Arthur C. Clarke and Frederick Pohl are two of the Giants of Science Fiction. 2001 A Space Odyssey is one of Mr. Clarke's works and Gateway by Frederick Pohl is one of my favorite books. I still remember when I was a youngster being blown away about Gateway. So now these two fine creative men have joined together for the first time. That can be a good thing, yet it can be a bad thing as well, when two writers put heads together. Writers aren't known for being 'easy to get along with', and collaborations, especially at this level are prickly at best! These two have never written together before so I went into this venture (The Last Theorem) with a hopeful attitude. To be honest I'm a bit mystified by the whole thing.
Two Great Writers... Are two heads better than one?
Ranjit Subramanian is introduced to us as a young man just barely of college age. He is described as somewhat as a loner but appears to be highly regarded by those who know him. Ranjit appears to be uncomfortable in his college and with his college classes. He does consider himself to be a Mathematician and has some difficulty with his other courses and teachers. Ranjit's best friend, Gamini is well off and the two are even described as having a sexual relationship. This was interesting to me as Science Fiction usually has some trouble with this particular subject, and coming from these two masters of the craft I was beginning to wonder if they were gonna, "go for it", as it were. I must mention also that the action takes place in Sri Lanka.
At any rate the writers let us know rather quickly that Ranjit is obsessed with mathematician Pierre de Fermat's famous Theorem which he wrote in the margin of one of his books that he proved. Ever since then Mathematician's have raced to discover the actual proof of Mr. Fermat's Theorem. It's quite clear that Fermat did know the answer to proving his Theorem but realized that it would be long which is why he mentions on the margin that it was long. Hence Fermat's Theorem has been proved in real life and only recently by Andrew Wiles in 94, which was about 150 pages.
So therefore, in the book, Ranjit eventually is able to solve the Theorem in 3 pages! He is lauded as a Genius. That's actually the crux of the entire book as far as the main character goes. There is also some scant mention of the "Grand Galactics" a omniscient race who appear to want to exterminate humanity. This odd inclusion into the book is often only a paragraph or two at the end of each chapter. I suppose this was the Science Fiction part of this book.
Oddly enough the book 'feels' promising for the first 60 or so pages, you sort of expect something interesting to happen to Ranjit and something does happen, but it's a really poor trick on the reader as Ranjit is kidnapped for a number of years. This suffering is used as a device, in this case, to denote the time needed for Ranjit to solve Mr. Fermat's Theorem. This is a cheap trick and way beneath such writers as these! I was pretty surprised as the writers really weren't able to bring Ranjit into the actual light as it were. It's actually difficult to have much feeling for him as this happens, then that, then this... it's as if a lot of typewriting is going on between these two writers.
The writing itself, of course, is top notch, it's really quite fine to reconnect with two old souls of the craft, Clarke and Pohl, they simply have a way of clarity and purpose that is beyond the ordinary mortal writer. Even a laundry list from these two would make it to a bestseller list! So it is rather unhappy for me that I have to down this work in this manner. The Last Theorem is a book that doesn't work and I can only steer you away from it.
By The Book
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