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Exordia (2024)
Seth Dickson

Contributed by Gregory Cherlin

Seth Dickinson's Exordia (Jan 2024) takes as one of its central conceits the notion that the physical universe is an expression of mathematical reality, and has as one of its central characters a Chinese mathematician Li Aixue trying to understand the structure of an artifact appearing in Kurdistan and apparently able to amplify that process.

As such the book invokes quite a bit of mathematics and mathematical practice, as well as cosmology and the physics of black holes, alluded to only in passing in the New York Times review.

There is more in the review at The Crimson, from which the following is quoted:

While writing “Exordia,” Dickinson spoke with experts to implement physics and mathematics into the story, where concepts such as pink noise and Kolmogorov complexity feature prominently throughout.

“I had to talk to a mathematician. I would explain concepts I was trying to get at, and he would give me a sense, and I’d be like, this sounds beautiful. I don’t really know what it means,” Dickinson said. “But there’s a degree of reality to it that even a poet — I’m not a poet, but you know, a layperson — can understand.”

-Samantha H. Chung

He wants the prime numbers to serve somehow as a template - someone should have told him about the relation between the zeros of the zeta function and eigenvalues of random unitary matrices, as it would fit in neatly.

There's also a great deal about the politics of Kurdistan which, in spite of his disclaimers in the acknowledgements, he clearly has gone into fairly deeply.

(One notices, as one particular joke in the book falls flat, that the author has probably not heard the term "Lie group" pronounced. But generally he pulls off what he's aiming at.)

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Exordia
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas
  2. Mathematica by John Russell Fearn
  3. Doctor Who: The Turing Test by Paul Leonard
  4. The Mathenauts by Norman Kagan
  5. The Circumference of the World by Lavie Tidhar
  6. Beyond the Hallowed Sky: Book One of the Lightspeed Trilogy by Ken MacLeod
  7. Eversion by Alastair Reynolds
  8. The Eternal Flame [Orthogonal Book Two] by Greg Egan
  9. The Humans: A Novel by Matt Haig
  10. Doctor Who: The Algebra of Ice by Lloyd Rose (pseudonym of Sarah Tonyn)
Ratings for Exordia:
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:
4/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
5/5 (1 votes)

GenreScience Fiction,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory, Chaos/Fractals,

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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)