fighting the lack of good ideas

flatland by edwin a abbott

I have read, and reread, Flatland several times. It’s subtitle, “A Romance of Many Dimensions”, would most likely have been surprising when it was originally published in 1884.

Edwin A Abbot weaves a tale of exploration, heresy, discovery, enlightenment, geometry, and more in a mere 81 pages (in the copy I have). We are introduced to a square who lives in Flatland. He describes for us how his country works – housing, education, mating, religion, etc. Through this all, it is shown that the epitome of existence in Flatland is to become (or produce) a circle – the most true of all beings, the wisest, most endowed, most perfect one can be.

Then we are introduced to a sphere. A sphere who has decided to enter Flatland to enlighten our square as to the limited understanding he has of Flatland in particular, and the world as a whole. The sphere’s arrival in Flatland is shocking, astounding, and a point for immediate assault on the part of the elites who run the country – for they know that being flat is all there is, nothing more, nothing less.

But the sphere whisks our friend the square off to see Pointland and Lineland – the first where the only citizen is king, and the second where the residents’ goal is to move to the center after being born on the ends. Then the sphere takes square to his home of Spaceland, where you can see the “innards” of all lesser creatures (including, of course, our friend the square).

It is, however, the square’s epiphany near the end of his journey that is most intriguing: if there is a world of 0, 1, 2, and 3 dimensions, then certainly there is one of 4, 5, 6, and more – and, if that be so, than certainly enlightenment into those further reaches should be the goal of the perfection of Spaceland, the sphere.

I cannot recommend Flatland highly enough – it is quick to read, and cheap, to boot (a free download for the Kindle)!

Personally, this was a book that opened a line of thinking I explored as a devotional mindwalk a couple years ago regarding the infiniteness of God.

  • Quality of writing: 4/5
  • Entertainment value: 5/5
  • Story engagement: 5/5
  • Mathematical accuracy: 5/5
  • Overall: 4.5/5