a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|One of the three plot lines in this bizarre novel follows a mathematician who has made a (supposedly) horrific discovery.
Since there are no direct connections between the other two characters and the mathematics (AFAIK), I will only mention them briefly. One of the story lines concerns an ex-convict who is released from prison into a dystopian future Los Angeles and is haunted by memories of gruesome murders. The other is about a beautiful immigrant from South America who struggles to get by in what is presumably the "contemporary" Los Angeles of the 1980s when the book was written.
As for the mathematician, the strangely named Jack Mick Lake, he discovered a previously unknown number. Finding this to be disturbing, he flees to England where he behaves like a madman and eventually disproves the existence of reality...or something like that. Allow me to use a long excerpt to illustrate the way this is conveyed:
As a consequence of all of this, it seems to me that Lake has gone insane. (The official blurb for the book describes him as being "possessed by numerology".)
I have to admit that this reminds me of some other works of mathematical fiction that I consider to be among my favorites. In The Secret Number, a nice short story which was made into an even better short film, a mathematician discovers a previously unknown whole number between 3 and 4. And, in Division by Zero, a real masterpiece of mathematical fiction, a mathematician suffers from deep depression after proving that mathematics is flawed at its very foundation. But, I really could not enjoy or even understand what was going on in this mathematical passage from Rubicon Beach. Perhaps it is because this is supposed to be a critique of my own field, or because I'm taking it too literally (a stereotype of mathematicians in fiction), but I found the whole idea of Lake's "discovery" to be nonsensical and consequently had difficulty appreciating it at all.
The stories of the three characters do intersect in a weird, mystical sort of way. If you have read this novel and enjoyed it more than me, please write to let me know, and explain it to me if you can.
Much thanks to Thomas Riepe for bringing this book to my attention, since it certainly belongs in this database even if I didn't quite "get it".
|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)