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Neverness (1988)
David Zindell
Highly Rated!

Contributed by Iwan Praton, Franklin and Marshall.

"[In this book], the Order of Pilots tries to tackle the Continuum Hypothesis. It's a long, strange, complex story, but it seems pretty certain that the author had some mathematical training. He tries to describe a situation where the act of constructing a mathematical proof has a physical effect on one's surrounding (e.g., making a Ship go). There are lots of mathematical jargon, used convincingly."

Contributed by Gary Dalkin

"I'm not a mathematician, so I can't vouch for the autheticity of the maths in this work, but there is a lot of it and it is key to the storyline. The `pilots' essentially use maths to navigate through a form of hyperspace. As for literary quality, as a former judge of the Arthur C. Clarke Award I'd offer my opinion that this is one of the most engrossing and intriguing SF novels I've read. Though the follow-up, The Broken God, is even better."

Contributed by Neville Pereira

"A Tour de Force! Zindell discards all the traditional SF tropes and had produced a body of work that is highly literate, strong on character and story ultimately unique. An overlooked work that deserves a much wider readership."

As you can see, this book has developed quite a following. To some, it is clearly a great work of art. I must admit, however, that I found it entirely unreadable. After the first few chapters I had little interest in continuing, having developed no affection for the characters or belief in the "reality" that they occupy. I wish I could have read further so that I could comment here on the mathematics in the book, but I will have to leave that for our guests. For example:

Contributed by Jake Kesinger, Texas Technical University.

Note: "The Continuum Hypothesis from _Neverness_ is not the Continuum Hypothesis of modern theory, but instead a statement on mappings and fixed points. There's a line in the book where the protagonist comments on this."

Contributed by Sarah-Marie Belcastro

The first hundred pages are really boring. It's simultaneously really sexist and semi-enlightened. I get the feeling that the author is trying to make a positive social comment, but failing. For example, almost every female character is described sexually, and the first several examples of female characters are courtesans. On the other hand, many societies are matriarchal, and the god-like character is female. Still, there's a mild slam at female mathematicians. This sort of commentary goes away after the first hundred and fifty pages, or so. In 450 pages, almost no specific mathematical concepts referenced, just lots of mathematical language used. Despite the fact that Ian Stewart lists (in Annotated Flatland) the book as one that uses dimensionality concepts, I couldn't find any.

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Works Similar to Neverness
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Paradox by John Meaney
  2. The Mathenauts by Norman Kagan
  3. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
  4. Schild's Ladder by Greg Egan
  5. Tangents by Greg Bear
  6. Contact by Carl Sagan
  7. Distress by Greg Egan
  8. The Exception by Alex Kasman
  9. The Girl with the Celestial Limb by Pauline Melville
  10. The Blind Geometer by Kim Stanley Robinson
Ratings for Neverness:
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:
3.43/5 (16 votes)
Literary Quality:
4.41/5 (17 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifProving Theorems,
TopicFictional Mathematics,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)