Map of Blue Book Balloon

31 March 2021

#Review - Advanced Triggernometry by Stark Holborn

Cover by Philip Harris

Advanced Triggernometry (Triggernomentry #2)
Stark Holborn
Rattleback Books, 8 April 2021
Available as: e-book
Source: e-book kindly supplied by the author

"The cash we stole dragged at our heels, bloody and guilty, but we didn't let it go. That's the problem with gold..."

A year ago, with Triggernometry, Holborn introduced a version of the Old West where practitioners of mathematics are outlawed - literally. In that book her outcast "mathmos", "mad" Malago Browne and her sidekick, Pierre Fermat, used their skills in advanced calculus and complex analysis to get an edge in every gunfight - not to mention the keen edges of their steel protractors, rulers and setsquares - and pulled off an audacious robbery. The Big One. The heist to end all heists. 

So as Advanced Triggernometry begins, we find Browne living as "Mrs Grey", apparently at peace, across the Border - as the way is, or was, in the Old West. 

She's teaching maths in a school, until one day three strangers arrive.

She should have stayed there...

Advanced Triggernometry is another riff on a classic Western theme - this time, the town defenceless against bandits. The three strangers want help. It's time for Browne to saddle up, ride out, and, accompanied by Dog, get the gang together agains.

It's all great fun, working on three levels (at least). First, on the surface, there are the classic locations, characters and situations: the mining camp, the saloon bar fight, the corrupt lawman, the climactic shootout. Then, we have the joy of seeing Holborn recast everything in a mathematical framework, having the fights won by a keen eye, a quick brain and a well deployed instrument. This carries through to the chapter names and headings and the background and character of the protagonists (who must surely be drawn from a Valhalla of the science - Holborn manages to have figures together who were born hundred or even thousands of years apart: even Archimedes makes an appearance).

Finally, there's a serious note in the way society has gone here. A little bit Fahrenheit 451, a little bit The Handmaid's Tale, but wholly its own thing, the depiction of a nation where the Capitol has manipulated prejudice and greed to turn people away from learning and enlightenment is... not that far from reality, in some respects. And its fitting that the response, as depicted here, is to seek solidarity and mutual protection from the bullies.

The writing is sharp and authentic for the genre ('Noches was named for its trade: night pursuits, fuelled by liquor and as many bad decisions as could be crammed into ten hours of darkness', 'People began to emerge from the houses, their eyes guarded, words of welcome locked behind their teeth') but at the same time full of great mathematical in-jokes ('Évariste Galois. Careful of him. He's young, but he's a trouble-maker. Obsessed with radicals.') and in places Holborn both manages to hit a reference or work in a quote and to make her writing deeply moving.

To summarise, whole short, Advanced Triggernometry entertains throughout. It's a fun read, and raises some serious issues. I'd recommend.  

You can pre-order Advanced Triggernometry from Amazon for Kindle here

Stark Holborn's website is here.

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