Top critical review
Short on maths though well written
on 21 October 2013
Simon Singh undoubtedly has a skilled pen, and as such I feel the book is worth reading.
However it could have delved deeper into some of the maths, such as the early discoveries of proofs of the equation for n=4 (no solutions - due to Fermat himself) and n=3 (no solutions either - Euler), which require high school mathematics mostly, and the proofs for many primes (due to Kummer, showing no solutions for many primes, and undecided for some primes).
The book also over-emphasizes the role of the non-entity Bertrand Russell in the development of maths, and over-stresses the role of Alan Turing (who had really nothing whatsoever to do with Fermat's theorem). A typical British belly-staring contest.
It is also terribly short on Fermat's other work on numbers, which would have been a nice historic perspective on this remarkable, although overrated mathematician, and on Pythagoros (for n=2), where it fails to list the well-known algorithm to recover ALL solutions. The book just indicates a few sample solutions for n=2 in an appendix, but by no means all. The algorithm to recover all solutions to n=2 is standard in all good books and again, requires high school mathematics only, so it could have been appended.
There is also a lot of story-telling on Evariste Galois, but just about nothing on his mathematics. Therefore there is really nothing of any consequence on Andrew Wiles' actual work.
I feel Simon Singh could have put more mathematics in notes or in Appendices and that would have been interesting and useful to the mathematically trained readers - which will make up the bulk of the readers of this sort of book. A missed opportunity here.
However, on the whole, Simon Singh writes well, and therefore 3 stars. Despite my comments, I intend to read Singh's book on cryptography, although without too much expectation on the mathematical front.