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Dispel Illusion (2019)
Mark Lawrence
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

This third book in the "Impossible Times" series continues telling the story of math prodigy Nick Hayes and the bizarre time loop he experiences/causes. Many of the chapters in this book take place in the twenty-first century ("the future" relative to the first two books) when Hayes is a Fields Medalist, rich and famous for his work on time and time travel. But, this book is not quite as mathematical as Limited Wish, the book that preceded it in the trilogy.

There is a lot that I like about this book. The method of time travel in this book is clever and unlike anything I've seen before. (More than 100 naked people are found standing immobile in a cave, one of them is Nick. This is how they travel back in time. Chronologically speaking, they "awake" in that cave in their destination year in the 20th century and walk out of the cave, but a copy of them -- their time trail -- stays in the cave. In the year 2011 they walk into the frozen copy of themselves, and both the moving person and the time trail disappear.) And, the whole idea of the consistent time loop which was done well in the first book is taken to an even higher level here. It really is fun to see how it all comes together.

And, of course, there is some math in the book also. We are frequently reminded that Nick is good at theoretical math (and his friend Simon is good at computation), and this justifies all of the weird stuff involving time and brain science. Nick gets a tattoo of a "closed integral" on his hand. Nick meets with a young researcher who is doing temporal research and offers him both a bribe and advice ("You should look at n-spaces on high -order manifolds of the zeta-mapping. Collaborate with a topologist in your maths department if the equations get away from you. Those guys are all looking for experimental partners.") And, at one point it says that he is working not only with imaginary numbers but also "hypothetical" ones (whatever that means).

A tiny spoiler: All three books involve the protagonists dealing with a real adventure and also playing a game of D&D. They actually spend quite a bit of time (and pages) on this fantastical role playing game. The events in the game, especially those related to the title of the book, are clues to what they should do in their real lives. For instance, the "dispel illusion" spell which Nick must use at one point in the game is a clue that things are not as he (or the reader) believe them to be in the story. Aside: I wonder, would someone whose life is so exciting actually spend much time playing D&D? I thought D&D was for people who found their real lives boring and wanted to escape into fantasy. If in reality you were being hunted by the hired guns of an evil billionaire who unexpectedly found your naked body (and a hundred other people's, including your wife, a famous actress) traveling backwards in time from the future in his underground lair, if your choices were causing paradoxes that threatened the stability of the universe, if the only person you've ever met who is a better mathematician than you is your daughter from an alternative future, etc...would you still want to sit around a table rolling the dice to see how many hit points you lose?

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Works Similar to Dispel Illusion
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Limited Wish by Mark Lawrence
  2. One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence
  3. The Circumference of the World by Lavie Tidhar
  4. The Singularities by John Banville
  5. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  6. Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds
  7. The Arrows of Time [Orthogonal Book Three] by Greg Egan
  8. The Outside by Ada Hoffman
  9. Beyond the Hallowed Sky: Book One of the Lightspeed Trilogy by Ken MacLeod
  10. Light by M. John Harrison
Ratings for Dispel Illusion:
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:
2/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
MotifGenius, Time Travel,
TopicMathematical Physics,

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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)