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.

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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 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. The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
  3. Rough Strife by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
  4. Orpheus Lost: A Novel by Janette Turner Hospital
  5. 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein
  6. The Embalmer's Book of Recipes by Ann Lingard
  7. Rites of Love and Math by Edward Frenkel / Reine Graves
  8. Zilkowski's Theorem by Karl Iagnemma
  9. Continuums by Robert Carr
  10. Mefisto: A Novel by John Banville
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)
..
Literary Quality:
5/5 (1 votes)
.

Categories:
Genre
MotifFemale Mathematicians, Romance,
Topic
MediumNovels,

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Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)