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Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions [Mass Market Paperback]

Edwin A. Abbott , Valerie Smith
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 3 2005 Signet Classics

Flatland, a place of two dimensions peopled by a hierarchy of geometrical forms, is the home of narrator A. Square, who takes a tour of his bizarre homeland. This tour provides a hilarious satire on Victorian society with questions about the nature of the universe.


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Review

This pre-Einstein geometrical fantasy is one of the best things of its kind that has ever been written, for it is more than an ingeniously sustained fantasy: it is a social satire, with wit as sharp as the sub-lutrous end of a Flatland woman; it is aneasy philosophical introduction to the Fourth Dimension; and it is a rebuke to everyone who holds that there is no reality beyond what is perceptible by human senses. (Saturday Review)

This pre-Einstein geometrical fantasy is one of the best things of its kind that has ever been written, for it is more than an ingeniously sustained fantasy: it is a social satire, with wit as sharp as the sub-lutrous end of a Flatland woman; it is an easy philosophical introduction to the Fourth Dimension; and it is a rebuke to everyone who holds that there is no reality beyond what is perceptible by human senses. (Saturday Review) --This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.

About the Author

Edwin Abbot, an English schoolmaster and theologian, was best known as the author of the mathematical satire and religious allegory Flatland (1884). Abbot was educated at the City of London School and at St John's College, Cambridge, where he took the highest honors in classics, mathematics and theology, and became fellow of his college. He succeeded G. F. Mortimer as headmaster of the City of London School in 1865 at the early age of twenty-six. He retired in 1889, and devoted himself to literary and theological pursuits. Dr. Abbott's liberal inclinations in theology were prominent both in his educational views and in his books. His Shakespearian Grammar (1870) is a permanent contribution to English philology. In 1885 he published a life of Francis Bacon. His theological writings include three anonymously published religious romances - Philochristus (1878), Onesimus (1882), and Sitanus (1906). --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
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. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Something-which-you-do-not-as-yet-know" Oct. 10 2003
Format:Paperback
Do not miscast this wonderful little book as being merely "sci-fi". Two-dimensional "worlds" exist within ours, if only in a somewhat pragmatic sense. If we imagine some "thing" intellective within such a world, then we have little difficulty seeing that our humble narrator, Mr. A. Square, might be such a world's most insightful oddball. The book is a classic exposition in basic geometry, but it is more than this. Abbott uses mathematics to make some very telling observations about human minds and psychologies.
Edwin Abbott (1838-1926) was a clergyman and a math geek. He was an educator, an expositor of English literature and New Testament studies, a notable headmaster, and the author of something like 40 books on widely varied themes. Today you will probably have a difficult time finding any of his other volumes, but Flatland is said to have never been out of print since it was first published in 1884.
No need to retell A. Square's big adventures here, other than this bit of dialog between our two-dimensional thinker and his three-dimensional visitor/teacher (Square is given to thoughts of still higher-dimensional worlds):
"SPHERE. But where is this land of Four Dimensions?
[A. Square]. I know not: but doubtless my Teacher knows.
SPHERE. Not I. There is no such land. The very idea of it is utterly inconceivable."
Abbott offers his allegory of physical and conceptual limits with an economy of word and thought that is nothing less than extraordinary. A great many volumes, five to ten times as large, conclude having said far less than this little parable. Read it. You will take from it what you are willing to take. If you find little or nothing here, you are indeed a citizen of Flatland.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars God as the infinitely-dimensional April 28 2000
Format:Paperback
Flatland is one of those pseudo-scientific novels that has since become a piece of the scientific canon in the same way that Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has; when attempting to explain theoretical physics to a class, and at a dead-end, a professor is most liekly to turn to an analogy from Flatland. Which makes sense. Flatland is the story of A. Square, a resident of the two-dimensional Flatland, and how he comes to understand that there are universes in every dimension. Previous to this, the idea of any universe but his own two-dimensional universe was unthinkable; by the end of the novel, he is positing the existence of a great, infinitely-dimensional being-- god. This is not surprising; Edwin Abbott was a theologist first and foremost. What is surprising is how modern eyes have seen this tale, and it gives us a perspective on the endless debate as to whether the author's belief about his story is the final and "right" one.
Abbott meant his book as a treatise on theoretical physics-- if at all-- in only a minor way. According to Abbott himself, his main goal in the writing of Flatland was to produce a kind of "satire of manners" on Victorian England. And, given what little I know of the ways of life in Victorian England, he seems to be right on the money. But what do I know? Abbott's assertion is backed up by the structure of the novel, certainly; the first hundred pages of this small (hundred fifty page) tome are devoted to the customs and mores of Flatland. How stinging a criticism they are of the values and mores of Victorian England is not for me to say.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most creative works ever July 9 2002
Format:Paperback
Even though this was written around 1880 it still is one of the most creative science fiction books I have read. This is a real mindbender. Edwin A. Abbott made me realize in his novel how narrow minded I actually am even though I consider myself a very open minded person. I came away from this book realizing their are more dimensions out their that science has yet to discover. This book also has a hidden message in the book that most people are completely ignorant about the world around them. They think they know it all and have no desire to educate themselves further than the little education they already have.
People believe in myths and assumptions and are ignorant and don't bother to seek the real answers in life. This message was very powerful to me and an important lesson. This author was concise, wasn't wordy like so many sci-fi/fantasy authors now, and didn't fill the book with nothing but metaphors and similies, and got right to the point in his writing. It took me the same time to read this book as it takes me to read most of the long wordy sci-fi/fantasy novels out their now. When a 700-900 page novel takes the same time as a 150-250 page novel to read that means that 900 page novel is of very poor quality.
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Format:Paperback
This is a book, indeed a fable, that was exquisitely designed to expand the mind. By showing how incomprehensible a three-dimensional world would be to two-dimensional entities, Abbott opens the door, and the mind, to speculation on higher dimensions. That is why the principles of this story are summarized in virtually every text dealing with the 4th dimension.

I believe Abbott framed this tale primarily to serve as a philosophical and mathematical justification of spiritual and "heavenly" subjects. After all, if a Sphere seemed a supernatural entity in Flatland, would not a 4th Dimensional entity seem so to us? I suspect that Mr. Abbott was also a Freemason, since the "regular progression of science from a point to a line, from a line to a superficies, from a superficies to a solid" is the way Freemasonry explains the process by which the Deity brings the four levels of existance into being. Actually, this is a neo-platonic teaching device that can be traced through the literature of the Renaissance, via medieval Spain, to Alexandria....
An examination of Theosophical Society literature from this period will also show a fascination with the 4th dimension as an explanation for spirit phenomena. Personally, I believe that this train of thought is still a quite valid analogy.
I found this book a joy to read, but then, I was trained in classical Euclidian geometry and formal proofs as a boy. I understand that such training is quite extinct in most modern public schools....
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Shipping & Content
As opposed to my other orders which arrived in bulky boxes, which leaves space for the books to damage, this book and its companions arrived in a tightly bound package - something... Read more
Published on May 2 2011 by Hongyi
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent mathematical analogy!
This book is a great piece of very clear, very convicting prose, using well-explained mathematical analogies for classism, sexism, and close-mindedness. Read more
Published on Dec 17 2002 by R. L. Cobleigh
5.0 out of 5 stars There's more to life than meets the eye
(...). The obvious is that it is a math-ish book, just as any book written in English is also an English language book. Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2002 by Senthil Peter
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gateway Book
I read this book when I was 13 because my math teacher recommended it. This book is great. It was first published in 1952 and is still used and taught by schools, mathematicians,... Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2002 by Eric
5.0 out of 5 stars a mind-expanding exercise of a book
to the person who said "there ARE three dimmensions and we are NOT shapes"....the book is an allegory, and nowhere does it state that there isn't a third dimension. Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars i'd rather read a 2 thousand page book about cheese
okay, i was forced to read this book for summer reading. it was awful. i only have one thing to say about this book-there ARE three dimmensions and we are NOT shapes. Read more
Published on July 17 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Nicely done, challenges your imagination
The premise of this book is an exploration of a two dimenional world of people of various shapes - - more sides, and sides of equal length imply greater status - - but the shapes... Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2002 by Frank Lynch
5.0 out of 5 stars It should be required reading in math and social studies
This book should be required reading for students in both mathematics and social studies. The explanations by Abbott of how three dimensional beings would appear to a two... Read more
Published on April 21 2001 by Charles Ashbacher
5.0 out of 5 stars A Timeless Classic
Written over 100 years ago, Flatland has been one
of the best books I have ever read. It is one of
my top choices; I read it again and again. Read more
Published on Aug. 13 1997
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