FLATLAND A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott, Book Review

Flatland - A Romance of Many Dimensions Edwin AbbottFlatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions Synopsis

Classic of science (and mathematical) fiction — describes the journeys of A. Square and his adventures in Spaceland (three dimensions), Lineland (one dimension) and Pointland (no dimensions). A. Square also entertains thoughts of visiting a land of four dimensions — a revolutionary idea for which he is banished from Spaceland. (Amazon)

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Many would ask, why did you choose to listen to this title in audio for leisure? I studied mathematics at university so my inner geek bubbles to the surface every once in a while.

While this classic satirical novella penned by English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott in 1884 is ostensibly an exploration of dimension theory, Flatland so much more than that and yet at the same time very accessible.

While mathematical training is not required, from a student of mathematics standpoint, I found Abbott’s rendering of the ‘life forms’ possible at each step of increasing dimensions very cleverly done and keenly observant.

What I was so pleasantly surprised by however, is how Edwin Abbott used Flatland‘s simplistic construct of a world with geometric inhabitants to present a much broader social commentary of Victorian culture. The broad ranging issues explored include the role of women in society at the time, rigid class structures, the influence of organised religion and the suppression of individuality. Even the subject of euthanasia is touched upon.

The satire can be deceptively subtle and was in many cases misunderstood by audiences though, in particular when describing the role of women in the society Abbott fashioned. As pointed out by Colin Adams in his review for Amercian Scientist,

For modern-day audiences, this may be painful to read, but Abbott’s portrayal of women in the book was intended as parody of Victorian customs that he himself deplored. In fact, he was a fierce supporter of women’s rights: As documented in an appendix on his life and work, he was active in the women’s suffrage movement and worked tirelessly in support of the rights of women to an education.

This is certainly not a novella I would recommend to everyone – realistically speaking those without any interest in dimensions and geometry would find it a pretty dry read/listen. It has however stood the test of time, and been made into a film for a reason. So I would urge those with any interest in this area to read Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions – at less than 100 pages it is a quick and easy read, a biting social satire of the Victorian era and overall, a very clever composition.

I listened to Flatland in audiobook, narrated by James Langton. Langton’s pronunciation is crisp and clear yet calming to the ear.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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Genre: Literature, Humour, Audio

Author Information: Edwin Abbott Abbott (1838 – 1926) was an English schoolmaster and theologian.

Other reviews of Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions: Goodreads, At Home With Books , Eclectic Reader , American Scientist