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In the Courts of the Sun (2009)
Brian D\'Amato

A modern descendant of the Mayans and his former mentor (a game theorist) realize that the famous Mayan prediction that the world will end in the year 2012 is based on some seemingly reasonable math, and so his consciousness is sent back in time to inhabit the body of the Mayan king to figure out how to stop it. However, things do not quite go according to plan. For instance, he mistakenly ends up in the body of a person about the be ritually sacrificed.

Thanks to John C. Konrath for suggesting this book to me. So far, neither of us has read it, but from a brief visit to what I've been able to work out so far is:

  • The key point is apparently that game theory can predict the future. In reality, it only is a method for selecting an optimal strategy, not what will actually happen. True, economists seem to make predictions of what will happen by using game theory combined with the assumption that humans will act rationally, but lately that does not seem to have worked well. Moreover, it really strains credulity for me to imagine that this would allow the prediction of natural phenomena or the location of Disney World!
  • The ``game'' part of game theory seems to be taken literally here, rather than metaphorically. In other words, the sacrificial games that the ancients played were not just sport but part of this system of predicting the future.
  • Math certainly does get discussed throughout the book, though I seriously doubt that any of it will seem remotely reasonable to me. Still, I kind of smiled when I noticed this quote:

    (quoted from In the Courts of the Sun)

    Damn it, I need tougher math on this stuff. More stochastics. Better curve fitting. Maybe some kind of Kolmogorovian-ass constraining function.

  • Some people love the book and some do not. It was suggested by a reviewer at Amazon that whether one likes it may depend on one's politics, with those having a more liberal leaning enjoying it more than those who lean conservative.
Well, I do hope to actually read it someday (not just scanning through it online) and will post more here once I do. However, if you've read it and can add additional information, please use the links below to contact me.

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Works Similar to In the Courts of the Sun
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Global Dawn by Deborah Gelbard
  2. Solar Lottery by Philip K. Dick
  3. Nymphomation by Jeff Noon
  4. Gaming Instinct (Spieltrieb) by Juli Zeh
  5. The Three-Body Problem by Cixim Liu (author) / Ken Liu (translator)
  6. Risqueman by Mike Wood
  7. The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman
  8. River of Gods by Ian McDonald
  9. The Chimera Prophesies by Elliott Ostler
  10. The Ah of Life by Banks Helfrich (Writer and Director)
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GenreScience Fiction,
MotifTime Travel, Future Prediction through Math,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)