Numbers Don't Lie (2005)
Author: Terry Bisson
Genre: Fantasy (Urban)/Science Fiction (Humorous)
The eccentric but genius character of Wilson Wu is explored through the eyes of his Watson-esque sidekick, Irv. Wilson is a renaissance man; he is a pastry chef, a rock musician, a math scholar from Princeton, an engineer, a Volvo mechanic, a lawyer, and a solver of mathematical equations that leads Wilson and Irv in this collection of stories to discover the back door to the moon, the edge of the universe, and an animated fax machine by using mathematical equations when Irv stumbles into anomalies of space and time. SPOILER: Irv marries his fiance Candy but spends his honeymoon helping Wu close a time gap that is reversing time by visiting his childhood tree-house, the airport, and sending an aging professor obsessed with mortality back to his own universe called Leisure.
Geographical Setting: New York, the backdoor to the moon, and the South, especially Alabama
Time Period: Contemporary (2005)
This fast-paced hybrid sci-fi fantasy is character driven with zany eccentric characters on each page. The setting of the back door to the moon in a New York junkyard and the venture Irv takes with his fiance in the south provide colorful settings with local flavor. The book reads more like a novella so readers who enjoy a quick read will like Bisson's novel. This novel is also very funny, satirical, and full of imagination and creation in an austere unaffected writing style with a light, humorous tone that provokes deeper philosophical issues about creation.
Read-alikes: For another humorous take on space-time travel with simply developed universes try Burn by James Patrick Kelly where the main character works on colonizing a planet named Walden, where technology is abandoned in what appears to be a utopian world. Readers will see similarities in strong characterization and a fast-paced writing style similar to a novella. Readers who would like to continue with a collection of stories should try Mad Professor: the uncollected short stories of Rudy Rucker by Rudy Rucker where hyper-intelligent computers have taken over the world. Similarities to Numbers Don't Lie include strong characterization, fast-paced writing style, thematic elements including math and reoccurring characters, and the ironic and surprisingly humorous tone in this cyberpunk novel. Readers interested in the genre-blending of science fiction and fantasy should also try Wyrldmaker by Terry Bisson where a man travels across many complex worlds and survives his own suicide with his sword called Wyrldmaker. With its similarity in writing style, strong characterization, thought-provoking story-line, and satirical tone in common. For a lighter tone similar to Numbers Don't Lie try So Long and Thanks for all the Fish by Douglas Adams. This is book four in the Hitchhiker's series and evokes the similar hilarious tone of Numbers, with its fantastical connection to space and time travel and earth's loopholes in this story of figuring out the secrets to happiness seconds before earth is destroyed. Readers will notice the similarities in this character driven, ironic laden, fast paced novel. Also funny, Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille, by Stephen Brust is about a band getting ready to play a gig at a bar when a bomb hits transporting the band into space. Readers will notice a similar tone but with lighter satire and comedy in this character driven novel with a colorful setting.
Red Flags: People who hate math won't like to see the mathematical equations that appear throughout the book.