a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|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 pre-9/11 worldview.
This is an interesting novel and a good read. It is set before 9/11 and the financial crisis but addresses both of these. I've rated math as central to the work because the novel hinges on a mathematical computer program that the central character devises and on what happens to this. Mathematics, how it's used and who owns it drive the narrative.
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(Maintained by Alex Kasman,
College of Charleston)