Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book Review: Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott

 Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions 

Synopsis: Amiably narrated by A. Square, Flatland is Edwin A. Abbott's delightful mathematical fantasy about life in a two-dimensional world. All existence is limited to length and breadth in Flatland, its inhabitants unable to even imagine a third dimension. But when a strange visitor mysteriously appears and transports our incredulous narrator to the Land of Three Dimensions, his worldview is forever shattered.
Written more than a century ago, Flatland conceals within its brilliant parody of Victorian society speculations about the universe that resonate in Einstein's theory of relativity as well as in the current 'string-theory' of nature.

This is a unique, imaginative tale that takes place in a two-dimensional world where all the characters are geometric shapes (triangles, squares, circles, etc.) The book is split up into two parts : Part 1 talks about the nature and culture of Flatland and Part 2 focuses on the narrator's discovery of other dimensions. 

It works well as a satire of Victorian society. It is also fascinating how Abbott so convincingly built the world of Flatland, putting so much thought into how a two-dimensional society would operate. 

This book is not necessarily only for the mathematically inclined. I understood most of it (thanks to some helpful diagrams) although I will admit a few passages towards the end went right over my head. Despite this, I enjoyed it for the most part. It can be read in the space of a few hours (its just over a 100 pages) and is one of the few obscure classics that should not be overlooked. 

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