a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Red Zen (2007)
Jason Earls
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A man travels to another planet in an attemp to resolve a bizarre memory problem in this absurdist science fiction novel. As in his other works, Earls includes tidbits of computational number theory. For instance, the protagonist encounters a magic square whose row sum is 666 and he attempts to memorizes the decimal expansions of transcendental numbers such as 22π+4e considering it part of his Buddhist religion. (Presumably, this is a pun on the mathematical and spiritual meanings of the word "transcendental"!)

It may seem as if these are rather trivial bits of mathematics (not important theorems or useful new definitions). Rather, it is what the author calls "recreational" mathematics. In fact, the book says

(quoted from Red Zen)

Math can be beautiful. But I like it better when it is campy or cheesy. The mathematical concepts and objects a real mathematician would think of as useless or silly are the ones I like best. Later I will give you examples of what I mean by campy math.

Later examples of such campy math is finding primes in the decimal expansion of 1/89 or a square array of digits which spells out "Red Zen" when the 9's are colored differently than the other digits and is used to build a prime number. (In an appendix he promises to build such a "textual prime" to make any picture or phrase that you might want.)

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Works Similar to Red Zen
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Self-Reference ENGINE by Toh EnJoe
  2. Borzag and the Numerical Apocalypse by Jason Earls
  3. Genghis Khan and 888 by Jason Earls
  4. The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
  5. I Sin Every Number by Jason Earls
  6. Mathematicians in Love by Rudy Rucker
  7. The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine by Greg Egan
  8. Euler's Equation by Neil Hudson
  9. 2+2=5 by Rudy Rucker / Terry Bisson
  10. The Secret Number by Igor Teper
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GenreHumorous, Science Fiction,
MotifMental Illness, Religion,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)