Literary Hub is pleased to reveal the cover for Benjamín Labatut’s new novel, The MANIAC, which will be published by Penguin Press this fall. Here’s how the publisher describes the book:
From one of contemporary literature’s most exciting new voices, a haunting story centered on the Hungarian polymath John von Neumann, tracing the impact of his singular legacy on the dreams and nightmares of the twentieth century and the nascent age of AI
Benjamín Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World electrified a global readership. A Booker Prize and National Book Award finalist, and one of the New York Times’ Ten Best Books of the Year, it explored the life and thought of a clutch of mathematicians and physicists who took science to strange and sometimes dangerous new realms. In The MANIAC, Labatut has created a tour de force on an even grander scale.
A prodigy whose gifts terrified the people around him, John von Neumann transformed every field he touched, inventing game theory and the first programable computer, and pioneering AI, digital life, and cellular automata. Through a chorus of family members, friends, colleagues, and rivals, Labatut shows us the evolution of a mind unmatched and of a body of work that has unmoored the world in its wake.
The MANIAC places von Neumann at the center of a literary triptych that begins with Paul Ehrenfest, an Austrian physicist and friend of Einstein, who fell into despair when he saw science and technology become tyrannical forces; it ends a hundred years later, in the showdown between the South Korean Go Master Lee Sedol and the AI program AlphaGo, an encounter embodying the central question of von Neumann’s most ambitious unfinished project: the creation of a self-reproducing machine, an intelligence able to evolve beyond human understanding or control.
And here’s the cover, which was designed by Darren Haggar:
“The image on this cover was created by film director Bennett Miller, using OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 software,” the publisher told Lit Hub. “He arrived at the final product by making extensive edits on variations of an image generated using the following prompt: a vintage photograph of huge plumes of smoke coming from an enormous UFO crashed in the desert.”
The MANIAC will be published on October 3, 2023 by Penguin Press. You can preorder it here.
A show of Bennett Miller’s prints is currently on at the Gagosian Gallery through April 22, 2023.