Flatland by Edwin A Abbott

Flatland is a very strange and unique science fiction novella from the late 19th Century.

I was inspired to read it after I read a good review of it elsewhere in the blogosphere and at first I very much enjoyed it for its individuality.

It is written from the perspective of an inhabitant of Flatland, a 2D land where everyone is necessarily flat and therefore sees the world around them only as a series of straight lines.

The first half of the book is dedicated to outlining how the society of Flatland, and the land itself, operates. We are provided with an explanation of Flatland’s climate, the various shapes of it inhabitants (females are straight lines, isosceles triangles are soldier and lower class, squares are the middle class and hexagons and circles are the higher classes). The author spends a great deal of time describing how it is Flatlanders can tell each other apart, given they only see straight lines, and how they move around without hurting each other. There are details of their living quarters and the work that they perform. A great deal of time is spent detailing the social structure and how it works. We are even given a historical account of how Flatlanders used to tell each other apart by the use of colour. The narrator tells how this nearly resulted in a revolution which the higher classes had to put to rest.

Sounds potentially interesting, but in reality as it went on and on I just got more bored with it. The author spends a lot of time focusing on the women of Flatland. I have no idea if his comments were meant to be satirical or facetious, but I certainly hope they were because they were just offensive. It just went on an on about how unintelligent women were, and how men had to keep them in check. It talked about how important it was that they were not educated. How stupid they were. It drove me insane.

There was some interesting social commentary about class and power struggles in society, but my general interest in this couldn’t overcome my offence at the discussion of women and the general boredom I experienced as I read the book.

The second half of the book is a little different. Having explained every minute and boring detail about Flatland, the narrator is then approached from a character from Spaceland, a Sphere. The Sphere attempts to explain to the narrator the mysteries of the 3D land from which he hails. He has mixed results, but is eventually able to convince the narrator of the existence of a third dimension. The process of this however, has dire consequences for the narrator, who does not finish his story in a happy place.

Although the novelty of the story originally piqued my interest, as the book progressed I became less and less enamoured by it, until I was only finishing it because I thought I should.

If you have read it, I would be interested to know what you thought of it.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
Long and boring.

Do I recommend this book?
No.

Do I recommend buying this book?
Absolutely not.


Star Rating

2.5 / 8

Don't bother. I finished it because I felt like I should.


6 comments

  1. Not a huge sci-fi fan, and based on your review I am definitely going to pass this one up. Thanks for sharing! Sorry it was a disappointment--I hate it when that happens....

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  2. I just deleted this Flatland from my bookmark. LOL. Guess I'm not going to be reading it. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I've always been curious about this book. Thank you for the honest review. I'm not sure which I'd hate worse, the sexism or the tedium.

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  4. Im not sure what I hated most either Steph!

    Sorry to put you off if you were thinking of reading it :(

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  5. I could never finish this title.

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  6. Sorry you didn't like it. Kudos for finishing it.

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