a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for hardcore fans of science fiction.|
|Lawyer Cindy Kichlklug takes on the dairy industry (with the aid of a quirky mathematician) in this witty SF satire.
The "conspiracy theory" in the book is well put together. It tightly combines so many things (from the Kennedy assassinations and global warming to the four food groups and the death of Alan Turing) that it would almost be believable if it weren't so unbelievable. In particular, the idea is that the world is controlled by the dairy industry and the dairy industry in turn is controlled by aliens from Vega who want to take over the planet.
Of course, none of that is very mathematical. However, math makes key and frequent appearances in the book. Most of the mathematical content involves Eddie, a mathematician who is working for the anti-dairy activists but is really "only in it for the math". The main connection between the math and the plot is a new theorem he has proved that allows for better analysis of epidemiological data and therefore brings into question any claims that dairy belongs in a healthy diet. As a result, Eddie is kidnapped by the bad guys and the disk containing his analysis of the data becomes a major focal point.
Eddie is portrayed as being a "stereotypical math nerd" in many ways. He is constantly talking about math and how beautiful/useful it is, but seems unable to convey any of this to the non-mathematicians around him. (I like the line "Eddie's brow was deeply furrowed and Cindy could only guess that he was analyzing the structure on some mystical mathematical level beyond her understanding or at least his articulation.")
In an e-mail message, Breslin wrote:
Breslin, who does not have a degree in mathematics but clearly has genuine interest, writes mathematical nonsense very well. Here is a sample:
There is quite a bit of mathematics spread throughout the book, including classic math jokes ("Why do mathematicians confuse Halloween and Christmas?"), classic math puzzles ("Where is the missing $2?"), and quite a bit of mathematical nonsense like the "strange attractors" in the quoted passage above.
There are non-mathematical items of interest as well: some etymology, geography of Washington DC, legalese, etc. All-in-all, I would say it is a very entertaining and successful first novel. (Breslin is now trying to find a publisher for his second novel, and I hope he finds one.)
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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)