This book makes a fascinating case that genius is a function of time and not giftedness, validating both Edison's famous saw about 98% perspiration and Feynman's claim that there is no such thing as intelligence, only interest.
First off, the Edison quote is "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." This is not to say that inspiration (presumed here to be a product of giftedness) is somehow dispensible. Both are required, so you can't really say that the 1% component is somehow irrelevant.
The difference is shown to result from an astonishing lack of charisma and a sense of what others are thinking in Langen, and an extreme personability in Oppenheimer, which is said to show that success is not a function of hard work or even genius but more of likability and the ability to empathize.
Sounds like Langen may have had Asperger's Syndrome, or another similar disorder. It also sounds like Gladwell is cherry-picking his anecdotes to amplify his point.
The fact that Asian languages in many cases use shorter and more logical words for numbers confers a strong early advantage[...]
Shorter, I can buy. More logical is a subjective assessment based on criteria we're not privy to. As this is being debated in other threads, I can only conclude that I'm not the only person who finds this claim suspect. While some are attempting to play the role of apologist for this viewpoint, it's not clear to me which of their arguments is the one that Gladwell is using to justify this statement. Furthermore, the comparison with metric units vs. English units isn't very illuminating -- lots of people I know would prefer doing engineering calculations in English units rather than metric, and in truth, the ease of unit conversion in the metric system isn't such a huge advantage in the real world when doing such calculations. The problems always seem to come in when conversions are happening between systems of units (e.g., going from English to metric).
It is bound to bear out in the minds of many Prof. Richard Feynman's assertion, which we may modify to say that giftedness and IQ are not inherent but conferred by accidents or benefits of culture, or at least via mechanisms that are not obvious.
Which also completely ignores many studies that show that there is a genetic component to IQ. While IQ is variable, with environment playing a substantial role, it's well established that environment is not the sole factor in intellectual development. According to some studies, the contribution of genetics to IQ is as much as 75% (i.e., 75% of all IQ variances can be attributed to genetic differences). I think the reviewer here may be conflating "success" (what the book is about) with "intelligence" (i.e., giftedness and IQ, which seem to be prerequisites for success but which the book argues are not the dominant factors).
It has also been said many times, here on Slashdot and elsewhere, that IQ is the best single predictor of future success -- this seems to be derived from The Bell Curve by Herrnstein and Murray. This claim has been attacked numerous times, so I'll leave it to the statistics folks to argue that one. But you can't just ignore the study altogether.
On a closing note, the review could stand a few extra commas in strategic locations, and maybe some thoughtful reordering of a few sentences to make them clearer.