a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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A Person of Interest (2008)
Susan Choi

Professor Lee, an older math professor at a small mid-western university becomes a suspect when a package bomb kills the young and popular professor in the office next to his. More of a serious psychological study than an adventure or a mystery, the book was probably inspired by the true story of Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) and influenced by the life of Choi's father, a real math professor. Other themes of the story include the insecurity of the professors at this university who know that they are not the stars of their fields, Lee's immigration from China and his failed marriages, the (supposed) anti-social behavior of mathematicians, and religion.

Contributed by CGT

Susan Choi is able to create believable, engrossing portraits of introverted characters whose introversion has been engendered by past trauma. However, on a literary level, much of the writing I encountered in A Person Of Interest seemed to be meandering and excessively elaborate. The main premise of the plot - that an Asian immigrant professor might be dangerously implicated in a crime he did not commit - was quite intriguing, as well as the supporting premise of the struggles of mid- and late-career academics who are not and never will be superstars. But Susan Choi only inadequately developed the main premise and barely scratched the surface of the supporting premise. Instead, the bulk of the novel focused on the adultery perpetrated by the professor and the wife of a colleague, and the resulting obligatory long-term sorting-out of the feelings and emotions of the various characters affected by the adultery. The story could have done with a bit of tightening and the effective use of less elaborate prose.

Math was entirely incidental to the story. Indeed, it was so incidental that had Ms. Choi made the central character an art or history professor instead of a math professor, the story would not have changed at all.

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Works Similar to A Person of Interest
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Dear Abbey by Terry Bisson
  2. Orpheus Lost: A Novel by Janette Turner Hospital
  3. The Axiom of Choice by David Corbett
  4. The Book of Getting Even by Benjamin Taylor
  5. 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein
  6. Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby
  7. The Solitude of Prime Numbers [La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi] by Paolo Giordano
  8. Incendies by Denis Villeneuve / Valérie Beaugrand-Champagne / Wajdi Mouawad
  9. The Embalmer's Book of Recipes by Ann Lingard
  10. An Angel of Obedience by John Giessmann
Ratings for A Person of Interest:
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:
1/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
2/5 (1 votes)

MotifAnti-social Mathematicians, Academia, Religion,

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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)