a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|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. Note that the author also wrote two sequels and the entire trilogy is available in electronic form as The Basilisk Conspiracy.
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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.)|
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)