a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Thousand (2010)
Kevin Guilfoile

Two competing Pythagorean cults (one "fundamentalist" and the other believing in "further revelations") are behind worldwide disasters such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and hurricane Katrina in this conspiracy theory novel reminiscent of "The Da Vinci Code". Key characters include Solomon Gold, who has recognized the mathematics behind Mozart's Requiem and his daughter, Canada ("Nada") Gold, who is talented at computing probabilities and has a photographic memory.

In addition to mentioning Pythagoras quite frequently, of course, the names of some other real mathematicians are dropped. Unfortunately, the book does not have much to say about mathematics itself and the whole Pythagorean cult thing seems somewhat tangential to the main thrust of the book. But, there are a few quotes about mathematicians and the nature of mathematics, such as:

(quoted from The Thousand)

Mathematicians are an odd lot. Did you know we are statistically more likely than any other classification of scientist to believe in heaven? And do you know why that is? Because we see it. Every day. A world so perfect, so logical, that in comparison our actual existence seems like a confusing dream. An illusion. Perfection exists in our notebooks and on our whiteboards and our computer models. Ask any mathematician which world seems more real - the perfect world of numbers or the disordered, incoherent mess all around is...the universe revealed to us by our eyes and ears - and almost to a man we will vote for the numbers. What most people call reality is just the overmatched mind trying to make sense of a univers too vast for it to understand. As the world appears more and more complex, we find ways to deny its complexity and make it simpler. Our brains fill the huge gaps in our knowledge with myths and delusions in order to create a world through which we can navigate. A world in which we can feel secure. Numbers are up to the task by themselves, however. You and I are blind and deaf, but numbers can see and hear.

Contributed by Andrew Breslin

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, but not for the reasons I thought I would.

I expected a lot more math. There were some oblique references, but the math was entirely tangential to the plot, no pun intended. I thought that the Pythagorean cult would be described directly, with Pythagoras and his contemporaries as characters, at least in ancient, moldy flashbacks, but he and his mathemagical cronies were long since dead and gone as the story unfolded, and only the splintered factions of his ancient secret society remained. It turns out that this was good enough for a fun story, though, so I'm not complaining.

If there's one thing I love as much as a fun treatment of mathematics, it's impossibly convoluted conspiracy theories, especially if it involves a secret society which clandestinely pulls the puppet strings on the world stage, sending gun-toting thugs after a spunky heroine who threatens their nefarious schemes.

(I hope it will not be viewed as too shamelessly self promoting to provide a link to my own book here, because this illustrates why I like this sort of thing so much: )

I'm a firm believer that character is the single most important element of fiction. A riveting plot may keep us turning pages, but it is the characters that stay with us after the last page is turned. I adored the character of Canada Gold. I think I'll remember her long after I forget the difference between the acusmatici and the mathematici. The distinction is already blurring in my mind, but Canada is there to stay.

More information about this work can be found at
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to The Thousand
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Gospel Truths by J.G. Sandom
  2. Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery by Arturo Sangalli
  3. All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen
  4. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  5. Och fjättra Lilith i kedjor [And Shackle Lilith in Chains] by Åsa Schwarz
  6. Monster's Proof by Richard Lewis
  7. Tetraktys by Ari Juels
  8. Bone Chase by Weston Ochse
  9. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
  10. The Crimson Cipher by Susan Page Davis
Ratings for The Thousand:
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:
2.5/5 (2 votes)
Literary Quality:
3/5 (2 votes)

MotifEvil mathematicians, Real Mathematicians,

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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)