In Thinks..., David Lodge writes another witty satire on the vagaries and triumphs of contemporary British academic life and achieves a fine balance between multiple points of narrative interest. He gains much momentum from psychologically nuanced romantic intrigue, and also manages to offer intelligent speculation on the state of play in the scientific and philosophical investigations into the nature and workings of human consciousness, without preaching or becoming … mehrponderous. Thinks... recounts the experiences of Helen Reed, distinguished novelist, who accepts a creative writing teaching gig at the fictional University of Gloucester after the sudden death of her husband. Here she meets Ralph Messenger, scholar, spin doctor, philanderer and head of the illustrious Colt Belling Centre for Cognitive Science. Scientist and novelist spar: She asks them what they were working on. Jim says robotics, Carl says affective modelling. Kenji says something indistinct that Ralph repeats for her benefit--genetic algorithms. "I can guess what robotics is," says Helen, "but what on earth are the others?"
Carl explains that affective modelling is computer simulation of the way emotions affect human behaviour.
"Like grief?" Helen says, glancing at Ralph.
"Exactly so," he says. "Though Carl is actually working on a program for mother-love."
"I'd like to see it," says Helen.
"I am not able to give a demonstration, I'm afraid," says Carl. "I am rewriting the program." The form of the novel carefully mirrors its intellectual concerns. We are given Ralph's attempts to tape-record his random thoughts; Helen's more introspective diary and the often hilarious writing assignments of Helen's motley crew of students, who attempt literary solutions to the problems Ralph poses Helen. Written with enviable deftness, Thinks... manages to be generous to its characters and serious about the intellectual and ethical questions it poses for itself without losing satiric bite. --Neville Hoad weniger