|I think the best description of this book is Naked Lunch
meets The Wild Numbers, with a cameo appearance by
Donald Duck's nephews. Happily, this book has recently been rereleased
(2001) in a new format (without the mathematical subtitle, which I suppose
it is feared might scare away readers.) Like many other Rucker books, I
feel as if the hype on the jacket and foreward are ridiculously over the
top. IMHO, they go too far in praising Rucker and overstate influence of this book...but that doesn't mean I don't like the book. In fact, I think it is
an enjoyable read and a really great example of mathematical fiction.
The plot concerns mathematician Felix Rayman, whose bizarre out of body
experiences are nightmarishly related to his research into Cantor's
continuum hypothesis. Now, I'm not sure exactly how much this is really
autobiographical, but Rucker admit's in the "afterword" that he actually
had a position at the university described in the book, and that his own
attempt to address the continuum problem led nowhere...except to writing
this book which I suppose was the start of his successful writing career.
I don't know if someone unfamiliar with the logic of transfinite cardinals
would be able to really understand what "Aleph-null" is after reading this
book, nor why this infinite number is still too small to describe the how many real
numbers there are, but if you already know (or can look it up in a set
theory book somewhere) then this psychedelic journey to infinity and back
can be a lot of fun.
While perhaps interesting to a layperson, it is only truly enjoyable for a mathematician. Very good fiction.