I think the idea of Flatland is very interesting and somewhat disturbing. In only 83 pages Edwin A. Abbott manages to describe an entirely self-absorbed society that is either unwilling or unable to accept new science or ideas that are beyond their views of normality. The figures are all mathematical objects with a rigid hierarchy based on the number of sides a resident of Flatland has.
Our narrator, we learn early on, has been imprisoned by the class of priests in Flatland because he attempted to convert the people of Flatland to an understanding that there was more beyond their two-dimensional world. The problem was that this new dimension could not be seen or measured. Now this seemed like a pretty extreme solution to a difference of ideas, but as the narrator describes Flatland we realize that society has completely eliminated self expression, women have been refused basic education to keep them in a docile, mindless state and any child born with a degree of variance from perfect angles is either hospitalized until the "malady" is cured or consumed (I believe he meant actually eaten, although I was unsure about this).
In this society, government is controlled by religious factions, the Circles, and they regularly imprison or consume the lower classes of shapes that are used to carry out the governmental dirty work. The only upward mobility or option for change is through producing healthy offspring with more sides than the parent.
Now, Flatland was first written in 1884 and it's amazing how much of a current social commentary it remains. Abbott was obviously very misogynistic as women are the absolute lowest of the low in his estimation, but he raises the issues of women's rights through education and self expression, he questions the idea of government's role in sciences and technology, but most impressively he questions the idea of a fourth dimension decades before Einstein.
Are we, as a society, so ingrained in what we have been doing and what is considered "right" that there is no opportunity for advancement or change? Are those in power who should be in power or are they in power only because they were born lucky? Is it correct to lock up or dismiss people we see as "crazy" now because they are proclaiming an alternate theory to ours?
For such a short book, Flatland raises a lot of questions. No, I don't agree with many of his ideas, especially about women, but that is why I don't live in Flatland. I am a part of Spaceland and I have the freedom to question and think for myself, advance myself during my lifetime, and make the choices that are right for me.
If you want a message from the past or a look at our world in another way, pick up a copy of Flatland. However, if you are looking for more of a pleasure read, something that really engrosses you this might not be your thing. Flatland reads more like a treatise, similar to Swift's A Modest Proposal, steeped in a particular type of language that is more familiar with mathematics or science than literature.