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

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott
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M 50x66
's review
Mar 23, 2008

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For modern readers, the most compelling aspect of Flatland is inevitably the philosophical and theological undertones of the book. It is the story of A. Square, who is the resident of an entirely two dimensional world in which everything exists on a single plane. Flatland, as the narrator names his world, is inhabited various geometrical figures who go about their lives unable to see more than a single straight line. In the course of the book, the narrator is visited by a sphere, who comes from a place called Spaceland to deliver to the narrator "the Gospel of Three Dimensions" and thus enlighten him as to the limited nature of his existence.

Particularly for those of us living in a post-Einstein world, Flatland is a useful exercise in analogy to help conceptualize the idea of a fourth dimension, despite our only being able to percieve three. It can further be read theologically, by looking at the idea of a higher reality in the mathematical sense. However, I would not be honest if I did not admit that these speculations make up only about half of the book. The first half uses Flatland to critique, very specifically, the society of the late 1800's. This satirical aspect, while interesting to me, does not much reflect onto my life or ideas in any truly useful way, and I imagine that most modern readers would have much the same experience.

So, I strongly recommend the book to anyone interested in philosophy, physics, theology, or Victorian society. I imagine that most others would find it a bit dull.
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