Prisoner's Dilemma

Prisoner's Dilemma

Paperback, 352 pages

Published April 2nd 2002 by William Morrow Paperbacks


Something is wrong with Eddie Hobson, Sr., father of four, sometime history teacher, quiz master, black humorist, and virtuoso invalid. His recurring fainting spells have worsened, and given his ingrained aversion to doctors, his worried family tries to discover the nature of his sickness.



Ian "Marvin" Graye

Richard Powers’ second novel can be read and enjoyed at three different levels of abstraction:

First, as a family drama.

Second, as an example of the game theory concept of a prisoner’s dilemma in the social context of World War II.



I ordered this book back in May 2020, but due to various administrative/logistical issues at Waterstones it didn't reach me until last month. It was Powers' second novel, and completes the set for me, and though interesting and as full of ideas as ever, it is probably not the best one to start with.......more


In Richard Powers’ first novel (Three Farmers On Their Way To A Dance), the author uses the subject of photography as a way into some of the topics he wants to discuss. And the dance that the farmers are heading to is a metaphor for the more macabre dance that was The First World War. Here, in Priso......more


Richard Powers is a genius. I love his books, but this one is by far my favorite. It may be a bit confusing for some, but SO worth it. I did not want this book to end. I wanted to be a part of the Hobson family, despite their difficulties. I loved his references to utopia topics like Disneyland, It'......more


Another mindboggling Powers book. The story of a young man that is caught between the twin promises of unbridled progress (the 1939 World Fair in New York) and total annihilation (the 1945 atomic bomb). The cognitive dissonance between these opposed destinies condenses in a moral conundrum that is e......more

Simon Robs

to be cont.'tell me how free I am'


On its simplest level (and that's not very simple) this is a family drama about a somewhat idiosyncratic family. Dad is a history teacher who lost teaching jobs (while winning most beloved teacher of the year awards) either because he questioned events a bit too much or because he had an "episode" i......more

Sarah K.

I really liked it, but I still don't know why. I could read this book 20 times and still not catch everything he gets in there. Somewhat stream of consciousness, the book covers a family, plus a steadily mentally deteriorating father, plus Walt Disney's involvement in Japanese internment camps? Powe......more


I found this book to be a lot like The Corrections: if you enjoy verbose verbose description of the Human Condition and banal, annoying family members quibbling with each other for 300+ pages, then this is the book for you.

At this point in my life, I can affirm I don't need to read any m......more


Powers uses game theory to try to answer age-old questions about human nature, humanity, etc. It’s a fabulous book, one I wouldn’t have appreciated 10 or 20 years ago, but one that moved me to tears now that I’m old as dirt and in a constant state of despair.

I can’t possibly review this......more

About the author(Richard Powers)

has published thirteen novels. He is a MacArthur Fellow and received the National Book Award. His most recent book,

, won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. He lives in the Great Smoky Mountains.

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