a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Chimera Prophesies (2007)
Elliott Ostler
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)
Highly Rated!

A mathematician known only as ``#6'', while trying to come up with a model that would predict probabilities for different human behaviors, finds that in fact he can very nearly predict the future with certainty. When he learns that others are going to use his theory for evil purposes, he enacts his own plan to foil theirs.

The author of the book is a professor of mathematics education who claims to have written the book to increase awareness and appreciation of mathematics. In fact, the protagonist's love of mathematics is made clear throughout the book and certainly his theory (though fictional) may serve to illustrate the potential power of mathematics. However, I think it is odd that he chose to portray #6 as liking applied math but being biased against theoretical mathematics and the concept of `proof'.

The writing is, at best, only `good'. Many of the different characters `speak' with the same voice, presumably that of the author, and the few who do not are almost laughable (such as #6's assistant who is prone to say things like `No way! You'll flip' and `You rock, man!'). The suspense kept me reading to the end, but never really thoroughly engaged my interest.

The descriptions of mathematics were good enough. I mean, there are references to probability, linear algebra, game theory and combinatorics, each of which sounds sensible on its own although of course together they would not allow one to predict human behavior. At one point, a supposedly key formula is listed which is the definition of a function of one variable as a quotient of definite integrals which looks odd since the variable never appears in the defintion.

Frequently, #6 apologizes for being too cynical and pessimistic. Perhaps I should as well, since my description of the book is not very complimentary. Perhaps I just read it at a bad time (I'm busy trying to prepare lecture notes for my classes that start in less than a month!) and would have sounded different under different circumstances. So, I encourage you to please check out this book for yourself and write in to let me know if you have a different impression of it than I do.

Contributed by Trever Reeh

Great book, one of the best mathematical fiction books that I have read.

Contributed by Dr. Allan Goldberg

I found "The Chimera Prophecies" to be well written and engaging.

The fictional mathematical premise was explained and explored in just enough detail to be used as an effective plot device to move the story along.

Thematically, I feel that the author successfully conveyed the idea that mathematics has great utility in every day life.

Thanks to Vijay Fafat for bringing this book to my attention. Note that the author also wrote two sequels and the entire trilogy is available in electronic form as The Basilisk Conspiracy.

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to The Chimera Prophesies
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. PopCo by Scarlett Thomas
  2. Psychohistorical Crisis by Donald Kingsbury
  3. Gaming Instinct (Spieltrieb) by Juli Zeh
  4. Pi by Darren Aronofsky (director)
  5. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  6. In The Country of the Blind by Michael Flynn
  7. The Dark Side of the Sun by Terry Pratchett
  8. Tetraktys by Ari Juels
  9. The Deluge by Stephen Markley
  10. The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke / Frederik Pohl
Ratings for The Chimera Prophesies:
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:
4.33/5 (3 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (3 votes)

MotifCool/Heroic Mathematicians, Future Prediction through Math,
TopicMathematical Finance,

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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)