The Last Theorem

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-08-18
  • Publisher: Del Rey
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When Ranjit Subramanian, a Sri Lankan with a special gift for numbers, writes a three-page proof of the coveted "Last Theorem," which French mathematician Pierre de Fermat claimed to have discovered (but never recorded) in 1637, Ranjit's achievement is hailed as a work of genius, bringing him fame and fortune. But it also brings him to the attention of the National Security Agency and a shadowy United Nations outfit called Pax per Fidemor Peace Through Transparencywhose secretive workings belie its name. Suddenly Ranjitalong with his familyfinds himself swept up in world-shaking events, his genius for abstract mathematical thought put to uses that are both concrete and potentially deadly.

Author Biography

Arthur C. Clarke has long been considered the greatest science fiction writer of all time. He was an international treasure in many other ways, including the fact that a 1945 article by him led to the invention of satellite technology. Books by Clarke–both fiction and nonfiction–have sold more than one hundred million copies worldwide. He died in 2008.

Frederik Pohl is the author of many novels, including The Boy Who Would Live Forever; Gateway, part of his acclaimed Heechee saga; and Jem, for which he won the National Book Award. With Isaac Asimov, he was a founding member of the New York-based science fiction group known as the Futurians. In the sixties, Pohl edited Galaxy magazine and its sister magazine, if, which won the Hugo Award three years in a row. In 1993, he became a Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master. He lives in Palatine, Illinois.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter One


And so now, at last, we meet this Ranjit Subramanian, the one whose long and remarkable life this book is all about. 

At this time Ranjit was sixteen years old, a freshman at Sri Lanka’s principal university, in the city of Colombo, and more full of himself than even your average sixteen- year- old. He wasn’t at the university now, though. At his father’s bidding he had made the long trip from Colombo slantwise across the island of Sri Lanka to the district of Trincomalee, where his father had the distinction of being chief priest at the Hindu temple called Tiru Koneswaram. Ranjit actually loved his father very much. 

He was almost always glad to see him. This time, however, he was a bit less so, because this time Ranjit had a pretty good idea of what the revered Ganesh Subramanian wanted to talk to him about. 

Ranjit was an intelligent boy, in fact one who was quite close to being as smart as he thought he was. He was a good- looking one, too. He wasn’t terribly tall, but most Sri Lankans aren’t. Ethnically he was a Tamil, and his skin color was the rich dark brown of a spoonful of cocoa powder, just before it went into the hot milk. The skin color wasn’t because he was a Tamil, though. Sri Lankans have a rich palette of complexions from near- Scandinavian white to a black so dark it seems almost purple. Ranjit’s best friend, Gamini Bandara, was pure Sinhalese for as many generations back as anyone had bothered to count, but the boys were the same in skin hue. The boys had been friends for a long time—since that scary night when Gamini’s school had burned to the ground, probably put to the torch by a couple of upperclassmen smoking forbidden cigarettes in a storage room. 

Like every other nearby human being capable of picking up a splintered piece of plywood and throwing it on the back of a truck, Ranjit had been drafted for emergency relief work. So had all the rest of the student body of his own school. It had been a dirty job, a lot harder than a youngster’s developing muscles were used to, not to mention the splinters and the scrapes and the endless cuts from the broken glass that was everywhere. Those were the bad parts, and there were plenty of them. But there were good parts, too. Like the time when Ranjit and some other boy around his own age finally got down to the source of some plaintive sounds that were coming from a debris pile, and released the headmaster’s terrified, but intact, elderly Siamese cat. 

When a teacher had carried the cat off to its owner, the two boys had stood grinning at each other. Ranjit had stuck his hand out, English fashion. “I’m Ranjit Subramanian,” he’d said. 

“And I’m Gamini Bandara,” the other boy had said, pumping his hand gleefully, “and, hey, we did a pretty good job here, didn’t we?” 

They agreed that they had. When at last they had been allowed to quit work for the day, they had lined up together for the sort of porridge that was their evening meal, and plopped their sleeping bags next to each other that night, and they had been best friends ever since. Helped out, to be sure, by the fact that Gamini’s school had been made uninhabitable by the fire and so its students had to double up at Ranjit’s. Gamini turned out to be pretty much everything a best friend could be, including the fact that the one great obsession in Ranjit’s life, the one for which there was no room for another person to share, didn’t interest Gamini at all. 

And, of course, there was one other thing that Gamini was. That

Excerpted from The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke, Frederik Pohl
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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