a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Catch the Lightning [Lightning Strikes Vols. I-II] (1997)
Catherine Asaro
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

A 17 year-old girl from Los Angeles finds herself in a sexual/romantic relationship with a not-quite-human time-traveller in this book which continues the author's "Skolian saga".

The story is actually much more complicated than that summary suggests. For one thing, the time traveller realizes too late that he is moving not only through time but also between different universes. (He comes from a universe where the city of Los Angeles is in a country called the "United States of America", but in the universe where he meets the girl it is the "Federated States of America".) Moreover, it turns out that they have common ancestry in ancient Central America: she is of Mayan descent and he is descended from an ancient Native American culture whose people were taken aboard a space ship and over time evolved to live in another solar system.

But, what about math? Asaro likes writing about the use of complex-valued time variables in special relativity (a subject on which she also wrote a non-fictional article in the American Journal of Physics) and about the branch cuts between different sheets in a Riemann surface. Here, these ideas are used to explain both how he travels through time and how he ended up in a "different universe". Moreover, his mother, it turns out, was a mathematician (before she became a pharaoh) and developed a mathematical transform between physical space and a sort of psychic space (called "Kyle space" in the book).

This work was originally published as a single book by Tor but in 2022 the author tells me a modified version will soon be re-released by Open Road in two volumes under the title "Lightning Strikes". [Note: It was the two volume "Lightning Strikes" version which I have read, and I am not positive whether any of the things I mention above were different in the original.]

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Works Similar to Catch the Lightning [Lightning Strikes Vols. I-II]
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The Smithsonian Institution by Gore Vidal
  2. Gödel Incomplete by Martha Goddard (Writer and Director)
  3. Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro
  4. Bonnie's Story: A Blonde's Guide to Mathematics by Janis Hill
  5. Spherical Harmonic by Catherine Asaro
  6. The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke / Stephen Baxter
  7. The Bones of Time by Kathleen Ann Goonan
  8. Aurora in Four Voices by Catherine Asaro
  9. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman
  10. Beyond Infinity by Gregory Benford
Ratings for Catch the Lightning [Lightning Strikes Vols. I-II]:
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)

GenreScience Fiction, Romance,
MotifAliens, Time Travel, Romance,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Mathematical Physics,

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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)