Change of Plan

After talking up Booktopia in the last post, all I've heard from them regarding my purchase of The Invasion of Canada: 1812-1813 is that it's been ordered and it'll take 7 to 16 days before it's sent to me. In any case my beloved said we should go see Niagara Falls while we're in New York at the end of the year, so it seemed reasonable to change tactics and borrow Berton's Niagara: A History of the Falls from one of the local libraries, with thanks to my excellent friend Dave. It was a apparently a bestseller in Canada, though both Dave and I speculated that this was unlikely for a book about a waterfall around 450 pages long. Here's hoping I can get through it before it needs to be returned...

In the lag time between the last post and receiving Niagara, though, I read a fascinating and wonderful book which didn't appear on the list of possibilities: The Planiverse, by another Canadian, A K Dewdney. Inspired by Flatland, another favourite of mine - and which I recently repurchased in an edition annotated by Ian Stewart - it tells (as though it were true) the story of a computer science project to model a two-dimensional universe which somehow manages to make contact with a real two-dimensional universe, the Planiverse of the title.

I picked this up in a wonderful second hand bookshop in Daylesford, where my beloved and I spent our first anniversary. (Daylesford and its environs, I mean, not just the bookshop.) Apart from the Flatland connection, I found it hard to pass up after noting that Douglas Adams was one of those who had a review quote on the back; typically for Douglas, he didn't say much about the book beyond saying that he believed the whole thing.

The Planiverse is an amazingly detailed look at what a two-dimensional universe might be like, with boxed text and a full appendix on everything from housing to physics, chemistry and two-dimensional technology. Despite being written in 1980, the dated computer technology doesn't at all detract from the novel, and it's made compelling by the relationship Dewdney and his students share with Yendred, the one Planiverse inhabitant with whom they are able to communicate, and who goes on a pilgrimage across his world, followed by the inhabitants of the computer lab. I grew surprisingly attached to Yendred, more so somehow than other fictional characters; perhaps I was empathising with the students, who form a secret club, hiding their amazing discovery from their university and contacted Yendred late at night. Even their plot deepens, but many things are deliberately left unresolved - not for a sequel, but as a sort of allegory to the spiritual journey Yendred undertakes. Frankly, I was devastated when the book ended, a feeling I've not had for some time; I will just have to be satisfied with Dewdney's other books, some of which sound right up my alley!