a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
Perhaps it is not fair of me to use different standards for different books, but I can't help thinking ``For a Doctor Who book, this is not bad mathematical fiction!'' (In other words, it may not be the greatest science fiction novel ever, but what do you expect for a novel based on a BBC series known for being cheesy?) [For those who care, let me add that this novel involves the seventh Doctor and his popular side-kick, Ace.]
I think it is worth mentioning that the two mathematician characters in the book represent some of the worst stereotypes: one is an anti-social nerd who has to take anti-psychotic medicine to avoid hallucinations and the other, while not totally unethical, is working for `the bad guys' and is prone to saying things like
to justify the torture of his colleague.
In addition to the mathematical topics mentioned by Vijay Fafat above (e.g. entropy, Riemann Hypothesis, rationality, etc.) an interesting theme of the book is the connection between music and math. In particular, a musical piece created out of primes in the same way that Pythagorean harmonics are created from multiplicative inverses of sequential integers is literally `key' to the plot.
I dislike the Doctor's suggestion at one point that humanity is about to enter a mathematical dark age following the death of Paul Erdős, ``the last great abstract thinker''. Not intending to insult Erdős, who did lots of really interesting things in combinatorics, but this really elevates him beyond what is reasonable while simultaneously undervaluing the talents of every other living mathematician.
Finally, let me also mention that this book mistakenly remarks that Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem was not entirely valid because it involved the use of computers. A similar remark appeared in The Last Theorem, and I am supposing that my having seen it twice indicates that this is a common misconception. Probably, the confusion is caused by the fact that the Four-Color Theorem was proved using a computer to check a large number of cases, and some people do argue that this is not a valid proof. However, this was not an issue with Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. That proof involved lots of complicated mathematics, but it really is a traditional mathematical proof in which every claim is supported by a reasoned argument without resorting to ``computer experiments'' as evidence.
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|(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)|
Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)