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on 3 December 2017
At just over eighty pages this is a short novel, but by no means a simple text. Written in 1884, this book is full of ideas that will interest mathematicians, physicists, historians, sociologists, politicians and paranormalists alike. It deals with issues such as eugenics, equality, revolution, the rigid class system of the late Victorian era, mathematical shapes, higher dimensions, shape-shifting and teleportation.
The book is narrated to the reader by an inhabitant of Flatland, a Mr A. Square who happens to be a mathematician. The first half of the book describes the Flatland’s houses, its inhabitants and its history. From this we learn that the lowliest members of society, represented by straight lines, are its women. They are deemed to be stupid, emotional and unfit for education. Although feminists will hate this part of the book, it was however an atypical view of women throughout Victorian society, and the author is parodying this view. The author informs us that failing to educate women has an adverse effect upon the intellectual development of future generations of women and men.
Other shapes within Flatland reflect the rigid class system of this society. The more sides a regular shape possesses, the higher its place within society. The ultimate expressions of this ideal are the circles who represent the society’s political and religious leaders. All shapes aspire for a better life for their offspring and will send their children to be re-shaped at schools so that they can enjoy a better life. Irregular shapes are deemed a threat to society and are euthanized at birth, or imprisoned / executed in later life. Why? Because, these irregular shapes either end up as criminals or as revolutionaries.
Life for the majority of the triangles, who represent the bulk of the working class, is one of constant drudgery. This underlying current of discontent once led to the Colour Revolution. But this rallying cry for equality did not make everyone’s lives better, instead it led to the intolerable situation where the middle classes were dragged down to the same level as the criminals and the… women! The Revolution failed. Thereafter, the rulers carefully manipulated the working class so that they would fight each other.
In the second half of the book, Mr A. Square experiences a dream where he is living in a one dimensional reality; a vision where he is transplanted into a three dimensional reality by a god-like sphere; and then he has another dream where he experiences a reality with no dimensions. Mr. A Square fails to get either the one dimensional inhabitants or the sole non-dimensional inhabitant to comprehend the concept of a two dimensional reality. Equally, he finds it difficult to understand the sphere’s explanation of three dimensional space and is confounded by his attempts to get other inhabitants of Flatland to believe or understand him. He even ponders the possibility of four to eight dimensions. This section of the book deals with concepts such as teleportation, omniscience and shape-shifting.
One slight problem, in the two dimensional world there is no Sun or any stars, so there is no light. Yet the shapes identify can each other by sight! For anyone to see anything, light has to be absorbed by an atom, resulting in the excitation of that atom – it then gives off a photon of a particular wavelength which the retina can then see. Admittedly, only a minor point and should not detract from the main issues raised in the book.
This book will appeal to many readers. It is a damning indictment of the class ridden society of the Victorian era – a class system which is still evident in today’s world. It is also an insightful portrayal of life for any creature living in different dimensions.
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on 12 October 2017
How do I classify this?
A romp into mathematical reasoning?
A political satire?
An introduction to geometry?
A classic of early science fiction?
A Christian allegory?
It's all of these, yet totally unique, an intellectual morsel that should have been twice as long.
The author takes us into a world of two dimensional figures where everything in life is determined by the size of one's angles and no one questions the harsh order of a strict social hierarchy.
What happens when the unthinkable occurs and a sphere enters their world, convincing a square of the reality of a third dimension?
Beautifully written and unforgettable.
In defence of Abbott, it is obvious to me that Flatland does not represent his social ideal, but he is making a comment on the faults of Victorian class structure which he intends to challenge by his own Christian faith.
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on 17 December 2017
A superb and scathing social satire of the Victorian age (when this was written), and a thought provoking introduction to the concept of higher dimensions.

It is the satirical aspects of this book that I find the most interesting. The author Edwin Abbott was at the time of writing in 1884 quite liberal in his tendencies. He disliked the rigid social class system of Victorian society and was a proponent of education reforms, including greater access for Women's education - a cause which he was involved in.

There are a number of reviews here that accuse the book of being sexist - but this is sadly misinformed. The piece is intended to be a satire of the way that women were treated and their contribution and intellect curtailed in Victorian society. It is a manifestation of the author's frustration with how progress is blocked by rigid attitudes.

The organic theme of the book is the exploration of the difficulty in imagining that which is greater than what we know, whether it be higher dimensions, or the discovery of a better and more fair moral or social system.

The protagonist, a square, has the wonders of the third dimensions revealed to him, yet has been unable to change his attitude towards the women in the society or see the failings of the strict rigid social system that he grew up with. There is even one point where he comes close to acknowledging that perhaps society self perpetuates the so called stupidity and moral frailty of the lower sided polygons, but then disregards it immediately.

We are invited to laugh and be horrified at the arbitrary distinctions in Flatland, that having more regular sides indicates your social status: and in doing so take the next step to look upon ourselves and be horrified about our own arbitrary distinctions. This observation is of course more relevant than ever in today's world.

Definitely worth a read, and if you feel angry and indignant while reading understand that this is the author's intentions and a reflection of his own feelings of frustration (not his own actual attitudes towards minorities and women).
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on 19 March 2017
Wow! If you love off the wall and you have a basic grasp of geometry this is the book for you. One of the most enjoyable books I've read in years! This book must have been light years ahead of its time. Through modern eyes you glimpse hints of the social prejudices of the Victorian era but this in no way mars the enjoyment of the book, if anything it adds to the amusement and enjoyment. How many books have a square (an actual geometric one, not a boring person) as the protagonist? The story draws you in and is exciting from beginning to end. The deeper you get into the book the more thought provoking it becomes. Great ending too!
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on 16 May 2017
This acts as a primer for basic maths concepts, as well as a bit of a history lesson. The story is both mathematical and allegorical, demonstrating the class differences of the time (some of which you may still find relevant, or perhaps just it's the groups of people involved that has changed).

It's also such a famous work that Ian Stewart wrote a sequel :) (By Ian Stewart Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So [Hardcover])
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on 10 January 2018
A brilliantly written book which helps us understand multi-dimensional universes by taking us down a degree to a 2-d world in which one of it's inhabitants has glimpsed ours. Simple science with a complex concept. And a good read too.
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on 26 November 2017
A simple example of a multidimensional world. Touching on aspects of human nature many disregard or do not notice. I recommend gets most interesting from pages 90-100 to the end. The beginning is vital however. A must read.
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on 9 January 2018
I've just received the book and immediately threw it away. This particular edition is just terrible. The formatting, the fonts, the layout is so terrible that it is almost impossible to read. The book doesn't contain illustrations which were present in the original, and since this is a book full of geometric concepts, it doesn't make any sense to read it without pictures. As soon as I received it I immediately ordered another edition which I hope will be better.
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on 17 June 2011
This is (as you would have read already!) a thought-provoking read. Taking you from 0 to any number of dimensions in a logical way. You have to want to read it I think, you can't just pick it up on the off chance.

In a nut shell it is the story told in the first-person by a man in a two-dimensional world that is taken on a journey into our three-dimensional world, experiences 1 and even 0 dimensions, and muses on 4 and more.

Logically sound, it makes you think about dimensions carefully and conceptualises ideas and concepts you may not have given time or thought to before.
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on 16 January 2018
This edition is very strangely typeset and the images are missing. Wherever there is supposed to be a figure there is instead the text "Fig. 1". The text is all centred instead of ragged and justified. The text is really small and the pages are large, which makes the lines too long. This makes the book difficult to read, which unfortunately distracts from the excellent content.
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