Against the Day
Thomas Pynchon

This was an absolutely massive brick of a book. 1,085 very dense pages. The longest sentence I remember encountering was a page in length. He’s maintained his pattern of hard to read, but very rewarding, books. Though this is only the second Pynchon I’ve read, I will be going back for more, call me a masochist if you will.

Mathematicians are major characters; reasonably common in sci-fi, but most surprisingly the maths is depicted accurately.

Except… ideas of science are never considered in a rational vacuum. These ideas are always filtered through unbalanced, biased, imperfect humans. We attach extra value to these ideas; we invest in them, growing them beyond a purely rational consideration into something larger. Something that a person could start to believe in. Don’t be distracted by false claims of inaccurate ascriptions of religiosity. It’s not there. These both emerge from the same base. The linguists who analysed the unusual language of the Pirahã ended up spending sometime literally not speaking over a disagreement in interpretation of language constructs. This is more than science and rational discourse over ideas: this is belief.

No scientific proof is ever accepted from being derived from first principles. Russell showed that isn’t actually possible. Well, Russell gave it a shot; his failure showed it wasn’t possible then Gödel showed why.

This book is an historical fiction set around the turn of the 20th century: but if it was set now then it would be a near future sci-fi. Something in the line of Stephenson or Gibson where the possible effects of recent discoveries are explored. That’s not what the book is really trying to explore however. It feels like a daydream in the end. After exploring many different forms of literatures, sciences, ideas and political battles through the pivotal period of the 20th century the story lazily surfaces into what feels like our world.

You’re never quite sure where you’ve actually been.