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Rucker - A Life Fractal by Eli Halberstam (1991)
John Allen Paulos

Like Lem's De Impossibilitate Vitae and Prognoscendi , this is a work of fiction that takes the form of a book review. (As Paulos explains in his introduction, "Reviewing [a] book which hasn't been written is considerably easier than writing it". )

The (fictional) author of the (non-existent) book "Rucker - A Life Fractal" is Fields Medalist Eli Halberstam and the character in the book is his fictional alterego "Rucker" (whose name is obviously inspired by Rudy Rucker, who has himself written many works listed on my website). The interactive structure of the story is supposed to reflect the "fractal" nature of consciousness.

(quoted from Rucker - A Life Fractal by Eli Halberstam)

The 3,200-page tome begins with middle-aged mathematics professor Rucker in his study puzzling through some tedious theorems associated with the well-known NP = P problem. The real novelty, however, is explained in the introduction where the reader (browser) is told that after reading a passage, one can proceed forward linearly, backtrack to a previous passage, or move horizontally by focusing on any major word or phrase in the passage, and then be directed to a further elaboration of it....

For example, Rucker idly picks his nose while thinking about his theorems, and if the reader chooses to follow up on this, he is directed to a page (on the disk version the alternatives are listed on a menu which appears at the bottom of the monitor) where Rucker's keen interest in proboscis probing is discussed at length...

Despite such narrative twists, it is the almost sentient matrix of diversion, digression, and horizontal movement within the work which vivifies Rucker and his exploits and which most impresses the reader. Details, both big and small, on matters both critical and trivial, tumble forth from this baroque, multidimensional chronicle. To those of us in mathematics, Halberstam seems to be saying that human consciousness - like endlessly jagged coastlines, or creased and varicose mountain surfaces, or the whorls and eddies of turbulent water, or a host of other "fractured" phenomena - can best be modeled using the geometrical notion of a fractal. The definition isn't important here, but unlimited branching and complexity are characteristic of the notion as is a peculiar property of self-similarity, whereby a fractal entity (in this case, the book) has the same look or feel no matter on what scale one views it (just the main events or finer details as well).

This "fictional review" was published in Paulos' non-fictional Beyond Numeracy but can also be found for free on his website.

More information about this work can be found at
(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.)

Works Similar to Rucker - A Life Fractal by Eli Halberstam
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. De Impossibilitate Vitae and Prognoscendi by Stanislaw Lem
  2. The Favor by Donald Petrie (Director) / Sara Parriott (Writer) / Josann McGibbon (Writer)
  3. Nymphomation by Jeff Noon
  4. Math Takes a Holiday by Paul Di Filippo
  5. Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich
  6. The Visiting Professor by Robert Littell
  7. Mulligan Stew by Gilbert Sorrentino
  8. Inside Out by Rudy Rucker
  9. Bellwether by Connie Willis
  10. The Mirror Has Two Faces by Barbra Streisand (director) / Richard LaGravenese (Writer)
Ratings for Rucker - A Life Fractal by Eli Halberstam:
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:
3/5 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.5/5 (2 votes)

MediumAvailable Free Online,

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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)