It’s only recently that I have allowed myself to not like critically acclaimed books. Earlier I used to blame myself, doubt my understanding, and curse my attention span rather than the book. So now I can even hate books that are favorably reviewed, authors fawned upon etc. I still don’t understand how people hate authors though. Sure, you can hate their books, you can be envious of their success but seldom do you know the writer well enough to hate him or her. Having said that I didn’t particularly like Yuval Noah Harari second book, Homo Deus. I should probably clarify here that I’m comparing the book to his earlier work, Homo Sapiens which was like WOAH. WOAH because that book was a conversation starter. Of all the reasons people read books, it’s also to be and sound intelligent, casually drop interesting never-hear-before trivia, and generally be awesome. Gems like we did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us (I’m paraphrasing). Homo Sapiens gave you that. It was like Freakonomics only more inclusive. It talks about how we came to be this all-powerful, all-intelligent, all-ignorant sentient beings. The book was quite Buzzfeed-y. Which is how we like things these days.
But Homo Deus for the longest read like the unused notes from Homo Sapiens. I can understand the book’s appeal for someone who hadn’t read the previous book though. His/her mind will be equally blown. (which could be the entire reason why those repetitive chapters found their way to the book. Homo Deus was expensive, better bound, and backed with a strong marketing plan which didn’t rely on people having picked the first book.)
The book does pick up in the end with some interesting observations about AI and how it will take over the world – pretty standard but entertainingly written – and his case of a biological caste system is strongly put too. It would make for a great drunk conversation.
Which brings me to something else – the voice we talk/write in. Now I’m sure Yuval Noah Harari is a brilliant and a sharp man and has great points to make. But what is important to see here how he pushes these big ideas, swashbuckling claims in a language that’s accessible and entertaining. And that’s what made Homo Sapiens a great book to read, and Homo Deus imminently readable. Of course if you go deeper into the things that he has said you might find them problematic but at least he got you there.
P.S. – Typed on my phone. Excuse the brevity and the errors.