|This short novel lives up to its name: it really is about a blind
geometer! Carlos Oleg Nevsky was born blind and ``since 2043'' has
been a professor of mathematics at GWU. We get some interesting
discussion of the advantages/disadvantages a blind person might have
in picturing the abstract spaces that concern modern geometers. We
also get a little bit of real mathematics in the form of an
introduction to projective geometry and one of its elementary
results, Desargues's Theorem (including a reasonable proof in the
affine case and a hand-waving approach when infinity is involved).
The villain in this story is Carlos' colleague Jeremy Blasingame:
|(quoted from The Blind Geometer)|
I never did like Jeremy Blasingame. He had been a colleague for a few
years, and his office was six doors down from mine. It seemed to me
that he was one of those people who are fundamentally uncomfortable
around the blind; and it's always the blind person's job to put these
people at their ease, which gets to be a pain in the ass. (In fact, I
usually ignore the problem.) Jeremy always watched me closely (you
can tell this by voice) and it was clear that he found it hard to
believe that I was one of the co-editors of Topological
Geometry, a journal he submitted to occasionally. But he was a
good mathematician, and a fair topologist, and we had published some
of his submissions, so that he and I remained superficially friendly.
Still, he was always probing, always picking my brains. At this time
I was working hard on the geometry of n-dimensional manifolds
and some of the latest results from CERN and SLAC and the big new
accelerator on Oahu wer fitting into the work in an interesting way;
it appeared that certain sub-atomic particles were moving as if in a
multi-dimensional manifold, and I had Sullivan and Wu and some of the
other physicists from these places asking questions about my work in
multi-dimensional geometries. With them I was happy to talk, but with
Jeremy I couldn't see the point. Certain speculations I once made in
conversation with him later showed up in one of his paers; and it just
seemed to me that he was looking for help without actually saying so.
The plot thickens when Jeremy puts Carlos in touch with the beautiful,
sexy and mysterious ``subject'' Mary who cannot speak normally and
draws pictures of projective space.
There are a few clever science fiction aspects here, it's kind of cute
the way the sections are labelled like the diagram proving the
theorem, and I enjoyed
the presentation of the mathematics, but I found the resolution of the
mystery disappointing. (I think I am more focused on the end of
books and stories than some other people since I am often disappointed
in this way. If the end of a story isn't the best part, it spoils the
whole thing for me.)
This story is too long to be a real short story and too short to be a
novel. It was published as ``Tor Double Novel 13'' along with Ursula
K. Le Guin's ``The New Atlantis''. Unfortunately, these double novels
are hard to find. (I don't think libraries like them much...where do
you shelve them?) I was able to find my copy at one of the online
used book services.
Thanks to Ken Miller for pointing out that this story is also available in
The Mammoth Book of Modern Science Fiction : Short Novels of the 1980s
Awards 23, which are not readily available for purchase but are at
least more likely to be in your local library.
Dear Prof. Kasman,
an even more near-lying source for that novel would be
"The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson", Night Shade Books.
(I just tripped over it at the local public lib.)
A short review: I rather like my SF hard, rock-hard,
PSpace hard :-) This doesn't necessarily mean aliens
and time machines and robots and all that, but rather
that it's, just as math, Axiomatic. (Which reminds me BTW
that Greg Egans selfsame-named short story collection needs
to be included on your site for the title alone :-)
Robinson is rather from the literary than the idea dept.
(see Wiki) - in *very* short stories he doesn't excel,
as I see from the above-mentioned anthology.
"The Blind Geometer", which is markedly longer in
comparison to the rest, definitively is one of the best
stories in that book. The protagonist is greatly
characterized. The math is not *that* specific, though.
Desargues, whatever. (I would have inserted an allusion
to Bernard Morin instead.)