a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|Like 1984, We is a book about a utopia gone wrong. In fact, it is acknowledged as a source which Orwell used when writing his more famous dystopian novel. (We was written in Russian in 1921, published in English in 1924, published in Russian in 1952 in New York, and only finally published in Russia in 1988.)
The main character of the book, a mathematician named D-503, must come to grips with his love for the intriguing I-330 (lovely name, don't you think?) who gets him thinking more about "I" (the selfish self) than "We" (the OneState).
Unfortunately, I can't say I find it too interesting to read. (I have only read the sections reprinted in Imaginary Numbers.) The math in the book is all "pseudo-math". Here's a sample:
(Note: these quotes were taken from Nik Weaver's "Math in Fiction" website. You can go there for his review of We and some other mathematically oriented books.)
An anonymous visitor to this site (known as "D") had this to say: "This novel is a great literary piece of writing and should not be judged on its mathematical content, or you will fall into the satirical trap of the novel. The whole point to the novel is that reason and math are not good foundations upon which to build a society. One should judge this novel by its philosophical stance if anything, not on how mathematical it is."
Another anonymous visitor said "We is a far more complex novel than 1984 if you truly analyze it's content. It is a fantastic piece of literature, and this must have been realized by Orwell when he stole most of Zamyatin's ideas. Overall, We is a great work if you are at all interested in analyzing a piece of literature."
An AOL visitor named "Lispeth" comments: "We has its problems, but it is clear in its philosophical message: Man's freedom cannot be crushed in the name of `reason,' and revolution must always occur. This is far more important than the book's use of math. Besides, if you are willing to think a little more abstractly, the mathematical imagery is really quite elegant."
Another anonymous visitor to this site tells us: "I am required to read this book for my IB English III class at school. Some people just don't understand the literary aspects of a novel until they are exposed to an instance in which they are required to deconstruct an entire work, evaluating imagery, characterization, theme, symbolism, etc. You cannot get caught up in the surface meaning, you have to further examine the work in order to appreciate it to its fullest extent. Please don't judge this book by the simple mathematical content, but look at it further and understand what it is really saying."
"Adam" says: "Those complaining about the pseudo-math are missing the point. That said, know that Zamyatin was a professor of Naval Engineering. He obviously would have known all this stuff like the back of his hand. If the mathematical language is sketchy, take it as a conscious choice on the author's part."
|Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com.|
|(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)|
May 2016: I am experimenting with a new feature which will print a picture of the cover and a link to the Amazon.com page for a work of mathematical fiction when it is available. I hope you find this useful and convenient. In any case, please write to let me know if it is because I would be happy to either get rid of it or improve it if that would be better for you. Thanks! -Alex
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)