Canadian science fiction author Derryl Murphy's debut novel is Napier's Bones, a novel about a secret group of "numerates" who have the power to control and manipulate the deep math lurking beneath the physical world to their benefit. All the great mathematicians of history were numerates, from Archimedes to the titular John Napier to Einstein, but most numerates never publicly pursue math. Instead, numerates use math to amass power, grabbing at the invisible numbers floating all around us and ordering them to do their bidding, manipulating probability and numerical systems to their advantage, cadging free phone calls and gaming ATMs. Numerates prize -- and fight over -- mystical artifacts of numerical significance or coincidence. The best numerates can imbue objects in the world with their own numbers and achieve a practical form of immortality.
Dom is a numerate who comes to awareness of a bus in Utah with no memory of how he got there. All the numbers on his ID and money have been charred off, and there's another person inside his head. This person -- Billy -- is the crippled avatar of some long-dead numerate, memories of his corporeal life lost. He and his former host were chasing a powerful artifact in the desert when they encountered a much more powerful numerate, possibly inhabited by John Napier and Archimedes, and the ensuing duel killed Billy's host. Desperate for new accommodations, Billy fled to Dom's mind.
Thus begins Dom's adventures, fleeing from the powerful numerate who killed Billy's host and attacked him. He quickly teams up with Jenna, an untrained proto-numerate who spots him when he rubs the serial numbers off his money before buying lunch from her at a deli and pursues him and demands that he train her. They flee to Canada, and then to Scotland, and on the way, we are treated to glimpses of the numerate world, where coincidence is power, where prime numbers can defeat pursuers, where number-intensive pursuits like stock-trading and sports flare off raw power there for those who want it.
Murphy's vision of numbers as the secret, driving engine of the physical world is striking -- he plays right into the mind's own propensity to ascribe pattern to the patternless, significance to the random. The resulting mystical system feels very convincing, and forms the basis for as fun and intense an adventure novel as you could hope to find. The physical book, produced by Canadian specialty press ChiZine, is a smart and beautiful little package with striking, subtle use of embossing and type-design that makes it a fine artifact in its own right.
When ex-CIA agent Tom King teamed up with a group of extremely talented writers to reboot Marvel’s “Vision” in 2015, he had a lot of material to work with — the character had begun as a kind of super-android in the 1940s and had been reincarnated many times, through many twists and turns: what King & Co did with Vision both incorporated and transcended all that backstory, in an astounding tale that Ta-Nehisi Coates called “the best comic going right now.” With the whole run collected in two volumes, there’s never been a better time to see just how far comic storytelling can go.
I first started writing about the remarkable Joi Ito in 2002, and over the decade and a half since, I’ve marvelled at his polymath abilities — running international Creative Commons, starting and investing in remarkable tech businesses, getting Timothy Leary’s ashes shot into space, backing Mondo 2000, using a sprawling Warcraft raiding guild to experiment with leadership and team structures, and now, running MIT’s storied Media Lab — and I’ve watched with excitement as he’s distilled his seemingly impossible-to-characterize approach to life in a set of 9 compact principles, which he and Jeff Howe have turned into Whiplash, a voraciously readable, extremely exciting, and eminently sensible book.
A flashlight review that begins with the promise “I’m about to hike through a remote canyon to an abandoned mine, and I gotta tell you there’s a storm raging outside” should end on an interesting note, and this one does. [via] Disturbing, strange sounds. That’s exactly what I caught on video while filming and documenting […]
The Black Friday Mac Bundle 2.0 is one of the Boing Boing Store’s best-selling Mac bundles yet, and it’s about to come to an end. If you don’t get your copy now, here’s what you’ll be missing:This bundle comes packing 9 top-rated Mac apps in one package, at the hugely discounted price of just $23.99. […]
The Boing Boing Store’s Gift Guide is full of ideas for pretty much anyone in your life like hipster ice cub trays, Xbox controllers, Halo Boards, and even diamond necklaces. As always, all products in the Boing Boing Store come at great discounts, too. Shop by price bucket starting at under $20. Under $20:Bloxx Jumbo Ice Trays […]
Unlike traditional lighters, the SaberLight features an electronic plasma beam that’s both rechargeable and butane-free. This sleek lighter is even approved by TSA, so you’ll never be stuck buying lighters you’ll just have to throw away partially used. For some people, like me, this is a pretty big game-changer. The SaberLight’s beam is actually both hotter and cleaner […]