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Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by…

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884)

by Edwin A. Abbott, Edwin Abbott Abbott

Other authors: Banesh Hoffmann (Introduction)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 115 (next | show all)
Incredible premise of actual life in two dimensions. It would be good to have the mathematical skills to totally comprehend the entire document.

For those of us with somewhat lesser statistical brains than Stephen Hawking, it does get very boring. A kid's edition would be welcome! ( )
  m.belljackson | Jul 7, 2016 |
Although this has received praise from people like Asimov, I was not impressed finding it too Victorian for my tastes ( )
  M_Clark | Apr 27, 2016 |

A classic of nineteenth century sf, where the story is told by an inhabitant of a two-dimensional universe who has become aware that a third dimension exists. As a teenager I had read Martin Gardner's extended review of this book and similar writings, and to be honest it was better than the original source material, which is laden with assumptions about what the reader would find funny which rather grate on today's sensitivities particularly with regard to gender but also class and race; it has not aged well. But at the same time the core message, challenging the reader to conceive of a conceptual breakthrough where our universe is just one aspect of a higher dimensional reality, is well executed - and of course the concept of other dimensions has become much more operational since 1884. ( )
  nwhyte | Apr 17, 2016 |
Listened to as part of Craftlit podcast.
  nordie | Mar 20, 2016 |
Science-fiction is a much abused term; it’s come to mean almost anything with spaceships, lasers and slavering green blob monsters invading other planets. Or, really, any novel set more than five minutes into the future. That’s a tad disingenuous in the truest meaning of the phrase as much of it is essentially futuristic fantasy underpinned with technobabble as a handwave instead of magic; there are strains which earnestly explore cutting edge science ideas but these don’t tend to be at the popular end of the genre.

Flatland is science-fiction in the truest sense; it’s a novel whose setting, characters and ideas all derive from science (geometry in this case). The central character is a square existing in a place called Flatland, a two dimensional plane with no concepts other than height and width. The first section describes the workings of the land in some detail; how life exists and functions on that level. It’s a fascinating exercise in worldbuilding although I’m not sure it entirely holds together; given the time it was written the skipping of sex is excusable but I can’t quite see how it might work in the circumstances. The second half deals with the question of dimensions; what creatures who exist in one and no dimensions might think and what impact the existence of a creature of more dimensions might have on a creature of that society. It’s a cute way of explaining the mathematical concept of dimensions if nothing else.

All this allows Abbot to make his central satirical point; how people limit their thinking, often not even knowing there’s a limitation. The direct satire is on Victorian society so some of the finer points may be lost or look badly intended – the sections of the book dealing with female characters seem slightly uncomfortable given it’s tough to tell whether Abbot was angry about the treatment of women or simply going along with a general societal perspective. Given the point of the book is how foolish it is to be locked in one mode of thought I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt there – he’s quite cutting on the powers of the law, the priesthood and social hierarchies in general. Essentially it’s a plea to consider other perspective and broaden the mind illustrated with mathematical concepts but nowhere near as dull as that might sound. It’s a simple (and therefore hugely clever) analogy for general human behaviour. Courageously it also comes to a quite downbeat conclusion about human nature and our tendency not to listen to others who might be telling us things we don’t want to hear. It’s surprisingly undated too – although the solid rhythms and cadences of Victorian prose mean it’s sometimes tough to wade through the setting means the story itself doesn’t really age; there’s no technology, slang or direct social concerns to root it in one time. Well over a century later it still stands as one of the more clever and unusual genre novels published. ( )
  JonArnold | Mar 17, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (63 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Abbott, Edwin A.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abbott, Edwin Abbottmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Hoffmann, BaneshIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bradbury, RayIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dewdney, A. K.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edelmann, HeinzCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jann, RosemaryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalka, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lightman, Alan P.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, ValerieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"O day and night, but this is wondrous strange" [Hamlet]

"Fie, fie, how franticly I square my talk!" [Titus Andronicus]
The Inhabitants of SPACE IN GENERAL
This Work is Dedicated
By a Humble Native of Flatland
In the Hope that
Even as he was Initiated into the Mysteries
Of THREE Dimensions
Having been previously conversant
So the Citizens of that Celestial Region
May aspire yet higher and higher
To the Secrets of FOUR FIVE OR EVEN SIX Dimensions
Thereby contributing
To the Enlargement of THE IMAGINATION
And the possible Development
Of that most rare and excellent Gift of MODESTY
Among the Superior Races
First words
I call our world Flatland, not because we call it so, but to make its nature clearer to you, my happy readers, who are privileged to live in Space.
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Cela doit vous apprendre que la satisfaction de soi-même trahit un être vil et ignorant, et que mieux vaut aspirer à quelque chose qu'être heureux aveuglément et dans l'impuissance.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
The Annotated Flatland has substantial commentary by Ian Stewart and so is a separate work.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 048627263X, Paperback)

Flatland is one of the very few novels about math and philosophy that can appeal to almost any layperson. Published in 1880, this short fantasy takes us to a completely flat world of two physical dimensions where all the inhabitants are geometric shapes, and who think the planar world of length and width that they know is all there is. But one inhabitant discovers the existence of a third physical dimension, enabling him to finally grasp the concept of a fourth dimension. Watching our Flatland narrator, we begin to get an idea of the limitations of our own assumptions about reality, and we start to learn how to think about the confusing problem of higher dimensions. The book is also quite a funny satire on society and class distinctions of Victorian England.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:34 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

A science fiction classic. The narrator is A. Square, whose flat, middle-class life is suddenly given an exciting new shape by his encounter with a sphere. The sphere introduces A. Square to the joys and sorrows of the third dimension, and the reader is drawn into the deligtful subtleties and irrepressible logic of multidimensional thinking.… (more)

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