Writing: 4 Plot: 4 Characters: 4
A fun, tangled novel about mathematics, the search for truth, and some atypical family dysfunction. The Severys are a clan of advanced academics — Isaac is a top mathematician, working on the ultimate deterministic equation based on chaos theory; son Phillip is a well-known string theorist whose output has been dwindling in both quantity and quality as he ages; utterly anti-social daughter Paige is hard at work on her Book of Probabilities which she estimates will be 565 volumes and which she doesn’t expect to finish in her lifetime. Adopted grandchildren Hazel and Gregory are the “normal” members, a failing book store owner and police officer respectively.
The novel opens with Isaac’s self predicted death and continues with wild scurrying on the part of everyone else to get their hands on what might be the equation that can literally predict everything. While there is plenty of reference to interesting mathematical problems and the motivation of those who pursue them, there is even more familial drama with insertions of mysterious agents who also yearn for the magic equation.
While the existence of such an equation lends a speculative fiction aspect to the book, it’s really more of a mystery mixed with family drama and characters more intellectually oriented than most. All in all pretty fun to read, well written, and hard to put down.
(OK – I realize this is two reviews within the space of an hour – I’m fast but not that fast 🙂 Just took me awhile to finish the Morton review while this one just wrote itself…)