Can fiction educate?

I've just reviewed a very interesting book - Pythagoras' Revenge by Arturo Sangalli.

It's a novel... but its aim is more that of a popular maths book. Although there is a storyline and characters, it explains quite a lot of maths along the way.

In previous posts I've looked at books that were science books without being science fiction - whether it was the lab lit of Experimental Heart and Tangled Roots or the nuclear energy thriller Rad Decision. This book is slightly different - where they have a science setting and incidentally get across some of the science, this explicitly sets out to be a vehicle to educate as well as entertain.

It's a mixed bag - I wasn't particularly impressed with it as a novel, and occasionally it just goes into information dump mode - yet despite this, I'd say it was a success. The fact is, it was a lighter read than a traditional popular science/maths book. It did make me want to read on, like fiction does.

I think there are some real opportunities for doing this kind of thing even better in the future.


  1. Really interesting, Brian. Thanks. I'm thinking about the next novel now (the one after the one after Tangled Roots) and I'd like to get back to including science in my fiction, but somehow in a different way. This might be worth a look.

  2. Yes - I don't think there are technique lessons here, but I do think it demonstrates that it is a good way get science/maths across, even if it doesn't make for the best possible novel.


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