Quick—how much do you know about the life of Bertrand Russell? His childhood, his life, his loves…well, you’re about to find out a lot more, in the form of a great new work called Logicomix. It’s an intense journey, one that’s filled with the huge allure of mathematics and logic, and it’s—believe it or not—actually not dry or boring. And did I mention that for the most part, it’s presented as a lecture given in a college hall? Really, I’m serious here—it’s compelling, not dry.
It is, however, a little too twee in points. The creators—four of them—break into their own story quite often, and while it might seem somewhat charming to break the fourth wall this way at first, it gets old rather quickly. Aside from that overused device, though, Logicomix is a rather thorough biography of Russell and several of the other greatest thinkers of the 20th century.
A quite long afterword called “Logicomix and Reality” explains all the places in which the book differs from the real world (there are several, but don’t let that put you off). The afterword is actually so long and thorough that it further informs the reader on a wider array of facts. Terms and definitions are explored, along with other great minds. It’s fascinating, even if your head does start to spin after a while.
You don’t have to be a mathematician or a logician to appreciate this book, which was a big bestseller in Greece last year. It begins in 1939, with Russell, on his way to speak to a group of university students, intercepted by war protestors who fully expect this man of peace to join their cause. Russell surprises them and invites them to attend his lecture as means of explanation. (That these rabid protestors, so angry and verbal, would sit quietly through such a long lecture is a little hard to believe, but it’s beside the point.)
I was immediately drawn into the fun little world of Logicomix. If it doesn’t take history too seriously, it certainly does mind its Ps and Qs when it comes to science. And if you thought a comic could never teach you just what the incredible world of logic holds for you, think again. You’ll be drawn in too.
Reviewed by John Hogan on July 10, 2012