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The Happy Numbers of Julius Miles (2013)
Jim Keeble

The characters in this twisted tale include a transexual "Cupid" with a drug problem, a crooked businessman, a Somali babysitter, a four-year old boy of unknown paternity, a London police officer, the beautiful but unsuccessful owner of an antiques shop, and Julius Miles, a nerd of a giant who works for the NHS as a hospital statistician.

The title refers to happy numbers, which are positive integers with the property that iterating the process of squaring and summing the digits eventually terminates in the number 1. [At least, that is the simplest case. The idea has been generalized in papers by number theorists who consider iterating more general processes on the digits in different bases.] This mathematical idea arises initially in an anecdote about a former teacher who introduced him to the idea, but is effectively (if not also obviously) utilized throughout as a metaphor for a person's happiness. There are also some intriguing mathematical questions posed on a special test that is given to Julius along with other former IMO contestants. Otherwise, the role of mathematics in the story is really to provide us with an understanding of Julius, his anti-social behavior, and his worldview.

International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). (NB Contrary to what the book claims, the IMO is not a contest for university students representing a particular college but rather for high school students representing a country.)

I am quite tired of the mathematical stereotype portrayed. (I cannot say I have ever met a real mathematician quite like this, though it appears so often in fiction that someone who knows no better should be forgiven for thinking that most mathematicians are like that.) Still, unlike some other works with similar characters, I never really felt like giving up and stayed interested in the plot all the way until the end. Its uniqueness is probably its best feature of this book. In fact, I am having trouble identifying which tags to apply to this work. It is a bit of a murder mystery, in a strange way, and almost but not quite a fantasy. I can honestly say that this is the best book narrated by a drug-addicted transexual "Cupid" that I have ever read!

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Works Similar to The Happy Numbers of Julius Miles
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Long Division by Michael Redhill
  2. Casebook by Mona Simpson
  3. The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
  4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  5. The Geometry of Sisters by Luanne Rice
  6. The Princess Hoppy or the Tale of Labrador by Jacques Roubaud
  7. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  8. The Mathematics of Nina Gluckstein by Esther Vilar
  9. Orpheus Lost: A Novel by Janette Turner Hospital
  10. The Forever Marriage by Ann Bauer
Ratings for The Happy Numbers of Julius Miles:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
3/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)

MotifAnti-social Mathematicians, Romance,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)