a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|This novel begins as a familiar farce in which mathematicians are gathered by the government to decipher a message from space. However, in this case, the story soon turns into a romance between a human mathematician and a jellyfish-like extra-terrestrial mathematician. Although the team of mathematicians attempting to decode an alien message is a familiar storyline in this database (see here, here and here), the romance is unique -- and just a little kinky.
In the story, the mathematicians from all over the world are gathered at Cambridge University. Many stereotypes (not only of mathematicians, but ethnic and national stereotypes as well) are utilized. These lower my overall opinion of the book, but some readers may find them entertaining. Additionally, although the author thanks many people for advising her on the mathematics, the mathematical ideas are not well described or thought out. The way the message was encoded and the way the team decipher it do not make much sense at all.
Spoilers follow, so if you plan to read this novel, you might want to stop reading this review now.
The main character is Connie, a red-headed British mathematician who appears to be simultaneously respected for her research and mostly remembered for a one-night stand she had at a conference years ago. Another member of the team is Luke, who is presented as being quite odd indeed. One character remarks that he is the most "mathematical" person she ever met, by which I guess we are supposed to understand that being odd and being mathematical are equivalent. (Ugh.) As it turns out, Luke is an alien who is wanted on his planet for a (supposedly well-intentioned) act of terrorism. The message being decoded is from the aliens who are about to arrive on Earth to take him home to be executed. However, Luke and Connie fall in love, a love that not only survives but gets stronger when she sees him take on his true form. Their love is sometimes conveyed mathematically, such as when he says he feels about her the way he feels about Euler's equation or that she is "1" and he is ".9999 repeating".
When Luke's true nature was revealed, I thought that maybe meant that his bizarre and stereotypically geeky behavior could be attributed to him being an alien rather than promoting mathematician stereotypes. However, when Connie meets another alien who is much more normal, he explains that Luke is weird because he is a math nerd. Oh, well.
As far as I know, this novel has only been published in the UK. Perhaps its style of humor (featuring the British P.M. embarrassing himself in his first address to the aliens) is particularly popular there right now. I obtained an imported copy and found that it did not quite work for me. If you read this book and would like to either recommend or complain about it, please use the links below and I'll paste your comments here!
|Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com.|
|(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.)|
Exciting News: The total number of works of mathematical fiction listed in this database recently reached a milestone. The 1,500th entry is The Man of Forty Crowns by Voltaire. Thanks to Vijay Fafat for writing the summary of that work (and so many others). I am also grateful to everyone who has contributed to this website. Heck, I'm grateful to everyone who visited the site. Thank you!
(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)