This highly original and entertaining short novel (which has been in print continually since its original publication in 1884) tells the story of A. Square, an inhabitant of the two-dimensional world Flatland. After an overview of Flatland society in all its aspects, A. Square recounts how he was led on a series of visions and travels to Pointland, Lineland, and Spaceland by A. Sphere on the last day of Flatland’s year 1999. Through his encounters with these other lands, A. Square realizes that there is indeed more to the universe than the world he lives in. A. Sphere opens A. Square’s mind to new possibilities, illuminating the path to knowledge through careful observation and commonsense experimentation. But when A. Square can be contented no longer with what he has already seen, he dreams of visiting a land of four dimensions, the so-called Thoughtland. As in real life, such desires are met with sometimes-violent opposition from society’s leaders in the name of maintaining the status quo.
Victorian clergyman and Shakespearean scholar Edwin Abbott penned this mathematical allegory about the dawn of reason seemingly in response to the puritanical environment of his era. Touching on themes of humanity’s insatiable quest for truth, authority’s tendency to squash radical ideas born from this quest, and the necessity of curiosity, Flatland is an odd and charming little book whose impact far surpasses its concise prose.