3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Surprisingly Clever and Insightful Book,
This review is from: Math City (Paperback)Ahmad Amani is a Persian writer who is well known in his native Iran but if new to this reviewer. His new book MATH CITY he has introduced a significant and unique style that bodes well for his success on the international market. There are many who would begin this book and not have the patience to stay with it through to the end, but those readers would be missing a very well crafted story that creates a fantasy with so many overtones of metaphor that reading it is like studying the policies of Middle Eastern culture in a most entertaining way.
Math City is a book and the streets are the pages. The first character we meet is Lying Line, 'which all the children liked. Whenever a child was punished, the Lying Line intervened. For example, if a teacher told one of his students, "You must stand on one foot for ten minutes," the Lying Line would reduce it to five. It was his job to reduce. Children hid the Lying Line from their mothers because they were afraid lest it would make their allowances smaller.' And so we discover that this quasi caterpillar creature who is able to reduce girth by subtraction (make a Number 27 and Number 3 simply by the proximity of Lying Line) and the idiosyncrasies of all the citizens of Math City can be thus altered - fat people become thin and vice versa. Of course there must be competition so the Lying Line's father is the Upward Lying Line whose control over the people is obtained in curious and humorous ways. People can become Zero (not seen and not heard and essentially not existent!), can harbor greed, can start wars, etc, all in the manipulation of mathematical number changes. ' both groups of numbers secretly fought each other. The fat numbers, who generally had more power over taking decisions in Math City, forced the thin numbers to obey their commandments. The thin numbers were severely fined for nothing by Seven Million because he was the boss of city. Next, Dr. A Million started extracting teeth. If one of thins opposed it, the dentist did it without anesthetizing the mouths of the guilty. Pictures are so important in our lives; a picture is a worthy substitute for the owner of that picture. Even our ancestors, who lived in caves, drew pictures of animals on the walls of the caves. They with pictures were able to control the souls of animals forever and after that the prey could not escape because predators were able to see them anywhere. Little by little this power turned, and now the pictures have grasped and controlled us. It means anywhere my father's picture was; the people would shudder with fear and thought my father is here. Yes, a picture has magical powers, which my father had information about it. Therefore, he even forced the people of Math City to put his picture on the walls of their bedrooms.' Naturally a war must intervene (!) and the comment is 'a revolution unites people in order to get their rights. Next, everything will be divided equally among people, revolution belongs to everyone but war belongs to a person.' And so it goes to the end when the battles are over and the people settle in to a reasonable existence.
What Ahmad Amani has managed to do is to present a fable built on what we all imagine to be indestructible forces - mathematical numbers - an din creating this fantasy world he provides many windows into the manner in which perceptions and misunderstandings arise - and in this case, he calls those perceptions Middle Eastern. In reality they are universals, but it takes a man of intelligence and wit to make it into a human comedy. Amani succeeds. Grady Harp, May 12