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Flatland/Sphereland (Everyday Handbook) Paperback – January 28, 1994

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Editorial Reviews Review

Unless you're a mathematician, the chances of you reading any novels about geometry are probably slender. But if you read only two in your life, these are the ones. Taken together, they form a couple of accessible and charming explanations of geometry and physics for the curious non-mathematician. Flatland, which is also available under separate cover, was published in 1880 and imagines a two-dimensional world inhabited by sentient geometric shapes who think their planar world is all there is. But one Flatlander, a Square, discovers the existence of a third dimension and the limits of his world's assumptions about reality and comes to understand the confusing problem of higher dimensions. The book is also quite a funny satire on society and class distinctions of Victorian England. The further mathematical fantasy, Sphereland, published 60 years later, revisits the world of Flatland in time to explore the mind-bending theories created by Albert Einstein, whose work so completely altered the scientific understanding of space, time, and matter. Among Einstein's many challenges to common sense were the ideas of curved space, an expanding universe and the fact that light does not travel in a straight line. Without use of the mathematical formulae that bar most non-scientists from an understanding of Einstein's theories, Sphereland gives lay readers ways to start comprehending these confusing but fundamental questions of our reality.


"The best introduction one can find into the manner of perceiving dimensions." -- --Isaac Asimov in the ForewordA

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Product Details

  • Series: Everyday Handbook
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1 edition (January 28, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062732765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062732767
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Daryl Anderson VINE VOICE on July 17, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are not familiar with Edwin Abbott's "Flatland", this is the edition to buy. If you are familiar with it (but presumably do not yet own it), this is still the edition to buy.
You've heard the classic criticism of a story is that it is "two dimensional". Well, Edwin Abbott's tale of an imaginary two-dimensional land adds a whole new twist to that phrase. Flatland, as he describes it, is about as rich as a two-dimensional story can be. And it is marvelously extended by its narrator's encounters with the unknown - the world of 3 dimensions. The challenges that narrator faces as he encounters the incomprehensible, quite closely mirror mine whenever I attempt to think about a 4th (or 5th or 7th) dimension. If you've faced the same struggle, you will be delighted by this book.
If you've ever wondered what a 4th dimension would look like, Flatland provides a lens through which you can imagine that extension of our 3D world. From here you can go on to read Rudy Rucker or Pickover or Hawkins - but this is the place to start your exploration of dimensions beyond experience. Abbot accomplishes this by describing the eye-opening extension of his narrator's 2D world when visited by a 3D apparition, a "sphere". His framing of the foundational issues through the experiences of what you'd expect to be the least interesting character in fiction are really quite engaging. The storyline, however sparse, is as interesting as the mathematics - albeit quite nineteenth-century'ish in tone.
Don't misconstrue Abbott's seemingly misogynist portrayal of women and of his class-stratified society. This element was intended to provide a third layer of sharp, Swiftian satire and critical commentary on the rigid social mores of his era.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bob Ellis ( on March 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
I am only 17 and I read both of these books and understood every word of it. Not to say that the things covered in these two books are easy to see or comprehend but the authors did such a beautiful job of making everything easy to understand from life in the 2nd dimention to slightly grasping the 4th dimention through mathmatics and to flipping 3 dimentional objects in the 4th dimention thus reversing them like turning a left shoe into a right shoe. Even if you are not interested in math or science these books let you see the world in another way and will stay with you provoking thought at every turn.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book introduced me to the amazingly interesting possibilaty of a fourth dimension, or even an infinite number of dimensions, and the way the material was presented (by a story of A Square and A Hexoagon and there adventures with a sphere) is delightfully entertaining. Since the human mind has such a horrid time visualizing the fourth dimension, taking it down one level by having creatures living in a two dimensional world who try to understand the third dimension is an excellent way to help people grasp the possibility of higher dimensions. I was also very interested in the books discussion about a curved space and an expanding universe. This book is great for any teenager interested in theoretic sciences and geometery and it is a great intellectual read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar on January 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Flatland and Sphereland are very well written books, but for entirely different reasons. Flatland is a fun story that takes you into the 2nd (and 1st, and 0th) dimensions to see what life is like there with its final goal to make you speculate on what the fourth dimension would be like. Flatland, the first book, excels at making you grasp the concepts and has a very good story to go along with it. The story seems to be the main focus, rather than the other aspects.
Sphereland is entirely the opposite. Sphereland deals with ideas such as the expanding universe theory others. This it explains even clearer then flatland did. But Sphereland's focus was not on the story, but rather on the theories that it tried to convey. This may be a good thing in some people's minds, but I enjoyed the story of flatland and didn't like it pushed aside to explain the theories. I also didn't like the fixing of flatland to make it less backwards (Besides giving equality to women) since flatland to me was backwards.
So If you want to learn complex Ideas simply and with fun, these are the books for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on December 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is a must have for all bonafide Flatlands fans.

First off, it has the original Flatlands classic by Edwin Abbott Abbott, the mathematician/clergyman would first took us to the world of A Square. And it also has the 1967 followup Sphereland.

It bears noting that Sphereland is but one of many follow up so Abbott's classic and because they're all good and worthy in their own right, I'll repeat them here:

Spaceland...the Rudy Rucker classic which focuses more on following up the story than the science of Abbott's original book;

Plainiverse...the Dewdney work which actually endeavors to thoroughly flesh out the physics and biological issues of what life actually would be like in 2D (for what it's worth philosopher Dan Dennett says that this is favorite take on the Flatlands theme); and

Flatland Annotated and Flatterlands...both by mathematician Ian Stewart. If I wasn't as a big of a fan of this book I probably admittedly would've stopped my collection at just these entries because the annotated version has the original Flatland in it and also because in my opinion at least Flatterlands does the best and most recent job of updating the mathematics of Flatland.

But that being said, Sphereland is a serviceable entry and does faithfully follow the A Square story...albeit two generations later...and like the original Flatland serves as a great metaphor for the desireability of open mindedness and looking past your limitations.
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