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Reviews of White Light (1980)

Review by mrdude (2005-02-24)
White Light by Rudy Rucker is the story of Felix Rayman, a mathematics teacher at the state college of SUCAS who starts experimenting with lucid dreaming and manages to leave his physical body.

This book was an extremely interesting read, although it did seem a little scattered at times. The biggest theme of the novel is the concept of infinity. Rudy Rucker actually was a mathematics professor at SUCAS so he really uses this book as means of presenting ideas of set theory and the infinite. I did find this interesting but at times I felt the author often explained concepts over and over again. I was also surprised to find that the book was supposed to be highly comical. I myself found it more absurd and surreal than humorous in any way.

I was less pleased with other smaller themes in the novel. Rucker also included the idea of a physical afterlife and ghosts roaming the earth in his novel. I'm sure his intent was to try and tie all these things together and show how they could fit with concepts of advanced mathematics, but it really seemed more disjointed and conflicting to me. It was hard to listen to a complex explanation of the concept of aleph-one, a transfinite number, and then have the author turn around and have Jesus save the main character from the devil, or have the main character meet up with a ghost. Part of this problem was due to the fact that a large amount of the book is devoted to explanations of mathematical concepts while other themes, such as the afterlife, were simply implied and hence relatively vague.

Despite such problems the book does have some redeemable qualities. The writing is pretty good and really pulls the reader in at the beginning. I was also pleased at the amount of information on mathematics that was presented to the reader. Although the author did not overwhelm the reader with set theory in its entirety, he did present a good amount of information and did make some interesting postulations. Overall I found this book to be full of very interesting concepts but may have enjoyed one of the authors nonfiction books better. (the author does mention in the afterward that he wrote a nonfiction book with similar ideas expressed titled Infinity and the Mind)

(Review also posted at the IBDoF)

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