Oscar Wilde once said, “I am so clever sometimes I don’t understand a single word a single word I am saying.”
The world’s greatest artists are almost never immune to the stray dip in quality over the body of their works — Stephen King’s “The TommyKnockers,” The Beatles album “With the Beatles” and Stephen Spielberg’s “Twilight Zone” are all examples of poor works by great artists.
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For Sheldon Axler and co-author Student Solutions Manual, authors of famed horror novel “Linear Algebra Done Right” and romance “Algebra and Trigonometry,” “Precalculus, A Prelude to Calculus” represents such a dip in form.
Axler and Manual are well known for their fluidity in genre, pulling a complete 180 from their first novel to their second. “Linear Algebra Done Right” is a dark examination of the human spirit, “Algebra and Trigonometry” is a light hearted romp into the zeitgeist of the eighties through the view of a pair amourous Yuppies. While Precalculus, set in a near future where data collection from a company called Trig Com — a thinly veiled expy of Google — has taken data collection too far does continue their tradition of breaking ground on new genres, it does not continue their tradition of quality.
The passages of the novel are didactic and long winded, and the authors seem more interested in instructing the reader on how to run their lives than providing the sense of wonder or mirror for self reflection that the other novels contain. The main character Fung Shin, an immigrant to New York City, frequently attempts to solve the problems he faces in the novel through convoluted methods with ridiculous and unexpected steps that make little to no sense, which only confuses the reader and causes them to lose the plot.
The stale and boorish pages of the novel only serve to disappoint the reader with each turn, as the novel becomes increasingly jumbled and complicated, like a snowball rolling down a hill covered in non sequiturs. It wastes a creative idea with boring, repetitive plot structure of little purpose besides setting the stage for a sequel, which hopefully might see Axler and Manual return to form. I recommend this novel for only those who have the patience to work through it. Maybe one day, the series may be rewarding to follow.