a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|A group of unusual friends go on a journey to Wales to meet with a healer who they hope can help each of them with their problems. The group consists of Luke (who is unable to go outside due to allergies to things including sunlight itself), Leanne (who believes she has the power to make her wishes come true), Charlotte (who feels guilt about her boyfriend's death), David (who has testicular cancer), Chantel (who has literally won the lottery), and the main character Julie (who is terrified of everything and has a secret crush on Charlotte).
Since this clever and entertaining book unsubtly warns the reader that it is a rip-off of The Wizard of Oz (with Julie as the Cowardly Lion, Luke being the Tin Man, Lianne the Wicked Witch, etc.), the happy ending did not come as a surprise. But, what did surprise me was that it turned out to be "mathematical fiction". Honestly, although the author has written two works of mathematical fiction that I enjoyed (click on her name above to see them), none of the descriptions I had read of this book made any mention of mathematics. And so, I read it with the intention of taking a break from mathematical fiction.
Math is briefly mentioned early on. Julie is described as being someone who enjoys doing homework problems and the certainty of mathematics:
Still, I did not consider this to be mathematical fiction. I only thought it was setting up her character so that we would be surprised when she intentionally fails her A Levels, ruining her chances of attending university.
Throughout the rest of the novel, we slowly learn how completely terrified Julie is. She is too afraid to drive on major highways, is afraid to eat prepackaged sandwiches since they may have been laced with LSD, hides in cupboards during lightning storms, etc. I have seen this sort of neurotic behavior in mathematician characters in fiction. (See, for example, Odds Against Tomorrow.) However, with only that one paragraph about enjoying "maths" homework, I was not really identifying Julie as being a mathematician.
Later in the novel, however, it is revealed that she thinks of herself as a mathematician. In fact, she works on solving famous open problems of mathematics even though she never attended college and works as a waitress:
There is a long discussion in which Julie and Charlotte discuss imaginary numbers. Actually, for quite a bit of it, Julie is merely trying to convince Charlotte that the product of two negative numbers would be positive:
For some reason, we are told that Julie sees numbers in different colors, a sort of synesthesia:
We also learn that she doesn't like perfect squares, apparently finding them too conceited.
Another odd thing about Julie which is somewhat mathematical is her strange reaction to the "many-worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics. Aside from seemingly treating this as a fact, rather than possible way that physicists have proposed to resolve the apparent paradoxes of quantum physics, she seems to think it means that everything has an equal probability of occurring. She specifically mentions the possibility that she would turn into a lemon in this regard (as well as the probability that the sandwich she purchased at a gas station would be laced with LSD). I suppose if one accepts the "many-worlds" interpretation literally, then it would say that low probability events do occur in some universe, and in that sense anything which is possible has a probability of 1 of occurring somewhere, but this would not change the fact that the probability of it occurring to this particular version of her in the universe which she is experiencing is still very low!
Now that I list all of these mathematical aspects of this book in one place, I see that it's actually a rather nice work of mathematical fiction, even if it reinforces the stereotype of the neurotic mathematician and even if I had been trying to take a break from math fiction when I read it.
|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.)|
Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books
let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.
(Maintained by Alex Kasman,
College of Charleston)
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)