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Dystopia - Book Review

24 Jun 2020

Joshua Robertson

Dystopia - Book Review

With the state of the world right now, many of us find ourselves turning to literature as a form of escape from lockdown blues. The German word, Schadenfreude means to take pleasure in another’s misfortune, which is one of the draws many have to Dystopian fiction. Worlds like our own, yet twisted in such a way that ideals that we hold a society are called into sharp relief. George Orwell Is one of the most famous writers of the medium; So in celebration of his birthday, here is a review of some of the Dystopian books that you should definitely take the time to read.


1984

George Orwell


A totalitarian state now controls 1/3 of the world, while in constant war rages on with two rival powers. However, this is not a story of the state itself, but the first-person perspective of Winston Smith, A worker for the INSOC Party. During the day he works for the ministry of truth, the propaganda wing of the state. With such an unfulfilling job, it’s quite easy for the reader to empathise with him, particularly as we witness him straying further from the party line. In a world where sex within the party is only permitted for procreation and nothing else, we find Winston falling in love with a fellow wandering soul, Julia.


In a book and world as grim as we find Winston in, the book is less morose and depressing than at first glance. With the “thought police” watching his every move and fake news running rampant, the comparisons to our modern world are particularly eairee. Fundamentally, however, it is a love story, in defiance of a totalitarian regime. Well worth the read: 9.5/10


Animal farm

George Orwell


Intended as a fairy story, “Animal farm” Is about the “animalist” revolution of manor farm. It is quite obviously written to draw a comparison to the rise of Joseph Stalin in communist Russia. Old Major is his obvious referral to Karl Marx, the mostly illiterate animals of manor farm are the Russian Populus and the quick revolution which comes to remove the drunken, incompetent farmer Mr Jones, obviously represents the Tsar of Russia. When they are victorious in this pursuit, they set about making the farm their own, masterminded by the pigs of the farm. Slowly but surely, however, the ideals that brought about the revolution are scrubbed away, denied that they ever existed—eventually forgotten by the animals, even when the changes are evident for all to see.


A fascinating book, which reminds us to keep a stronghold on our ideals, educate ourselves, and stay alert so that we may see the changes in our world to put them right. We must not allow propaganda to affect our judgement. We must call out the pigs. 8/10


A brave new world

By Aldous Huxley


The previous two books in this list mostly are a criticism of when socialism is pushed towards totalitarianism. However, in this book by the legendary Aldous Huxley, we see how rampant capitalism can bastardise society. From babies grown in jars, state-mandated addiction to drugs, a genetically enforced class system. A world where everyone belongs to everyone else; Love no longer exists; the old is removed. Religion is now subverted to the veneration of henry ford of the conveyor belt and car manufacturing fame. Very well written, although it can be an uncomfortable read as does not hold back its punches. A brave new world awaits you in the depths of the darker side of capitalism. 7/10


Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbery


“It was a pleasure to burn”. In this dark dystopian vision by Ray Bradery, firefighters are no longer there to put out fires; their job is to start them. Burning both the books that they find, the house and sometimes the occupant along with it. We follow Guy Montag, a fireman who finds himself in a world ravaged by constant war, yet glossed over with virtual reality, propaganda and removal of expert literature. Yet this could be our path in society, with the rise in Anti-expert populist leaders. All too keen to disregard and discard books. Bradbery shows us how much we lose if we allow this to go unchallenged. It also shows us that this wave of populist madness shall indeed pass, minds and ideals are not set in stone; they can be changed and changed for the better, educating oneself is the key. 8/10

Photo credit: Illustration by Francesco Francavilla found at https://www.vulture.com/article/best-dystopian-books.html