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Turk Paperback – Aug 5 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (TRD); Reissue edition (Aug. 5 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425190390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425190395
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 16.2 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 240 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #915,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a highly enjoyable read on a fairly obscure subject. The author has done a great job of setting the context, telling the Turk's story, and drawing lines to some modern applications that were (at least indirectly) spawned/inspired by the Turk.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Carroll on May 26 2003
Format: Hardcover
Tom Standage investigates one of the 18th century's most interesting mysteries, the chess playing automaton "The Turk." Part detective story and part technological history, THE TURK combines a tale of man's fascination with the concept of "thinking machines" with the story of how the pursuit of that ideal led to the creation of one of the greatest ruses in history. By gradually (a bit too gradually) introducing the reader to the time period and the public's preoccupation with all things mechanical, Standage shows the reader a world waiting to be amazed; even if the amazement comes by way of an ingenious form of misdirection. With appearances by a number of figures who were intimately involved with The Turk's "performances to the interaction of such luminaries as Napoleon and Poe, Standage keeps the reader interested in each and every twist of The Turk's rather bizarre history. It is only when Standage takes on the philosophy of the "thinking machine" does the book make a wrong turn; it slows down the pace and interrupts the flow of what is otherwise an intriguing look this amazing example of man's ingenuity.
P.S. You will find out how it works!
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By Pen on Dec 1 2003
Format: Paperback
A fantastic read. Simply one of the most enjoyable, fast-paced, non-fiction, books I have read in years.
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By A Customer on Aug. 22 2003
Format: Paperback
I might be a bit biased since my grandfather used to tell me about this automaton, but on the other hand I don't particularly like chess, so on balance I feel justified reviewing. This is a terrific book, a short, breezy read about an audacious incident that is deservedly still legendary. Really something you can't put down. On top of legitimate sounding details, Standage provides a solution that is reasonably satisfying for how this thing worked. I would have liked more detail on some of the mechanisms and on how the machine came to have an apparently rare-at-the-time solution to a classic chess puzzle ("the knight's tour"; I think I understand what Standage is getting at with this, but he never really spells it out). But with the inventor long dead and the machine consumed in a fire, these details are probably lost to history. What remains is fun and well worth reading. [Note that the "other" Turk book currently in print contains all the primary sources but costs $50. Standage uses that book as a source in producing this book, which is pitched at a more general audience. My advice: read this one and either or both of Steven Millhauser's novellas about automatons, then see if you can find somebody willing to lend you the big book.]
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Format: Hardcover
Better, as it uses original documents, is the "other" Turk book:
The Turk, Chess Automaton
by Gerald M. Levitt
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By Aaron Lindsey on April 18 2003
Format: Hardcover
Even though it was slow at times, this book mixes fact with a little mystery. Very well crafted.
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By Steve R on Dec 20 2002
Format: Hardcover
Although a familiarity with chess will help, you don't need to be an enthusiast to enjoy this excellent book. Lovers of magic, mysteries, showmanship, mechanical engineering, computers, game theory, psychology, math and history will all find this a fascinating and engrossing story, as will anyone with a smattering of intellectual curiosity. Standege has created a faithful history that is also a page turner. The tale of The Turk is amazing; for its celebrated encounters with formidable intellects ranging from Napolean to Edgar Allan Poe; for its effect on the fortunes and misfortunes of its inventor and promoters; for its role as an inspirer of modern computing; and also for the sad fact that few people today have heard of the automaton that once enthralled and baffled people in dozens of countries through two centuries. Even more compelling is the book's subtext about credulity and the public's ready willingness to believe what what their eyes show them, even when their brains know that it is not possible.
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Format: Hardcover
As fabulous as Elvis, the mechanical chess player called "The Turk" played for sell-out crowds across Europe and into the USA. He rolled his eyes, he swiveled his left arm and he caused the girls to swoon with his deft moves.
But what drove this mechanical marvel to success? Was it his ability to win quickly? Was it some hidden secret? Magnets? Trickery? And why was he hidden away in closets from time to time? Was he a shy Turkish King? Would he ever come out of the closet for good?
Readers will be awed by his strange good looks. They will watch as he wards off spies and journalists who hope to learn his dark, very dark, secret. Only those with a burning desire for knowledge will find out. And only those who have staying power will learn the truth about his poor friend Schlumberger.
Review by Larry Rochelle, Author of BOURBON AND BLISS, TRACETRACKS and DEATH AND DEVOTION
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