MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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In The Country of the Blind (1990)
Michael Flynn
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)
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Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for hardcore fans of science fiction.

Sarah Beaumont escaped from the modern American ghetto to become a successful journalist, programmer and real estate investor. However, while investigating an idea for developing her latest real estate purchase, she makes a stunning discovery: since the 19th century the course of history has been under the control of one of more groups of powerful and mysterious "cliologists" who use mathematics to predict the future. Like the "psychohistory" of Isaac Asimov's Foundation stories, cliology is supposed to be able to make use of mathematical analysis of sociological factors in such a way that our 19th century mathematicians were able to predict World War II. Unfortunately, in trying to get America ready to fight the Nazis, they accidentally started the Civil War!

Only a small portion of the book takes place in the 19th century when these early cliologists use their Babbage Analytical Engines to make their predictions. Most takes place "now" while Sarah avenges the death of her friends at the hands of the cliologists.

There is some mathematical terminology thrown around in the story from time to time, which gives the supposed "research" of the cliologists some believability. In addition, there is some good background on the early history of the mathematical foundations of computer science and the role of mathematical models. But, in fact, most of the math in this book comes at the end, in the form of an appendix on the mathematics of history. This is presented as non-fiction, admitting that there is no real field of cliology (so far), but offering many pages of examples to convince us that it could be real. From simple statistical analysis of data on the frequency of the outbreak of war to more complex topological analysis of cultural boundaries, we see a (not entirely rigorous) introduction to the sorts of ideas that could forma basis for cliology.

This book is based on short stories that the author published previously. In the short stories, the science of cliology was called "psychohistory", but the name has been changed here since psychohistory is often used to mean the study of history from a psychological perspective.

Contributed by "mroman"

I thought the book as fiction was pretty bad. The central idea is great, but the story itself long, tedious and no real ending to it. However, I thought the essay on Cliohistory which followed was one of the most fascinating things I've ever read. People should get the book, ignore the story, and just focus on the essay.

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(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.)

Works Similar to In The Country of the Blind
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Strange Attractors by Charles Soule (author) / Greg Scott (Illustrator)
  2. The Imaginary by Isaac Asimov
  3. Georgia on My Mind by Charles Sheffield
  4. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  5. The Rock by Robert Doherty
  6. Psychohistorical Crisis by Donald Kingsbury
  7. The Dark Side of the Sun by Terry Pratchett
  8. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn
  9. The Chimera Prophesies by Elliott Ostler
  10. The Difference Engine by William Gibson / Bruce Sterling
Ratings for In The Country of the Blind:
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:
2.67/5 (3 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
3/5 (3 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreHistorical Fiction, Science Fiction,
MotifFuture Prediction through Math,
TopicComputers/Cryptography,
MediumNovels,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)