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Deception (2003)
Eric Altman

The differential geometer who has discovered a formula for the lifetime of tiny black holes is the only decent character in this book. That is not to say that the others are poorly written, just that they are despicable, awful people. Expect lots of lying, cheating, killing and basic disregard for decency of any kind in this adventure story. (The mathematician dies off early, I'm afraid.)

There is a bit of dialogue about mathematicial physics, especially general relativity, which is pretty good. And the key object of the story is the formula which the mathematician wrote in a book to hide it. It is sought after, found, copied and modified, but never described explicitly for the reader. (The faded formulas in the cover illustration look more like Maxwell's equations than Einstein's.) But, in fact, there is very little math in the story. I suppose the very fact that the formula is so sought after suggests that math is valuable, and we see a tiny bit of life at a corporate thinktank employed by the US government, but mostly we just see despicable people killing each other.

I couldn't help but laugh at two scenes involving the formula. In one scene, an assasin (who happens to look like a teenager despite his advanced years) kills a man he believes to be the mathematician and then searches his hotel room for the formula. Supposedly, he expects the formula to have been hidden. In another scene, the heroine changes a few symbols in the formula before turning it over to "the bad guys". Being someone who works with formulas all of the time, this just seemed ridiculous to me. Formulas actually mean something to the people who work with them! If I wanted to keep secret a formula I'd been working on for months, I wouldn't write it down anywhere! I can always rederive any mathematical discovery I've made. Once I've found it, I know where to get it and do not need to have it on paper to avoid losing it. Similarly, even a formula with a few tiny changes in it is going to be valuable to the bad guys. Once it is understood, someone else can catch and correct the errors...and if it is not understood then it wouldn't be much use anyway!

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Works Similar to Deception
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Bone Chase by Weston Ochse
  2. The Sabre Squadron by Simon Raven
  3. Tetraktys by Ari Juels
  4. Improbable by Adam Fawer
  5. Comrades in Miami by Jose Latour
  6. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
  7. Equations of Life by Simon Morden
  8. The Deluge by Stephen Markley
  9. 7 Steps to Midnight by Richard Matheson
  10. The Spoilers by Desmond Bagley
Ratings for Deception:
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)

TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Mathematical 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)