Big Picture: Zach visits the Beimeni Centre

Words by Professor Andy Field (University of Sussex); image by James Iles ( Download PDF for poster.

Eight years ago I had the idea to write a fictional story through which the student learns statistics via a shared adventure with the main character. I thought it would be cool to collaborate with a graphic novel illustrator. The idea stuck, and after five years of planning and writing An Adventure in Statistics: The Reality Enigma is complete.

Superficially, the book is a story about a musician, Zach, searching for his girlfriend, Alice – a scientific genius who mysteriously disappears. However, it’s also about Zach facing his fear of science and numbers, about him learning to believe in himself. It’s about love, remembering who you are, and finding the heartbeats hiding in the gaps between you and the people you love. It’s also about statistics, which I hope will effortlessly sink in to readers’ brains while they are engrossed in the story. If nothing else, the statistics might be relief from the terrible fiction. We’ll see.

I worked with the fantastic James Iles, who created graphic novel strips that are woven throughout the book. This is one of my favourite panels. Zach has just broken into the Beimeni Centre, where Alice works. He stands in awe at the laboratory in front of him, dazzled by the realisation of how brilliant Alice is. He feels out of his depth in her world, and suffocated by the magnitude of his quest. I love the colours and the sense of space that James has created, but also that this moment is a metaphor for both the reader and myself. Zach represents the many students who stare at their statistics modules and feel a little ‘whoa’ about the journey ahead. He also represents me at the start of the project, realising how out of my comfort zone I was, and now at the end feeling overwhelmed at fulfilling an ambition that I thought was beyond me.

An Adventure in Statistics: The Reality Enigma
by Andy Field is out now, published by Sage.
For more information and to buy the book, see

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