a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Numbers Don't Lie (2005)
Terry Bisson
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

This novel is actually just a compilation of three Wilson Wu short stories ("The Hole in the Hole", "The Edge of the Universe" and "Get Me to the Church on Time") which were previously published in Asimov's Magazine (in 1994, 1996 and 1998 respectively). The character of Wilson Wu is not the main protagonist of the stories, but is his constant mathematical and scientific advisor, always calling him on the cell phone, appearing on the nearest television, faxing him formulae, and promising to fly in on an antique aircraft to serve as best man at his wedding.

The stories are funny, but not deep, and the mathematics is nothing other than meaningless jargon. The handwritten mathematical formulas which appear throughout the book -- supposedly after having been okayed by Rudy Rucker -- are as meaningless as the "techno-babble" phrases that Wu tosses around. These are used to explain how there can be a shed at a junkyard on the Brooklyn-Queens border whose interior is actually on the moon, why time seems to be running backwards in Alabama, and why there no longer seem to be any delays at airports and restaurants in NYC.

The title and the cover which displays a picture of junked tires on the moon surrounded by butterflies and nicely typeset mathematical nonsense, had me hoping that this was going to be a nice piece of mathematical fiction. However, in the end I was not particularly impressed with either the fiction or the math. These are just drawn out jokes in which mathematical nonsense is just part of the punchline. I could have hoped for slightly more informed mathematical nonsense. For instance, it would have been nice if the formula that is supposed to say something about "curvature of space" had a Riemann tensor in it or something.

But, I'm being too picky. The stories are just supposed to be entertainment, and though I was not rolling on the floor laughing and certainly didn't learn anything, I must admit that the three silly stories kept me entertained while I was reading them.

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Works Similar to Numbers Don't Lie
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. 2+2=5 by Rudy Rucker / Terry Bisson
  2. A Deadly Medley of Smedley by Feargus Gwynplaine MacIntyre
  3. Monster by Alex Kasman
  4. Unreasonable Effectiveness by Alex Kasman
  5. Spaceland by Rudy Rucker
  6. The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
  7. The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells (Episode: The Truth about Pyecraft) by Chris Harrald (Script) / Clive Exton (Script) / Herbert George Wells (story)
  8. Mathematicians in Love by Rudy Rucker
  9. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
  10. Genghis Khan and 888 by Jason Earls
Ratings for Numbers Don't Lie:
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)

GenreHumorous, Science Fiction,
MotifTime Travel, Romance,
TopicMathematical Physics, Chaos/Fractals,
MediumNovels, Short Stories,

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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 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)