This highly original and entertaining short novel (which has been in print continually since its original publication in 1884) tells the story of A. Square, an inhabitant of the two-dimensional world Flatland. After an overview of Flatland society in all its aspects, A. Square recounts how he was led on a series of visions and travels to Pointland, Lineland, and Spaceland by A. Sphere on the last day of Flatland’s year 1999. Through his encounters with these other lands, A. Square realizes that there is indeed more to the universe than the world he lives in. A. Sphere opens A. Square’s mind to new possibilities, illuminating the path to knowledge through careful observation and commonsense experimentation. But when A. Square can be contented no longer with what he has already seen, he dreams of visiting a land of four dimensions, the so-called Thoughtland. As in real life, such desires are met with sometimes-violent opposition from society’s leaders in the name of maintaining the status quo.
Victorian clergyman and Shakespearean scholar Edwin Abbott penned this mathematical allegory about the dawn of reason seemingly in response to the puritanical environment of his era. Touching on themes of humanity’s insatiable quest for truth, authority’s tendency to squash radical ideas born from this quest, and the necessity of curiosity, Flatland is an odd and charming little book whose impact far surpasses its concise prose.
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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.From the Back Cover:
What if there existed a world consisting of only two spatial dimensions? This mind-bending supposition is the jumping-off point for one of the literature's most celebrated oddities: the 1884 novella Flatland, one of the earliest instances of modern speculative fiction, and perhaps the only instance of mathematical satire.
In Flatland, a lowly square, whose polygonal betters exhibit more sides, discovers pathways to other worlds where, alas, thinking is as rigidly defined as in his own. Class structures, the position of women (who are but mere lines), and the stolidness of religious and political leaders are sent up with chilly aplomb.
Beloved by fans of science fiction, students of dimensional physics, and readers of Victorian literature, this belongs on the shelf of any serious home library.
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