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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wackyland, 4 Sep 2009
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mathematicians in Love (Hardcover)
There aren't too many books that attempt to make a story out of mathematical theories, but this one gives it a go. In some ways, this book does a pretty good job of satirizing academia, political and financial shenanigans, patent law, video blogging, and the sub-genre of alternate realities.

It's the story of two Ph.D. candidates working on their doctoral thesis, who along with their advisor come up with a method to accurately model complex everyday happenings, so accurately that the future can be predicted, at least for the short term. Rather than being a very staid story of how to develop and publish the theory, however, it flies off in multiple directions, as both students fall in love with the same lady; their advisor, while brilliant, is also very egotistical and more than a little round the bend; everyone is suddenly subject to being plastered all over the net due to the distribution of cheap vlogging camera rings; playing in a rock band is, it seems, as important as developing his theory for one of the candidates; murder and rigging elections go hand in hand; and then it gets really weird with various odd aliens poking their snouts in to see just how predictable these `humans' are.

Unhappily, while I found all these ideas made for great hodge-podge of story, the characters themselves neither engaged me nor were fully believable. Nor could I fully buy into the idea that current real-time and near future events would be fully computationally tractable, even with the caveat that the `reality' of the starting world of this story was `docile', not subject to truly random events. The last third of the book that deals with the consequences of how the theorem is implemented seems to be an adventure in pure wackiness, and doesn't seem to grow out of the initial theorem at all, though it is a fine example of fractal mathematics and infinite recursion as applied to `alternate' realities. At least some of the mathematical statements will probably lose those readers without a solid background in the field, not good when the story arc depends on said mathematics.

Some fascinating concepts, some good skewering of some of today's trends and societal behaviors, but a story line that is out of control, with characters that aren't quite real people.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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Mathematicians in Love
Mathematicians in Love by Rudy Rucker (Hardcover - 28 Nov 2006)
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