a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Numbers Don't Lie (2005)
Terry Bisson
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)

This novel is actually just a compilation of three Wilson Wu short stories ("The Hole in the Hole", "The Edge of the Universe" and "Get Me to the Church on Time") which were previously published in Asimov's Magazine (in 1994, 1996 and 1998 respectively). The character of Wilson Wu is not the main protagonist of the stories, but is his constant mathematical and scientific advisor, always calling him on the cell phone, appearing on the nearest television, faxing him formulae, and promising to fly in on an antique aircraft to serve as best man at his wedding.

The stories are funny, but not deep, and the mathematics is nothing other than meaningless jargon. The handwritten mathematical formulas which appear throughout the book -- supposedly after having been okayed by Rudy Rucker -- are as meaningless as the "techno-babble" phrases that Wu tosses around. These are used to explain how there can be a shed at a junkyard on the Brooklyn-Queens border whose interior is actually on the moon, why time seems to be running backwards in Alabama, and why there no longer seem to be any delays at airports and restaurants in NYC.

The title and the cover which displays a picture of junked tires on the moon surrounded by butterflies and nicely typeset mathematical nonsense, had me hoping that this was going to be a nice piece of mathematical fiction. However, in the end I was not particularly impressed with either the fiction or the math. These are just drawn out jokes in which mathematical nonsense is just part of the punchline. I could have hoped for slightly more informed mathematical nonsense. For instance, it would have been nice if the formula that is supposed to say something about "curvature of space" had a Riemann tensor in it or something.

But, I'm being too picky. The stories are just supposed to be entertainment, and though I was not rolling on the floor laughing and certainly didn't learn anything, I must admit that the three silly stories kept me entertained while I was reading them.

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Works Similar to Numbers Don't Lie
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. 2+2=5 by Rudy Rucker / Terry Bisson
  2. Bellwether by Connie Willis
  3. Probability Pipeline by Rudy Rucker / Marc Laidlaw
  4. The Pexagon by D.J. Rozell
  5. Doctor Who: The Turing Test by Paul Leonard
  6. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman
  7. Scandal in the Fourth Dimension by Amelia Reynolds Long (as "A.R. Long")
  8. The Higher Mathematics by Martin C. Wodehouse
  9. Another Cock Tale by Chris Miller
  10. A Deadly Medley of Smedley by Feargus Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Ratings for Numbers Don't Lie:
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:
2/5 (1 votes)

GenreHumorous, Science Fiction,
MotifTime Travel, Romance,
TopicMathematical Physics, Chaos/Fractals,
MediumNovels, Short Stories,

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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)