It is 1999 and Karim Issar is a Qatari programmer who has just moved to NYC to work on Wall Street. Karim understands the world through mathematics and equations, and wishes others did as well. He does not understand why people cannot correctly evaluate the relative fuel efficiencies of air versus automobile travel, and enjoys it when his romantic interest attempts to communicate in the form of an equation. He compares the lyrics of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen to the feeling one gets when mathematics reveals a hidden truth about the seeming chaos of the universe. And, he is able to write a computer program which successfully predicts oil prices based on political instabilities in different countries around the world.
It is this last bit, the program for predicting oil prices, which is the primary focus of the novel, but mathematical ideas permeate it, as do a somewhat typical "math nerd learns to be sociable" subplot and a nostalgia for a simpler pre9/11 worldview.
