Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Flatland by Edwin Abbott

Title: Flatland
Author: Edwin Abbott
Genre: Literary / Science Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Classics
First Published: 1884
Pages: 103

Rating: 9 out of 10

I ventured into reading this book a bit nervously. I love a good satire, and I love books written in the 1800's, but wasn't sure what to expect from this one in particular.
After all... A novel about - math?

However, I was pleasantly surprised. No, more than that. I was absolutely blown away. I couldn't take my eyes off the pages!

Flatland is one of those atypical novels that at times reads like a historical commentary. Much like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or The Silmarillion, it factually and sensibly creates another world so organized and meticulously constructed, the reader feels privileged to a glimpse into some strange, newly discovered world.

Edwin A. Abbott is a genius thinker - not only did he manage to draw for the reader a detailed world (complete with culture, social customs, history, and so on), but it is one that is unparalleled. This book takes the idea of "originality" - not so easy a thing to master - to an entirely new level.
His descriptions of first a two-dimensional world, and then a one-dimensional world, make sense. Not an easy concept to grasp - but Abbott sums it up perfectly. There are even rudimentary drawings scattered through-out the book, in case the reader isn't quite getting it.

The book is split into two parts. I enjoyed Part I the best - it described life in the main character's world of Flatland and two dimensions.
It read as half textbook, half science fiction novel, and had me completely fascinated all of the way. Abbott's writing is precise and careful. Obviously the man was a mathematician. The second part is about the two other dimensions - a one-dimensional world, and a three-dimensional world. Again, the author describes these to the reader very well.

I loved the satire elements to this story, especially concerning gender, class, and narrow-mindedness. "Flatland" is a masterpiece. I wish that the author's other works were not so hard to find.