The week in books

May 8, 2008

Love and Sex With Robots: the Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships by David Levy, artificial intelligence researcher. Duckworth, £12.99, ISBN 9780715637401

"David Levy's thesis, in this fascinating, scholarly and rather uncomfortable book, is that we'll fuck anything, and that we love pretty much anything that looks as though it might love us. Levy proposes that, by 2025 or so, artificial partners will be available for roughly $20,000; and that we will find ourselves not only humping, but actually loving them." - Michael Bywater, New Statesman

Yeltsin: A Life by Timothy J. Colton, Morris and Anna Feldberg professor of government and Russian, Harvard University. Basic Books, £20.99, ISBN 97804650118

"Timothy Colton casts the former Russian leader in a favourable new light. For Colton, Yeltsin 'broke stride and linked his personal journey to larger trends', which saw him evolve from 'knee-jerk populism' to ending the Communist party's monopoly of power and pursuing democracy. By staying ahead of his rivals he won 'the opportunity to preside over the birth of a nation and an attempt to construct a bold new future for it'. These are big claims - and Colton makes them convincingly." - Stefan Wagstyl, Financial Times

Torture Team: Deception, Cruelty and the Compromise of Law by Philippe Sands, professor of law and director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals, University College London. Allen Lane, £20.00, ISBN 9781846140082

"Sands warns that the US government lawyers he holds responsible for torture might be advised not to alight in various European countries, lest they find themselves subject to international arrest warrants. He should have included an appendix showing just how much human-rights lawyers stand to make in fees when those warrants start flying." - Michael Burleigh, The Sunday Times

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, Laureate associate professor in journalism and Latin American studies, University of Arizona. Virgin Books, £8.99, ISBN 9780753513576

"Few books I have read have done as good a job, then, of putting humanity in its place. The remarkable thing is how strangely comforting it is to know this. 'Microbes don't really much care whether we - or anything else - are here or not. We're just a semi-interesting niche for them,' says one scientist." - Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

Homer in the Twentieth Century: Between World Literature and the Western Canon edited by Barbara Graziosi, senior lecturer in classics and ancient history, Durham University, and Emily Greenwood, lecturer in Greek, University of St Andrews. Oxford University Press, £55.00, ISBN 9780199298266

"Reception history is hard to do well ... One day, perhaps, a scholar will appear with the range of knowledge and depth of understanding to do full justice to this difficult theme. In the meantime, Graziosi and Greenwood's volume offers a few pointers." - Richard Jenkyns, Times Literary Supplement.

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