bookshop £14.99

Bewilderment by Richard Powers 
The Week Bookshop

To order this title or any other book in print, visit theweekbookshop.co.uk, or speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm.

Recommended

Why has Ricky Gervais’ show been criticised?
Ricky Gervais on The Late Show
Today’s big question

Why has Ricky Gervais’ show been criticised?

Is Joe Biden taking a tougher stance on Taiwan?
President Joe Biden in meeting
In Brief

Is Joe Biden taking a tougher stance on Taiwan?

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: events, street parties and festivals
Jubilee Street Party
In Focus

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: events, street parties and festivals

The Time Traveler’s Wife: a ‘problematic’ adaptation of the hit novel
Theo James and Rose Leslie
In Review

The Time Traveler’s Wife: a ‘problematic’ adaptation of the hit novel

Popular articles

Is Russian President Vladimir Putin seriously ill?
Vladimir Putin
Why we’re talking about . . .

Is Russian President Vladimir Putin seriously ill?

Are assassins trying to kill Putin?
Vladimir Putin hosting a meeting in the Kremlin via video link
Behind the scenes

Are assassins trying to kill Putin?

What could happen if China invaded Taiwan?
Chinese troops on mobile rocket launchers during a parade in Beijing
Fact file

What could happen if China invaded Taiwan?

The Week Footer Banner