MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Steep Approach to Garbadale (2007)
Iain Banks
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Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for literati.

Alban McGill is a reluctant member of a family whose wealth is derived from the creation of an immensely popular board game. The three main plots of the novel (which are intertwined) concern his childhood romance with his first cousin, the question of whether the family will sell out to an American corporation, and the family secret that has greatly influenced Alban's life, none of which are remotely mathematical.

However, one of the main characters in the book is Verushka Graef, a mathematician specializing in the geometry of tilings and survivor of the 2004 tsunami, who happens to be Alban's current girlfriend. They met when (on a whim) Alban attended a lecture on game theory that was part of a math conference in the hotel where he happened to be staying. Nothing is said about her actual research, though she does try to have a discussion with Alban's family about the philosophy of mathematics via the question "Where are the numbers?"

However, as there is no real math discussed in the book, the primary interest of the book from the mathematical fiction point of view is in the presentation of the character of the mathematician.

Fortunately, she is not a stereotype but rather a fully fleshed out and interesting character. She is athletic, has spiky blonde hair which she sometimes dyes jet black. Alban's family also has an interesting reaction to the description of this woman who does math and climbs mountains, as if those three things are incompatible. VG (as Alban calls her) is thoughtful and smart, but not unbelievably so. Well, at least that was the way I saw her. The Guardian Review of the book describes her as more of a "dream girl":

Contributed by Stuart Jeffries, Guardian

..a maths professor called Verushka Graef, whom Banks concedes is "something of a middle-aged man's wish fulfilment" (she's blonde, brainy, fit, self-contained, undemanding, likes oriental carpets, as does Banks, likes mountain climbing and casual sex, and is sceptical about commitment and having children).

It should be noted that this is by the same author who writes science fiction under the name "Iain M. Banks", whose novels include The Algebraist, described elsewhere on this website.

Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com. Amazon.com logo
(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 The Steep Approach to Garbadale
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks
  2. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  3. The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
  4. 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein
  5. Orpheus Lost: A Novel by Janette Turner Hospital
  6. Rough Strife by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
  7. The Capacity for Infinite Happiness by Alexis von Konigslow
  8. Zilkowski's Theorem by Karl Iagnemma
  9. Rites of Love and Math by Edward Frenkel / Reine Graves
  10. Continuums by Robert Carr
Ratings for The Steep Approach to Garbadale:
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:
1/5 (1 votes)
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Literary Quality:
5/5 (1 votes)
.

Categories:
Genre
MotifFemale Mathematicians, Romance,
Topic
MediumNovels,

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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)