MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Flatterland: like Flatland, only more so (2001)
Ian Stewart
(click on names to see more mathematical fiction by the same author)
Highly Rated!
Note: This work of mathematical fiction is recommended by Alex for math majors, math grad students (and maybe even math professors).

In this "sequel" to Flatland, popular mathematics writer Ian Stewart lets us accompany the granddaugther of the original "A. Square" who starred in original classic, as she learns about fractal dimensions, new developments in mathematical physics, and other mathematical wonders unknown to Abbott.

In general, it is a pretty good read, which is really more than I expected of it. It is fun and imaginitive. It is funny (though many of the jokes are British `in-jokes' that you won't get unless you are really know your English TV shows and railways). It covers a lot of topics (though as many other readers have commented, it doesn't really cover anything "new"...just the same topics that Stewart has written about elsewhere in non-fictional formats.)

In fact, I really only have three complaints about the book, one of which Stewart specifically addresses himself. My first problem with it is that it seems a bit to "gutsy" to attempt to follow up a classic book in this way, but as the author assures us in the preface, we can go look at the classic and see that it remains unchanged: he has not altered a word in the original by attempting this sequel. My second problem with this book is that it is a bit too cute...I find myself reading it while squinting my eyes to shield myself from the blinding cuteness. Finally, and most seriously, the problem is that while Abbott's Flatland was clearly well suited for demonstrating to people the idea of higher dimensional spaces (since our own world seems "higher" dimensional to its flat inhabitants), there is no particular reason to use this set up to introduce most of the mathematical topics covered here. (Except, I suppose, to be cute!)

Contributed by Anonymous

"Excellent conceptual material. I have read much about mathematics and string theory. I am just a stupid college freshman but I have read quite a bit and even though I knew most of the stuff in this book there are some very interesting conceptual tools presented. Plus it is fun to read. Tons of interesting puns.

Contributed by M. Brouwer

I very much like the humour Ian Stewart uses while talking about mathematics and fysics. But I specially appreciated how he continued and expanded the story written by Abbott in Flatland. I really enjoyed reading this book.

Contributed by Andrew Breslin

It was entertaining and educational, but it wasn't really a work of fiction. It was a long parable illustrating fascinating ideas about geometry. Very well written, but there was no actual story.

The characters didn't desire something and face obstacles to the realization of their respective desiderata, with the level of tension steadily increasing as we the readers are swept along in the story, feeling that tension rising, observing those characters as they ultimately either succeed or fail but are, nevertheless changed in some way by their struggle. That's what fiction is all about.

I don't mean to give the impression that it's a bad book. It's a good book, but the story was always subservient to the math; it existed to illustrate the ideas. Great ideas, cleverly presented, but the story was flat and the characters two dimensional. I'm sorry about that last comment, but really, who could resist?

Contributed by Penny

This is a delightful romp through non-Euclidean geometry, and it makes difficult concepts accessible. True, there's not much of a plot, but the dialogue and slight tension between Victoria Line and her guide keeps the tale from being purely didactic and makes it light-hearted instead. This book seems to me like a great way to introduce eager middle or high school kids to the idea that there's a lot more to math than you ever thought or to refresh more jaded adults who think of math as boring.

Buy this work of mathematical fiction and read reviews at amazon.com. Amazon.com logo
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to Flatterland: like Flatland, only more so
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Journey into Geometries by Marta Sved
  2. Math Takes a Holiday by Paul Di Filippo
  3. The Mathematician’s Nightmare: The Vision of Professor Squarepunt by Bertrand Russell
  4. Message Found in a Copy of Flatland by Rudy Rucker
  5. A Foundation in Wisdom by Robert Loyd Watson
  6. Harvey Plotter and the Circle of Irrationality by Nathan Carter / Dan Kalman
  7. After Math by Miriam Webster
  8. Hilbert's Hotel by Ian Stewart
  9. Numbercruncher by Si Spurrier (writer) / PJ Holden (artist)
  10. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott
Ratings for Flatterland: like Flatland, only more so:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
4.53/5 (14 votes)
..
Literary Quality:
3.61/5 (15 votes)
..

Categories:
GenreHumorous, Fantasy, Didactic,
MotifHigher/Lower Dimensions,
TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Mathematical Physics,
MediumNovels,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)