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The Chimera Prophesies (2007)
Elliott Ostler
Highly Rated!

A mathematician known only as ``#6'', while trying to come up with a model that would predict probabilities for different human behaviors, finds that in fact he can very nearly predict the future with certainty. When he learns that others are going to use his theory for evil purposes, he enacts his own plan to foil theirs.

The author of the book is a professor of mathematics education who claims to have written the book to increase awareness and appreciation of mathematics. In fact, the protagonist's love of mathematics is made clear throughout the book and certainly his theory (though fictional) may serve to illustrate the potential power of mathematics. However, I think it is odd that he chose to portray #6 as liking applied math but being biased against theoretical mathematics and the concept of `proof'.

The writing is, at best, only `good'. Many of the different characters `speak' with the same voice, presumably that of the author, and the few who do not are almost laughable (such as #6's assistant who is prone to say things like `No way! You'll flip' and `You rock, man!'). The suspense kept me reading to the end, but never really thoroughly engaged my interest.

The descriptions of mathematics were good enough. I mean, there are references to probability, linear algebra, game theory and combinatorics, each of which sounds sensible on its own although of course together they would not allow one to predict human behavior. At one point, a supposedly key formula is listed which is the definition of a function of one variable as a quotient of definite integrals which looks odd since the variable never appears in the defintion.

Frequently, #6 apologizes for being too cynical and pessimistic. Perhaps I should as well, since my description of the book is not very complimentary. Perhaps I just read it at a bad time (I'm busy trying to prepare lecture notes for my classes that start in less than a month!) and would have sounded different under different circumstances. So, I encourage you to please check out this book for yourself and write in to let me know if you have a different impression of it than I do.

Thanks to Vijay Fafat for bringing this book to my attention.

Contributed by Trever Reeh

Great book, one of the best mathematical fiction books that I have read.

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Works Similar to The Chimera Prophesies
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. PopCo by Scarlett Thomas
  2. Psychohistorical Crisis by Donald Kingsbury
  3. Gaming Instinct (Spieltrieb) by Juli Zeh
  4. Pi by Darren Aronofsky (director)
  5. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  6. The Dark Side of the Sun by Terry Pratchett
  7. In The Country of the Blind by Michael Flynn
  8. The Boy Who Escaped Paradise by J.M. Lee (author) / Chi-Young Kim (translator)
  9. The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke / Frederik Pohl
  10. The Steradian Trail by M.N. Krish
Ratings for The Chimera Prophesies:
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:
4.33/5 (3 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (3 votes)

MotifCool/Heroic Mathematicians, Future Prediction through Math,
TopicMathematical Finance,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)