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Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (Oxford World's Classics) 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 567 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199537501
ISBN-10: 019953750X
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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 the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019953750X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199537501
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.6 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (567 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,157,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
Although it isn't very long, Flatland does take a long time to read. This isn't because it is boring, or because it is hard to read, but because of the large amount of digestion one need's to fully comprehend (and to fully enjoy) this book. Even this book contains only 82 pages, it is by no means light reading. The book was originally released in 1884 under Abbott's pseudonym A Square. In the story we follow the journey of a square who lives in a land of two dimensions--a flat land. In it class, and ultimately intelligence, is determined by the amount of sides that a shape has. As the amount of sides a shape has decreases, we find that it also is more emotional and apt to cause destruction through their pointed corners. Women are depicted as straight lines, but one has to take into account the time that this book was published. One can also disregard the story as having any relations to anything in our society and enjoy it for what it is, a mind bending social criticism. In this tale we follow the aforementioned square through his everyday life. we learn what it is like to exist in only two dimensions. We learn of how rain falls form the north and disappears to the south and how gravity is a minute force that pulls to the south ever so slightly. We follow him through the government and through social classes, and the discrimination that comes with them. When his son talks of geometric impossibilities such as 23 (cubed) he has a dream of a lesser land than his, a land called line land. IN it there is not two but only one dimension of being. Through discussion with the kind of lineland, we are offered insight into why our hero the square cannot conceive of the third dimension. Later our hero is visited by a great being, a sphere that appears to him seemingly out of nowhere.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Flatland is a unique and brilliant treatise on a trifurcated level. It is a sociological statement, a mathematical statement and a religious statement all rolled into an incredibly astute 82 pages. The book centers mostly on the differences between a two dimensional world and a three dimensional world; but comments on society, law, prejudice, religion, and proselytizing.

The book especially points out the difficulty in envisioning a greater reality and a greater vision than is commonly observed by any individual in any dimension or society. The author's premise relates to things existing in a "plane geometry" world as opposed to a "Euclidian Geometric" three dimensional figure universe. The book carefully illustrates to one denizen of Flatland how the three dimensional world of space works and/or exists. Upon finally understanding the "Gospel of Three Dimensions" our protagonist goes on to try and apply the same arithmetic logic and geometric analogs to a fourth dimensional universe. Shouldn't there exist a fourth dimensional universe that allows an entity to look down upon the three dimensional universe with as much transparency as one can from three dimensions to two?

Alas, things become different in dimensions other than the first, a world of lines, the second, a world of shapes and the third, a world of objects. In the zero dimension, all things are a point. Mathematically we know that any number raised to the "0" power equals 1 and therefore, all things in the zero dimension resolve into one single omnipotent point. This condition would also exist in the fourth dimension; as those of us in the third dimension have no model to compare it to.
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This edition is essentially unreadable and not representative of traditional printings. It's printed directly from the digitized (and free) copy from Google Books and has clearly had NO editing work done. The book is filled with references to figures that were not included, mangled words, and seemingly random breaks and markings in some spots. This would be fine for a free digitized text online, but is entirely unacceptable for a paid-for product, especially a short book that would be similarly priced in a physical store.
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Format: Hardcover
Flatland is THE must-read for anyone interested in getting a feel for higher dimensions. The book is extraordinarily readable and succeeds even with people that are afraid of mathematics. Abbott's charm lies in his ability to write simply and clearly about a topic that has its share of very unreachable, esoteric books. You fall into the story (whose plot is by no means secondary to the mathematical ideas), and before you know it you find yourself in contemplation of things like the fourth and fifth dimensions. The visual image that this book provides is a necessary step to envisioning and then understanding the idea of higher dimensions, even for those already versed in the mathematics of it. You never know, after you read this, you might even be willing to try your hand at things like Einstein's relativity. A little on the social aspects of the book: keep in mind that it was written in the very late 1800's. Hidden within the philosophical and mathematical ideas is a satire of the social climate of the times: how women, the military, the upper echelons of society, and just about everyone else were viewed. Flatland makes you think, and think deeply, on many different and sometimes unexpected levels.
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