book-reviews

White Light

by Rudy Rucker

Rating: ★★★

White Light reads like nothing so much as an LSD trip report written by a mathematician working on set theory and the mathematics of infinity. Given that Rucker was indeed a mathematician who would've been in his 20s in the '70s, and given that he wrote a nonfiction book called Infinity and the Mind at around the same time as he wrote White Light, it all starts to seem suspiciously like this might actually be the case.

Nonetheless, it's an interesting read. Rucker deals with a large portion of the problems with infinity, bouncing ideas off various notable mathematicians of history as well as several zany characters from species whose dimensions cannot easily be comprehended. As a sort of parable/thought experiment approach to the mathematics, it's a nice balance of engaging and edifying. I'm not so sure what to make of the ending, though. When Rucker comes back down to earth, so to speak, he learns that he can use his astral form to manipulate certain particles, leading to a breakthrough in physical science. I don't think that actually happened, so what we're meant to take from it I'm not really sure -- it seems oddly extended for a bookend to the surreal mindscape, but it serves no obvious purpose.