The Last Theorem

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 March, 2009, 12:00am

The Last Theorem

by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederick Pohl

Harper, HK$104

For authors, like rappers, death doesn't always signal the end of a career so much as a sabbatical from publicity rounds. Although Arthur C. Clarke died in March last year, this has hardly put a dent in his publishing schedule. His final book, eerily called The Last Theorem, suggests he was in pretty good form to the end. Composed in collaboration with Frederick Pohl, another seminal figure in the science fiction world, it tells the 'long and remarkable' life story of Ranjit Subramanian, a brilliant mathematician who becomes obsessed with solving Fermat's Last Theorem. This famously tricky problem is the least of his worries, however. A race of nasty super-beings, called the Grand Galactics, are in a lather about nuclear emissions from Earth. It would be gratifying to learn that they travel across space to return a lawnmower, but as usual they merely want to wipe humans from the face of the cosmos. Back on Earth, conflicting nations seem fairly keen on wiping each other out without extra-terrestrial help. Cue Subramanian and a weapons project called 'Silent Thunder'. The Last Theorem is pleasant to read, if mildly bonkers.