a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Nature of Smoke (1996)
Anne Harris

Science fiction thriller combining genetic engineering and chaos theory. The math is not presented in a way that conveys any real meaning to the reader, but perhaps some feeling for the beauty of math comes across in passages such as:

(quoted from The Nature of Smoke)

"I remember when I took my first course in chaos theory, as an undergrad at Yale-Tech. That course changed my life. Up until then, I was in a program: molecular biology with an emphasis on experimental gene therapy...but then I took that course in chaos theory. I remember the day I finally got it, really grasped the implications of concepts like feedback and self-similarity across scales....After class I walked from the darkened lecture hall out into a bright spring afternoon. the sky above was a brilliant blue, dotted with white clouds that were relfected in the pond beside the walk. I stood there, staring at images of water vapor reflected off of the surface of liquid water. And there were swans in the pond, and every once in a while one of them would swim across a cloud, breaking the image into fragments that gradually re-formed in her wake. They broke the symmetry, you see? Sky and pond would have been identical without them, but nothing is ever completely identical. There's always some modification from one frame of phase space to the next. Reality consists of a nested series of broken symmetries. Pattern is only half of the picture; the other half is disorder, unpredictable and reliable. I felt I was just beginning to grasp how pattern could be omnipresent -- interwoven with disorder into the fabric of reality -- when my backpack slid off my shoulder, and I bent over to pick it up. My cellular bio folder had fallen out and spilled a series of electron microscope photos from the labe section. they were aggregates of white book cells, and they resembled nothing more than clouds in a sunny spring sky...Well that was when the world turned inside out for me, because I realized that everything I saw was inside me, mirrored in the structures of my body down to the minutest particle and reflrected back outwards, probably to infinity."

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Works Similar to The Nature of Smoke
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Immune Dreams by Ian Watson
  2. Les Particules élémentaires [Elementary Particles] by Michel Houellebecq
  3. Unreasonable Effectiveness by Alex Kasman
  4. Tre per zero by T. Sclavi (writer) / B. Brindisi (artist)
  5. Strange Attractors by Charles Soule (author) / Greg Scott (Illustrator)
  6. The Hollow Man by Dan Simmons
  7. Pi by Darren Aronofsky (director)
  8. Unstable Orbits in the Space of Lies by Greg Egan
  9. Improbable by Adam Fawer
  10. A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions by Kim Stanley Robinson
Ratings for The Nature of Smoke:
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:
2/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
2/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifMath as Beautiful/Exciting/Useful,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)