a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Little People (2002)
Tom Holt
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

Contributed by "William E. Emba"

Tom Holt is generally considered one of the masters of comic fantasy. His humour is apparently too British, though, since he hasn't had an American publisher for quite some time. The British-only editions have to be sought specifically in the States. (The biggest US distributor of British books is Trafalgar Square.)

Holt's usual gimmick consists of having the protagonist discovering that some well-known bit of mythology or folklore is genuine, although not exactly in the form everyone knows it. While highly cliche, Holt has done it very well repeatedly. LITTLE PEOPLE is possibly his weakest, perhaps because it takes several dark turns that jar unpleasantly with his usual light touch.

The little people of the title turn out to be elves. These elves are, to a large extent, stereotypical supergeniuses at mathematics and physics who lack most forms of common sense. Along the way, they do the protagonist's high school homework, and its sheer revolutionary brilliance turns out to be important to the novel's plot. Mathematical touches run through most of the novel, most blatantly when one of the elves, out of boredom, writes down a simple solution to Fermat's Last Theorem.

The mathematical content is, unfortunately, one of the novel's weaknesses. It doesn't feel mathematical, and after each invocation, disappears as if it was never there in the first place.

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Works Similar to Little People
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Barking by Tom Holt
  2. The Better Mousetrap by Tom Holt
  3. Math Takes a Holiday by Paul Di Filippo
  4. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
  5. Flatterland: like Flatland, only more so by Ian Stewart
  6. Incomplete Proofs by John Chu
  7. Bonnie's Story: A Blonde's Guide to Mathematics by Janis Hill
  8. Danny’s Inferno by Albert Cowdrey
  9. Lost in the Math Museum by Colin Adams
  10. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Ratings for Little People:
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:
2/5 (1 votes)

GenreHumorous, Fantasy,
MotifGenius, Math Education,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)