Reviews of books on the fourth dimension

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Last revised 2003-02-26

All reviews are out of 5 stars (*****).

Beyond the Third Dimension - ****
Flatland - *****
Planiverse - *****
Spaceland - ****
Surfing Through Hyperspace - ***


Title: Beyond the Third Dimension
Author: Thomas F. Banchoff
Year: 1990
Rating: ****
Review Date: 2/26/2003
Level: beginner

This book is an excellent introduction to various dimensional systems and their corresponding behaviors in higher dimensions. Most of this book can be understood by the layman, but there are a few sections where some knowledge of algebra or geometry is helpful in understanding the subject matter. It is a good starting point for all of the subjects it covers, and interrelates the various disciplines with geometry quite well. 

It begins on each subject with the dynamics of familiar one, two, and three dimensional systems. Then it uses the knowledge of those systems to explain the higher dimensional cases. It is grouped by subject, and discusses slicing, projection, regular polytopes, shape foldouts, coordinate systems, wave fronts, and non-euclidean geometry, among others. Many beautiful computer rendered images line the margins to help the reader with visualization and illustrate the author's explanations. 

The book is well written and understandable, and the arguments are easy to follow. At the same time, the author never talks down to the reader. I recommend it for nearly everyone interested in higher dimensional phenomena, or as a starting point for any of the subjects that it covers. For the most part the subject matter is quite interesting, but there were a few sections that didn't keep my interest well. However, this is to be expected from a book that covers such a wide topic base, so while nearly everyone will find a few boring parts, nearly everyone should also find something of interest to them. 


Title: Flatland
Author: Edward A. Abbott
Year: 1884
Rating: *****
Review Date: 10/17/2002
Level: beginner

The original work that started it all. A very good starting point for understanding the relation between the dimensions. 

(I will rewrite this review after i have re-read the book)


Title: Planiverse
Author: A. K. Dewdney
Year: 1984
Rating: *****
Review Date: 10/17/2002
Level: beginner

A thoroughly imaginative piece that follows the adventures of a two dimensional being in his two dimensional world. It explores in detail the biology, physics, and some chemistry of the two dimensional world. It captured my interest cover to cover, and it is very well put together. It goes a good deal beyond flatland in dealing with the possibilities of a two dimensional world.

(I will rewrite this review after i have re-read the book)


Title: Spaceland
Author: Rudy Rucker
Year: 2002
Rating: ****
Review Date: 1/3/2004
Level: beginner

This book is a novel about a three dimensional guy named Joe Cube who gets involved with beings from the fourth dimension. A woman from one side of the third dimension, named Momo, convinces him to start up a company to sell cell phones using four dimensional crystals. She augments him with a third eye in the fourth dimension, and teaches him to maneuver out into the fourth dimension. The situation gets complicated when beings from the other side of the third dimension start harassing Joe.

Overall the book was enjoyable to read. A lot of the names were somewhat cheesy, though. I found it hard at times to take the book seriously because of the sometimes childish names and because of the way that some of the higher dimensional beings acted. I found that I enjoyed the book if I just accepted what was happening and immersed myself in the world. Another problem I had with the writing style was that sometimes the author used slang terms within the text. The world is particularly creative and vivid - it was truly an assault on the visual sense. If you're into strange universes, this is definitely an interesting book.

The book did a good job of not overusing the flatland analogy, which becomes overly familiar after you read several pieces on the fourth dimension. The story has Joe meeting a being from the fourth dimension first, then flatland comes later. This order was a refreshing change from the typical order of flatland to real space to the fourth dimension. 

I found the characters in the story interesting - they were all unique and I never got anyone confused. Joe was your average person, Jena was the unsatisfied wife, Spazz the grungy techno-savvy programmer, and Tulip the Indian Roman Catholic. Joe's marital problems with Jena formed much of his internal conflict throughout the book. The conflicts between the characters weren't just an excuse to form a storyline for talking about the fourth dimension - it was actually interesting in itself. 

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a deeper look into the fourth dimension. It contains a vivid and creative world, and the story always drives forward.


Title: Surfing Through Hyperspace: Understanding higher universes in six easy lessons
Author: Clifford A. Pickover
Year: 1999
Rating: ***
Review Date: 10/17/2002
Level: beginner

This book is accessible to just about anyone and is pretty easy to understand. While it is good as a basic introduction to the subject matter, it never goes very far in depth. It makes frequent reference to previously written books, and in particular leaned on Flatland for making the basic explanations of what the fourth dimension is. If you have read a few choice books relating to this subject matter, not much in the book will be new. 

The book is a splice of an X-Files type of story, and explanations on phenomena that occured in the story. The storyline features the reader as the main character, as an FBI agent analagous to Mulder of X-Files, and a female partner analagous to Scully. I found the interactions between the characters to be a little fake. The story may have been intended to add a more personal feeling to the book, but i found it cheesy and it tended to distract me from the subject matter, which was more interesting. 

The book tends to be repetitious with the purpose of allowing readers to read the chapters out of order. While repetition may help for a beginner by driving the ideas home, it tends to get tiring for someone who has already seen most of the concepts before. The book touches on some mathematical, theological, physical, and relativistic issues but doesn't go very deeply into any of them. 

The appendices made up about a fifth of the book. More technical matter is placed in them, which is an advantage to the beginner in that it doesn't distract them from the more basic ideas. I would recommend this book if you are new to the fourth dimension, but you can probably pass it up if you have already been introduced to the subject matter by other books.


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