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

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott
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's review
Sep 15, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: 2011, illustrated
Read from September 14 to 16, 2011 — I own a copy

I found out about Flatland after Sheldon mentioned it during an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Proof that TV can educate! So I picked up a copy at the wonderful (and recently relocated post earthquake) Scorpio Books while on a short trip to Christchurch for an interview a few weeks ago. They always have a huge and varied selection of Penguin Classics, much to my delight.

Flatland, published in 1884, is part mathematical essay, part instruction in geometry, part introduction to imagining other dimensions, part philosophy, part social satire and wholly entertaining. We are led through Flatland, the inhabitants, social issues and daily aspects of living on a plane by the humble (though occasionally pompous) A. Square.

Flatland is a brutal place dolled up as civilisation with government corruption and conspiracies, enforced imprisonment or death for the lower classes and a complete disregard for women. It's quite entertaining to read as a satire (assuming that it fully was intended that way).

However, the maths is present throughout and it's a great little instructional text to open up a different world viewpoint, to pay attention to the mathematical wonders in daily life and to try and break our deeply held conceptions of how it all works. It pleads for a more open mind in trying to contemplate dimensions we have no way of measuring with no means of comparison or context. It's a short, fun, thoughtful and educational read and well worth an afternoon.

It's also available online for free in many places, having fallen out of copyright, so get it.

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