Stephen's Reviews > Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott
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's review
Apr 27, 12

bookshelves: classics, easton-press, 1800s, the-worlds-the-thing, science-fiction, classics-european, humor-and-satire
Read from April 25 to 26, 2012, read count: 2

Take a classically styled, 19th century satire about Victorian social mores…dress it up in dimensional geometry involving anthropomorphized shapes (e.g., lines, squares, cubes, etc.)…bathe it in the sweet, scented waters of social commentary…and wrap it all around humble, open-minded Square as protagonist.

The result is Flatland, a unique “classic” parked at the intersection of a number of different genres, thus pinging the radar of a wider than normal audience to appreciate (or detest) it. Since I’m recommending the book, I’m really hoping for the former, as I do not want to incur a cyber-flogging (or worse) from my fellow “goodreaders.”

So...um...math.

Let’s get this out of the way right now. As I alluded to in my intro, this book contains MATH. Now I hesitate to even mention that, because of the potential angst that subject causes many of my friends. I certainly don’t want people going all
scream scream
arnold
Untitled
…and dashing away in a panic.

Rest easy and increase your calm, the math is very minor. It’s really limited to discussions of geometric figures in the context of how many spatial dimensions they inhabit. Damn, that didn’t sound good either….just trust me, you won’t need a slide rule, an abacus or a lifeline to Stephen Hawking to read the book.

However, with that said, while the math is not tricky, some of the concepts can be a little brain twisty to try and visualize. Thus, I want to caution that when you get to the section where a three dimensional “Sphere” is explaining a universe containing only one dimension to our two-dimensional protagonist, you should….IMMEDIATELY…DISCONTINUE…READING…until you have:

1. burned some incense,
2. poured a big tumbler of whiskey, and
3. eaten a few “peyote” brownies, because the SHIT is about to get…

Busey

PLOT SUMMARY:

Written in 1884, the story is told by “A. Square,” who lives in Flatland, a world of two-dimensions, which means length and width, but no depth (just like the Kardashians). The men of Flatland are multi-sided polygons, and the more sides an individual has, the greater their social standing. On the other hand, women are all simple lines and have no voice in the governing of the society.

Yep...the Flatlanders are chauvinists.

The book begins with “A Square” describing his life as part of the “professional class” and providing details on daily life in Flatland. This section serves as a In reality, this is a pretty good satire on Victorian London society, the social caste system and gender inequality.

Later, “A Square” dreams of a one-dimensional world called Lineland, where the inhabitants exist as simple points along a straight line, as there is no other width or depth. I seriously hope you have that tumbler of whiskey and some brownies close by because you are going to need them. What follows is a fun, but somewhat confusing discussions during which “A Square” tries to explain the two-dimensional world to the king of Lineland.

Eventually, our protagonist wakes up back in Flatland, only to find that he is now being visited by a Sphere from a three-dimensional universe…whiskey…peyote…now. Sphere takes our flatlander on a mind-expanding, eye opening journey to witness the wonders and mysteries of the higher and higher dimensions (3rd, 4th, 5th, etc.). Afterwards, “A Square” returns to Flatland to teach the wonders of such “enlightened” dimensions to his fellow flatlanders, the result of which is…

…nope…no spoilers here!

THOUGHTS:

As I sit here, sober and “mostly” peyote free, I think I enjoyed the “ideas and concepts” of the story more than the actual plot. The writing was fine, but nothing that struck me as particularly eloquent. However, I’ve the concepts of the story have stayed with me and I have actually become more appreciative of the material as time has gone by.

Overall, I liked the book. I think it’s worth reading, but more for the interesting ideas and mental gymnastics that the narrative puts you through than for the simply enjoyment of the plot. Still, a worthwhile read, and since it’s actually a novella, you can get through it quickly without a large time commitment.

3.0 stars. Recommended!
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Comments (showing 1-31 of 31) (31 new)

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message 1: by Robert (new)

Robert You should really try Flatland & Sphereland to see what social reform takes place in Flatland and how it turns out that Flatland isn't really flat!


Stephen I didn't know there was a sequel. I just looked it up. I will definitely pick up a copy. Thanks, Robert.


message 3: by Robert (new)

Robert By a different author, mind. I think there is at least one other sequel by a different different author, but I haven't read it...


Stephen I saw that...written by an actual mathematician. I will need to replenish my peyote supply.


message 5: by Robert (new)

Robert Just don't get it mixed up with a coyote supply; that could lead to unpleasantness!


Stephen Not to worry, I don't think my supplier, Acme, does much work with coyotes.


message 7: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Whitley BEST . REVIEW . on Goodreads! . . BEST . REVIEW . . EVER!
My personal favorites
"lifeline to Steven Hawking"
"burn some incense, tumbler full of whiskey, eaten a few peyote brownies"


Stephen Rachel wrote: "BEST . REVIEW . on Goodreads! . . BEST . REVIEW . . EVER!
My personal favorites
"lifeline to Steven Hawking"
"burn some incense, tumbler full of whiskey, eaten a few peyote brownies""


Wow...thanks, Rachel. You just made my night.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways I feel sure I'll skip re-reading this and go straight to peyote. That new cover is trippy as all get-out.

Mr. Man, the previous incumbent, read this with me in 2006 and we agreed to shoot each other in the fatty parts if we ever picked it up again. Even though he still lives in Texas, I don't feel right running the risk.

Have you read Tau Zero? It was the first novel I had ever read with equations. Didn't like it.


Stephen Yes, I've read Tau Zero, and I seem to recall you made a similar math-averse comment on my review of that one.

Fatty parts must be protected at all costs.


message 11: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Math is hard......but I like it.


message 12: by Robert (new)

Robert I recommend Cities in Flight to all even though it does have one equation in it.

The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe however, would be pointless for the maths-averse.


message 13: by Manny (last edited Apr 27, 2012 03:38AM) (new)

Manny Cities in Flight! Everyone should read Cities in Flight! Why is this magnificent series now almost completely unknown??? And, okay, smartasses, don't come back with answers like "because it's terribly written" or "because it's got no female characters worth mentioning". It's a Golden Age space opera, for cryin' out loud!


message 14: by Robert (new)

Robert Blish openly admitted that he avoided female characters as much as possible because he thought he was bad at them...however, late in his career he wrote How Beautiful with Banners, which is a great short story written from a female perspective.


message 15: by Hend (new) - added it

Hend your introduction is so funny !
i like it....:)))


Stephen Thanks, Hend. :)


message 17: by abdelbari (last edited Apr 27, 2012 08:26AM) (new)

 abdelbari  oulhani Stephanie wrote: "Math is hard......but I like it." I agree whit you


message 18: by E.V.Franzmnn (new) - added it

E.V.Franzmnn E.V.Franzmnn I hate math!!!! But I do love some whiskey and brownies while I read. Since this book is not that long, I'll follow your advice and read this.
Oh, your review, well, you have 56 likes, I don't really need to tell you how good it is, right? LoL


Stephen Thanks, Elisandra. I hope you like it...if not, at least there's the whiskey.


Stephen Stephanie wrote: "Math is hard......but I like it."

That is why whiskey was invented...it's in the bible.


message 21: by E.V.Franzmnn (new) - added it

E.V.Franzmnn E.V.Franzmnn Stephen wrote: "Stephanie wrote: "Math is hard......but I like it."

That is why whiskey was invented...it's in the bible."


And brownies, don't forget the brownies. LoL


message 22: by E.V.Franzmnn (new) - added it

E.V.Franzmnn E.V.Franzmnn Stephen wrote: "Thanks, Elisandra. I hope you like it...if not, at least there's the whiskey."


So, it's a win win situation. LoL


message 23: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Manny wrote: "And, okay, smartasses, don't come back with answers like "because it's terribly written" or "because it's got no female characters worth mentioning". It's a Golden Age space opera, for cryin' out loud!"

....being terribly written and having no female characters worth mentioning are the DEFINING characteristics of Golden Age space operas, no?


message 24: by Manny (last edited Apr 27, 2012 10:18AM) (new)

Manny Well exactly! But this is a really good one...


message 25: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Stephen wrote: "a world of two-dimensions, which means length and width, but no depth (just like the Kardashians). Bwah ha ha! Such a silly man :)


message 26: by Trudi (new)

Trudi My favorite all time episode of The Simpsons is when Homer gets sucked into "3-D" land. Classic :)


Stephen Trudi wrote: "My favorite all time episode of The Simpsons is when Homer gets sucked into "3-D" land. Classic :)"

I loved that too. Wasn't that on one of the Treehouse of Horror episodes?


message 28: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Yes! VI I think -- it was called Homer³ :) The early Treehouses were the best. They haven't been funny in ages.


message 29: by Kat (last edited Apr 30, 2012 11:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat  Hooper I was planning to read this this week because Blackstone Audio just released it.


Stephen I saw that, Kat. I may come back to this at some point and listen to the audio. I'll be curious to hear what you think of the narration.


message 31: by Bobby (new)

Bobby Do you read modern books of spirituality or meditation?


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