Another one of the reviews I did for the old Whispers of Wickedness website, all of which are currently archived on The Future Fire website.
As with my review of Milo & I, this was a little bit out there. I was able to get away with it because I was doing a “proper” review of the book for The Third Alternative (which you can find here) and somebody else was doing a “proper” review for Whispers. It was all very proper back then, and is even more so now.
NB: I haven’t bothered to include any links, as it’s a) too time consuming and b) many of the sites referenced are now dead and/or missing, but if you want to check something out then visit The Future Fire archive where the links, if still live, are in place.
THE ELASTIC BOOK OF NUMBERS
Edited by Allen Ashley
Cover Art by Dean Harkness
A Statistical Analysis
The Elastic Book of Numbers was ushered into existence when editor Allen Ashley and publisher Andrew Hook agreed that an anthology of stories, each with the distinguishing feature of having a number in its title, would meld perfectly with the dominant zeitgeist of the times, an age in which numbers in their myriad forms increasingly dominate our lives, when all that we are and ever can be is readily reducible to binary code preserved on a micro-chip.
In the circumstances, we here at Whispers of Wickedness decided that a conventional review would be an inappropriate response to this unique project.
At first approaches were made to Carol Vorderman, Countdown hostess and poster girl for the cult of mathematical excellence, but in light of past experiences and a certain restraining order the WoW Reviews Editor (aka ‘the Big Cheese’) could only pursue this so far. Instead the task of evaluating TEBoN was delegated to WoW‘s resident statistician. A picture of this worthy, who wishes to remain anonymous, can be found on the Home page. He comes from an academic background and had at one time hoped to be a tax inspector, but unfortunately was expelled from the Inland Revenue’s Special Training Academy (aka ‘Bloodstone Manor’) when it was revealed that one Christmas he bought a bottle of bath salts for his aging grandmother and neglected to retain the receipt. His role here at WoW consists of nothing more strenuous than doing word counts and monitoring bandwidth for D, so this opportunity to put his abilities to better use was welcomed with open arms. It was a challenge to which, we hope you’ll agree, he rose with extraordinary skill and dedication above and beyond the cause of duty, albeit handicapped by a certain literal mindedness and an essentially anal retentive personality.
Contrary to what it says on the cover and in promotional material released by the publisher, The Elastic Book of Numbers is not, in fact, made out of elastic (a complaint has been lodged with Trading Standards on behalf of consumers who have specifically purchased the book on account of this deliberately misleading piece of nomenclature). Pending receipt of lab reports and a full toxicology work up, my initial impression is that the book consists of card, paper and ink, a combination which I believe to be a publishing industry standard.
TEBoN weighs a mere 17oz, which compares unfavourably with the average Fantasy doorstopper or the work of literary heavyweights such as Salman Rushdie, Thomas Pynchon and Dick Francis (Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon weighs in at an impressive 2lb 10oz). While I cannot speak to literary merit, in statistical terms TEBoN is lightweight.
TEBoN has a height of 8.25 inches, a width of 5.875 inches and a depth of 0.75 inches. This gives TEBoN a total surface area of 118.125 square inches and a total volume of 36.35 cubic inches. (Figures subject to confirmation by somebody who actually knows what they’re doing–Ed).
TEBoN has a density of 50.6 lbs per cubic foot. (Maybe–Ed).
That would be… Er, do I look like a $%!&ing rocket scientist? (No. Me neither–Ed)
THE PAGE COUNT
TEBoN consists of a wraparound cardboard cover, plus 146 sheets of paper with printing on either one or both sides. This gives, excluding the cover, a total page count of 292 pages (2×146).
37 of the pages contain contributors notes, advertising material etc, or have been left blank for reasons of design, meaning that 255 (292–37) pages are devoted exclusively to fiction (87.33% of the total).
There are 21 stories in TEBoN and therefore the average story length, rounded off to the nearest page, would be 12 pages. Only one story conforms to this statistical average.
The longest story in TEBoN is 27 pages and the shortest is 7 pages, giving us a mean average of 17 pages. There are no stories of 17 pages length, from which we may deduce that none of them are either mean or average.
Each piece of fiction, with 3 exceptions, contains a number in its title. The highest number thus used is 1,000,000 and the lowest 0.
The number 0 occurs in three story titles, while 2, 5 and 8 each appear in two titles. No other number recurs in any of the titles.
When added up these numbers provide a grand total of 1429158.54 (N.B. for purposes of this calculation the telephone number 1-800-2 has been expressed as 18,002).
The average number of a story then is 68055.17. There is no story in TEBoN with this number.
TEBoN has a total of 23 contributors (one of the stories is co-written and a numerical quiz is provided by another contributor).
Only 8 of the contributors (35%) are female and this is reflected in the number of pages written by female contributors (36% of the total). Given that something like 52-54% of the general population is female, TEBoN is not a representative model of modern society (appropriate representations have been made to the Equal Opportunity Commission).
Geographically speaking the contributors break down along the following lines:-
United Kingdom–14 (61% of the total)
Nationality Unknown–2 (9%)
Regrettably at the present time we are not in a position to say how the contributor base of TEBoN breaks down along socio-economic lines or to make any statement regarding the religious beliefs, politics, ethnicity and sexual orientation of the contributors, though the publishers have been asked to provide the appropriate information (copy birth certificates, tax statements, DNA samples etc). It is anticipated that the government’s proposal of a national data base and use of identity cards will be a great help in any future statistical analysis of this type.
Sadly the WoW budget does not extend to the provision of pie charts, which would make all this vital information much easier for the reader to digest (stop griping and get on with it–Ed).
TEBoN costs £6.00, which includes postage and packing. This averages out at approximately 29p per story or just over 2p per page of fiction, though without the provision of further funding for research I am not in a position to say how this compares with similar products available in the market (I can. In plain English, ‘It’s bloody good value for money’–Ed).
The Elastic Book of Numbers is available from Elastic Press.
Whispers of Wickedness makes no claims as to the accuracy of any of the figures contained in this statistical analysis. If you’re that concerned, then the best thing to do is buy the book and work out the math for yourself.