Two mathematicians vying for the same partner will change reality itself to win her love, from award-winning author Rudy Rucker.
Berkeley grad students Bela Kis and Paul Bridge have discovered the mathematical underpinnings of ultimate reality. But then they begin fighting over the same woman: the beguiling video-blogger, Alma Ziff.
First Bela gets Alma’s interest by starting the wildest rock band ever. Then Paul undertakes the ultimate computer hack: altering reality to make Alma his. But the change brings more than he bargained for: Alma is swept away into a higher world of mathematician cockroaches and cone shells—bent upon using our world to run experiments in mysterious metamathematics.
It’s up to Bela to bring Alma back, repair reality, stop the aliens, and find true love in this wild and funny tale that romps across space, time, and logic.
Night Shade Books’ ten-volume series with Rudy Rucker collects nine of the brilliantly weird novels for which the mathematician-turned-author is known, as well as a tenth, never-before-published book, Million-Mile Road Trip. We’re proud to collect in one place so much of the work of this influential figure in the early cyberpunk scene, and to share Rucker’s fascinating, unique worldview with an entirely new generation of readers.
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About the Author
Rudy Rucker is a writer and a mathematician who worked for twenty years as a Silicon Valley computer science professor. He is regarded as contemporary master of science-fiction, and received the Philip K. Dick award twice. His thirty published books include both novels and non-fiction books on the fourth dimension, infinity, and the meaning of computation. A founder of the cyberpunk school of science-fiction, Rucker also writes SF in a realistic style known as transrealism, often including himself as a character. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Read an Excerpt
Mathematicians in Love
By Rucker, Rudy
Tor BooksCopyright © 2006 Rucker, Rudy
All right reserved.
Bela, Paul, and Alma
My tale begins on an alternate Earth in the university town that we called Humelocke, a close match for your Berkeley. And the book will end with me here in your San Jose, California, writing up my adventures--and preparing to move on.
To make my story easier to read, I won't use each and every alternate place name we had on my original world. But I'll keep "Humelocke," in fond memory of that specific place and time where I first came to know wonder, madness, and love.
It was an April morning in Humelocke, and I was working on my Ph.D. thesis; that is, I was staring out my apartment window and imagining Minkowski hyperplanes buttressed by homotopy sheaves, with the whole twinkling cloud castle tethered to a trio of animated figurines shaped like, oh, a rake, a fish, and a teapot. Three morphons.
Say what? I'm a mathematician.
My thesis adviser, Roland Haut, had set me in pursuit of a fabulous mathematical unicorn called the Morphic Classification Theorem. I was up to my ears in student loan debt, and I wanted to finish very soon. Another doctoral candidate was on the hunt as well, Paul Bridge, who happened to be my roommate. Paul was making better progress.
As I thought of Paul, my view of mathematical paradise dissolved and I was staring at a puny tree in our apartmentcomplex's dingy courtyard. Mathematics lent even this humble object some borrowed glory. The leaf-bud-studded branches were rocking in the fitful spring breeze and, the branches being compound pendulums, their motions were deliciously chaotic. I savored the subtle whispering of the wind. Combining the sights and sounds, I could visualize the turbulent air currents in the wind-shadow of the tree: corkscrews and vortex tubes, realtime physical graffiti far gnarlier than the sheaves and hyperplanes I kept trying to dream. Why was I trying to outthink Nature? Why not embrace the world and go surfing?
I glanced down at my binder full of penciled thesis notes, with little turds of eraser rubber stuck to the pages. I had a nice big sketch of my latest image: the hyperplanes like disconnected floors of a building, the sheaves like bulbous elevator shafts, and the morphon figurines off to one side like control knobs. I dug it, but Roland Haut wouldn't like it. My monthly meeting with him was in an hour. I seemed unable to produce the kind of thesis he expected. I'd lost my way in the enchanted forest and a magic pig was eating my lunch.
Literally. I could hear him behind me, rooting through the fridge, popping off a container's plastic lid. It made a faint B-flat note.
"Leave the mashed peas alone, Paul. They're mine."
"I'll only take half." He was dipping the peas out with two fingers that he kept pressed together and slightly curved, as if to mimic a legitimate spoon. "How much did they cost?" asked Paul. "You can add half that amount to my share of the rent."
"Plus a thirty-four-dollars-an-hour personal-shopper fee prorated for my twenty-seven minutes at the market plus eight-and-a-half percent sales tax, an eleven-percent convenience charge, and a per-transaction accounting charge of a dollar seventy-seven," said I.
"How many items did you buy on that particular shopping trip?" challenged Paul. "If you're charging for shopping time, you need to divide by the number of items you bought." He mimed a brisk division-slash in the air, keeping his spoon fingers stiff and bent, the fingers clotted with green paste, wet with spit.
Paul's wallet was on the counter, the wallet's edges precisely aligned with the counter's. I plucked it up and extracted a five-dollar bill. Even though Paul argued about money, he usually had some. His arguing was more for sport. My arguing, on the other hand, was more for money. I'm--call it frugal. I get that from my mother, Xiao-Xiao; she's half-Chinese, a widow, runs a tiny eatery in the South Bay. My father, Tibor, had been a Hungarian computer-chip engineer and a willful tyrant. Right before his heart attack, he'd blown all of the family's savings in Reno. Jerk. My big sister Margit and I had needed to take out big student loans to go to college.
"Peas all yours now," I said, pocketing Paul's five. A good deal. Although the mashed peas had been the tasty kind with the picture of sweet-pea flowers, they'd cost only $3.89, and were a week old, on the point of tasting metallic. I walked over to my desk by the window and put my worn spiral notebook into my knapsack.
"I get lichees," said Paul, still at the fridge. He tipped some of my jellied lichees from their tub into his mashed-pea container, using his relatively clean thumb to coax them along. Although Paul was orderly with his possessions, he was a like a wild animal when it came to food.
"Help yourself," I said, pulling back from being stingy. "What's mine is yours."
Paul drifted back to the kitchen table, his attention once again on the screen of his laptop. His hair was lank and medium length, of no particular color. He wore flesh-colored plastic glasses; he had the notion that a pinkish frame color made glasses less visible. When he was uneasy, he always adjusted his glasses, pushing the bridge higher on his nose. He had a firm, handsome mouth, although there was a slight gap between his front teeth. His short-sleeved white shirt was translucent, with his loop undershirt showing through. His neck usually had red razor rash. He was from Saint Matthews, Kentucky, and talked with a hint of a country accent. I'd heard another student say that Paul looked like a Bible salesman who rents a room in a house trailer from a retired school teacher and she catches him screwing her poodle dog. But that was going too far. Paul was a good guy. He wasn't obese; he didn't smell bad; he had a sense of humor.
Paul was my friend, and hip or not, he was a great person to hang out with, perhaps the most interesting person I'd met in my life. He was smart, well organized, and intellectually generous. Paul liked to hold forth to me on this work, showing me his latest pages and going over the details, but after a bit, his spaceship of thought would always lift off and leave me stranded on my own dark and lonely planet.
We each had our own take on how the big Morphic Classification Theorem should go: Paul's thesis was symbolic and analytic; mine was to be visual and geometric. We had radically different styles of doing math. I'd try to explain my drawings, he'd try to explain his tidy rows of symbols, but for all the communication we achieved it was like we were showing each other scratches and dings and barnacle clusters on rocks and seashells.
Paul had recently given a well-received math colloquium at Stanford on his preliminary results--even though I'd tried to talk him out of it, fearful as I was of being scooped. There was a big universal dynamicist at Stanford named Cal Kweskin; he and his student Maria Reyes were closing in on the Morphic Classification Theorem, too. I was kind of disorganized about attending conferences and seminars, so I hadn't actually met those two even though I'd read, or had tried to read, their papers. Paul was a lot better at networking than I was.
It would have been hard for me to put together a good talk on my work thus far, although I did have some nice drawings scattered through my hundred or so penciled pages. Neither Paul nor Haut fully appreciated my pictures; Haut's style of math was more like Paul's than like mine. Haut kept asking me to prove a theorem. After six month's work, I still didn't have that one solid result to hang my Ph.D. thesis upon. Although I'd found some interesting conjectures, they remained stubbornly undecidable, in limbo, neither provable nor refutable.
Paul and I lived in the crummy old wood-shingled Ratvale student co-op with its gray carpeting on undulating floors and permanent smells of puke, pot, and cat piss.
How we two met is that we happened to sit next to each other at the math grad students' orientation session. Paul endeared himself to me by spilling a full cup of coffee into the open knapsack sitting between his feet.
"You do that often?" I asked him.
He paused, analyzing the query. "Less often than once a month, more often than once a year," he said finally. "Are you looking for a roommate?"
"Probably." I liked the implicit fuck you in Paul's narrowly logical answer. And I liked that, despite this bit of bravado, he looked even more anxious than me. Although I'd survived the math undergrad program at UC Santa Cruz, math at Humelocke was intimidating. The big leagues.
Paul and I chatted a little about our backgrounds. He'd started out as a chemistry major at the geek heaven of BIT, the Boston Institute of Technology, and had gotten bored with having to learn chemical recipes and compounds by heart. For him, math was easier--once he understood something, he could reproduce the proof, and there was nothing left to memorize. He'd switched over to mathematics his junior year in college.
"What kind of math are you interested in?" I asked him.
"Universal dynamics," he said, and that sealed our partnership. Both of us had come to Humelocke in hopes of writing a thesis in this hot new field with the great Roland Haut.
Our shared dream had come true, but only Paul was making the most of it.
Walking down Telegraph Avenue towards campus, I bought a fat slice of squid pizza and an XL coffee. I was worried about my meeting with Haut. By now he was more than disappointed in me; he was contemptuous. And, for my part, I resented his attitude. I've never been one to take criticism calmly.
The only redemption would be to show Haut something amazing--which I seemed quite unable to do. I was still hoping to become a genius mathematician, but it was a lot harder than I'd imagined. What if Ma were right? She kept saying I should stop borrowing money for grad school and get a job at a high-tech company, like my thuggish cousin Gyula Wong, who was on the security staff at Membrain Products down in Watsonville; they made various kinds of sophisticated membranes for, like, drums, pumps, filters, electrical transformers, and medical apps.
As usual, Ginsberg Gate at the edge of campus was lined with people at card tables: army/gay/fraternity/anarchist/Islamic/corporate recruiters and the like. I like the sounds of crowds, of the voices layering upon each other.
Today there was extra activity at the gate, stirred up by a hotly contested special election. The Humelocke district's congresswoman had died in plastic surgery, and the vote for her replacement was today. A computer genius and self-made billionaire by the name of Van Veeter was running as a Heritagist, trying to win the spot from the painfully inept Common Ground Party candidate, Karen Barbara--for whom I was planning to vote.
There'd been so many gaffes and scandals involving Barbara that, inconceivable as it sounds, this time around a Heritagist had a chance at representing Humelocke. Our benighted country was three and a half years into the reign of the Heritagist Joe Doakes, the least intelligent and most repressive president ever. But even now, every election seemed to sweep more Heritagists into office--with no great hope for a Common Ground victory in the upcoming November national election. We'd suffered a series of terrorist attacks which had our citizens in a state of fear. Most recently a terrorist named Tariq Qaadri had blown up the Roebuck skyscraper in Chicago--and was still at large. Even though our troops had cornered Qaadri in Lilliputistan, he'd somehow escaped to a safe haven in Blefescustan, only to mastermind more bombings from there.
Instead of blaming President Doakes for Qaadri's continued terror, the voters clung to Doakes the more. And it was looking like the Common Ground presidential candidate was going to be a patrician stuffed shirt named Winston Merritt, a painfully awkward man too polite to ask the hard questions about why Doakes didn't catch Qaadri. Doakes's only real liability was Vice President Frank Ramirez, an unpleasant character dogged by rumors of graft and of personal violence.
Although he was a Heritagist, our local congressional candidate, Van Veeter, was no extremist; he was a logical computer guy, seemingly quite honest. His reasons for wanting to be a congressman had to do with some quirk of corporate tax law that had particularly outraged him. He'd begun his career by patenting some clever new chip designs, and had built up a successful company called Rumpelstiltskin, making specialized chips for cell phones and other wireless devices. Recently Rumpelstiltskin had been using its sky-high stock to acquire several other companies. According to Veeter, there was one particularly obstreperous tax law relating to his maneuvers that had made him decide to go to Washington and debug the system. A lot of people seemed to like the idea of a geek debugging DC. There was even talk of having Veeter replace Ramirez on the national ticket for November. But first, of course, he'd have to win the Humelocke election today.
As I imagined yet another Heritagist victory, I seemed to hear a downward beep like a character dying in an arcade game, and a stomach cramp hit me. Coffee, pizza, stress. I darted into the student center for a pit stop. While I was washing up, I looked in the mirror, working on my self-esteem.
I liked what I saw. Bela Kis. Being three-quarters Hungarian and one-quarter Chinese, I have this nice warm skin color. I've been bleaching my thick, blunt-cut hair since high school. I have virile dark stubble on my jaw. I'm fit-looking, thanks in part to having taken up surfing in Santa Cruz. I play electric guitar well enough to have been in a little college band called E To The I Pi. And this particular day, I was wearing an orange plaid golf shirt and purple bell-bottoms which looked good on me.
In short, you'd never have guessed I was a math student. Maybe if I'd been all robotic and Martian and autistic like the others, then it would have been easier for me to prove the Morphic Classification Theorem. On the other hand, perhaps a truly radical proof could only come from a suave surf dog like me.
I headed up a grassy green slope towards the math building, Pearce Hall, a handsome relic of the NeoDeco 1970s, fully twelve stories tall, with chrome falcons decorating its cornices. I was avoiding thinking about Haut and the election by staring down past Humelocke towards the bay and San Francisco. It was a blue-sky day with puffy white clouds, the living air like cool clear water. A nice offshore breeze. Good day for Ocean Beach, over on the other side of San Francisco. I hadn't been in the water all winter.
"Hi, Bela," said a woman right outside Pearce Hall, smiling at me. About my age, deep brown eyes. A wide mouth and fragile jaw. A dimple beside the corner of her lips. Wavy brown hair teased and sprayed into a fashionable shag with three streaks of blonde. A Peter Pan collar white shirt with an anarchist bomb drawn on the back in black marker-pen, a plaid red miniskirt worn backwards, gold golf shoes. Cute, hip, happening. A nice up-and-down rhythm in her voice. She seemed familiar, but--
"Pleasure Point?" she said, making a wavy gesture with one hand. "Pink and green wetsuit?"
"Alma the local!" Of course. I'd occasionally seen her surfing at Santa Cruz, and one time we'd actually met at a beach party. Not that the locals down there mingled all that much with the college kids. They called us hairfarmers, even though most of us were dreggers, the same as them. "You're a student at Humelocke?" I asked Alma.
"My senior year. I'm--" she paused to giggle prettily. "A Rhetoric major. We studied this rant by one of the former math professors."
She meant The Unabomber Manifesto by Ted Kaczynski, the most famous crazy mathematician of them all, one-time professor of our own University of California at Humelocke.
"My roommate says anyone who mails bombs to computer scientists can't be all bad," I said, thinking of Paul. "But, hey, that was last century. We're too big for envy anymore. Thanks to universal dynamics, math is going to rule the world."
"That's what I was hoping to see you about! I'm reporting a feature on universal dynamics for this webzine called Buzz. It's my final project for Sci Lies--what we call Rhetoric of Scientific Discourse."
I noticed now that Alma was wearing a digital video camera tucked behind her ear. A little red diode glowed on its side. I'd looked at Buzz a couple of times. Cartoons, interviews, radical politics, minifictions. "You're, like, stalking me?"
"I saw you listed as a student of Roland Haut's," said Alma, circling me, sizing me up. "And I found out you had an appointment with him today. I can't believe we never ran into each other before."
"This place is too big," I agreed. "I'm glad to see you." I'd always been interested in Alma Ziff, but too shy to talk to her. She was intimidating in the lineup, with a loud mouth and usually some hard-looking older surf-rats at her side. Guys who wore shades in the water and preferred to speak Spanish. Indeed, I'd left that one beach party soon after I heard Alma's brother Pete and one of his brahs say they wanted to "kick the pinche hairfarmer's culo." Pete was a foul-mouthed long-haired beanpole, notorious on the scene, a stoner/surfer/biker/dreg with a beat-up motorcycle sporting a surfboard rack. His comrade that night had been an ugly gnome with a pompadour and giant grommets set into his earlobes.
Copyright 2006 by Rudy Rucker. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Mathematicians in Love by Rucker, Rudy Copyright © 2006 by Rucker, Rudy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Bela, Paul, and Alma 13
Cone Shell Aliens 55
Rocking with Washer Drop 98
Hypertunnel at the Tang Fat Hotel 146
Mathematicians from Galaxy Z 202
The Gobubbles 261
The Best of All Possible Worlds 326
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lyrical first-person prose and under-the-gun action kept me reading this interesting, if completely chaotic and dubious story about a competition between two hyper-hormonal math grad students for a woman. Guided by their testosterone (to the edge of satire and beyond) they accomplish feats of mathematical theory and practice, rock-and-roll, fame, fortune, enlightenment, and other adventures, of a magnitude on par with Baron Munchausen. The math theory was fascinating. I had difficulty overcoming one character after another presented as ethically inept and psychologically fixed in stone. The book ends with the protagonist having grown not a single beard hair. So what was the point of the big balls anyway? Maybe it's love.
In a parallel universe close to our own, Bela and Paul are two doctoral students in mathamatics. The two are friends and roomates who come up with a new theory that will predict the future and eventually becomes the way to break down the barrier from one parallel universe to the other. Into this equation comes Alma, who at first is romantically linked to Bela but then dumps him for Paul.Bela's more than a little upset and uses the new math theory to travel to parallel universes to win back Alma. Along the way, he starts a rock band, becomes a reality show star and finds out a universe with giant jellyfish ruling it. If it all sounds a bit absurd, it probably is. But within the context of Rudy Rucker's "Mathmaticians in Love" it all makes perfect sense. This is one of those books that, were it a tv show, you'd say turn off your brain and go with it. But Rucker delivers a loopy plot that has some through provoking moments of mathmatics that don't talk down to readers and feel natural within the context of the story. If you've ever been in the world of academics, I bet there are a lot more in-jokes there that went right over my head.That said, there was still a lot that didn't and I enjoyed the book a great deal.
Wonderful stuff from Rucker, just when I thought he might be going soft on his edgy writing skills. Full of odd characters and math theory, but not too much to bog it down. It did seem that Rucker pulls back a bit on the sexual graphics that he once used, but the book doesn't really suffer. I did feel that death was treated a bit glibly, but Rucker makes an attempt to explain this.
In the university, the two mathematic graduate students, Bela Kis and Paul Bridge, are roommates who share much in common besides trying to obtain a PH.D by the numbers and a flat. Both are advised by maniacal mathematician Dr. Roland Haut and each enjoys the lifestyle of an advanced student living in college towns like Humelocke and Klownetown where the zaniest crazies of the universe come together to discuss the meaning of life (more often than not with various forms debating existence). However, what they most share in common is the love of Alma Ziff who is more or less Bela¿s girlfriend though she zips the bridge at times to be with Paul. --- The two roommates compete for who gets the girl at a time when their insane faculty advisor has begun developing a mathematical model that predicts the future that is when he is not seeing monsters. Jumping off of Mad Haut¿s theory, Bela and Paul inventing the paracomputer 'Gobubble' that predicts even more accurately the future as their advisor¿s monsters prove real and their love triangle even more acutely convex than keenly isosceles than either student calculated. --- Rudy Rucker lampoons politics, universities, mathematical theories, and humanity as he spins a terrific romantic science fiction satire that takes readers where they have never been before with perhaps the only recent exception being the author¿s novel FREAK AND THE ELIXIR. The math is highbrow insanity as the shortest distance between two points is an arc, but also augments the humorous story line. Haut is way outside the circle of sanity while Bela and Paul argue number theory to determine who ends up with Alma, monsters aside. Readers will appreciate this zany tale that proves the sum of the angles of a romantic triangle does not equal 180 degrees. --- Harriet Klausner