MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Electric (2004)
Chad Taylor
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Three of the characters in this novel are mathematicians. Sam is a former statistician who now works at a successful Auckland data retrieval company. Because he is attracted to the hydrodynamic equations that he spots on one disk, he pretends to be a courier so that he can meet the person to whom the beautiful equations belong. In this way he meets Jules and Candy, both mathematicians. Candy works with wave equations and turbulence with the goal of creating a better propeller. Jules is a lecturer in math at the university who is clearly involved in some "extra-curricular activities" that are mathematical and dangerous.

Despite all of this math in the background, most of their relationship (and most of the novel) is instead about drugs. From this book, one would get the impression that everyone in New Zealand is a serious drug addict. The book takes a suspenseful turn when Candy disappears, Jules is found beaten into a coma, and Sam decides to "play detective". Strange things happen, and the reader may begin to feel that some of it is a consequence of Sam's cocaine induced paranoia. Sadly, the mathematics does not end up playing a serious role in the resolution of the "mystery" (such as it is), but instead seems to be a metaphor for something...I'm not sure exactly what.

The most mathematical part of the book is the discussion of the hydrodynamic formulas. (They are presented explicitly, which is nice, but the discussion is not quite accurate. For instance, despite the claim in the book, shallow water waves are dispersive, but the nonlinearity and the dispersion combine to allow for solitary waves....I'm getting too technical, right? Sorry.) Other than that there are just vague references to chaos, using algorithms to improve images obtained from spy satellites, numbers on tickets from a car wash, etc.

Thanks to Olivier Gerard for suggesting this book.

Contributed by Chad Taylor

Analysing novels for their mathematical content is a great idea - well done. My thanks for mentioning my novel ELECTRIC. Any errors therein are entirely mine: as an author I was pushing myself to understand more.

In ELECTRIC [the mathematics of] turbulence is intended as a metaphor for the characters' unstable lives as well as a symbol of their futile attempts to rationalise their emotions. In the latter, the characters fail: their drug use is an expression of their despair.

Your reviewer correctly observes that by the end of the novel the characters observe the world in numerical terms regardless of value - "vague references, etc". This illogic is a direct result of their lifestyle. Their thoughts are reflections in a shallow basin, as it were.

Kind regards,
Chad Taylor (www.chadtaylor.co.nz)

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Works Similar to Electric
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Visiting Professor by Robert Littell
  2. All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen
  3. The Crimson Cipher by Susan Page Davis
  4. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  5. Flame War: A Cyberthriller by Joshua Quittner / Michelle Slatalla
  6. Qui perd gagne! by Laurent Bénégui (Director)
  7. Hickory Dickory Shock! The Tale of Techies by Sundip Gorai
  8. Fermat's Room (La Habitacion de Fermat) by Luis Piedrahita / Rodrigo Sopeña
  9. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows by Guy Ritchie (director)
  10. Deep Lay the Dead by Frederick C. Davis
Ratings for Electric:
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:
2/5 (1 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
3/5 (1 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreMystery, Adventure/Espionage,
MotifFemale Mathematicians,
TopicComputers/Cryptography, Chaos/Fractals,
MediumNovels,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)