Now, now, there, there, do not be alarmed. I have not morphed into an evil, totalitarian blogger. I am merely acting like one to illustrate what Winston Smith contends with in George Orwell's dystopian classic 1984. Of course, instead of contending against a delusional, blogging bookworm, Smith finds himself going head-to-head with the shadowy bureaucracy of his native Oceania, a futuristic society that is closely modeled on Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.
I have a confession of my own to make. I have never read this book until now. I have always meant to, because I adore dystopian fiction, but I never got around to it. Then Rebecca posted about this novel, and I felt that I needed to read it ASAP. I am glad I did - I enjoyed 1984. For me, the best part of this novel was Orwell's dystopia, Oceania. Orwell brought this nightmarish society to life with his vivid detail. I particularly loved the scenes set at Winston's place of employment: The Ministry of Truth (more appropriately named the Ministry of Lies) where Winston forges documents in the name of aiding the state. I also liked Winston, although I can't say that I understood him. He's sympathetic in a somewhat pathetic sort of way. He reminded me of a bit of a more likable, more gullible version of Joseph K. from Kafka's The Trial. Orwell also integrates a fascinating exploration of the nature of truth and free thought into this novel, without being cumbersome.
Although I enjoyed this novel, I found the pacing a bit uneven. I was instantly intrigued with the first part, which introduces us to Winston and his world, and I found the ending engrossing and harrowing. (The ending gets kudos for having one of the creepiest tortures I've ever read about.) But the middle part was slow to me. The parts where Winston finds himself descending further into rebellion against the state were interesting, but the bulk of this part of the novel are scenes in which Winston engages in a romance with a coworker who is also disillusioned with the party. The romantic side story did not really interest me. Perhaps my biggest problem was I didn't like Julia, his love interest. The nicest word I can apply to Julia is "vapid." I can think of some other words for her too, but I won't go there.
Pacing aside, 1984 remains one of the preeminent dystopian sci fi novels for a reason. Although written at the start of The Cold War, this novel explores issues that are still relevant. Orwell crafts a nightmarish society with disturbing parallels to our modern world. If you've never read 1984, definitely give it a read.
Next Time: This post was a little later than I expected because I was busy celebrating Hanukkah this weekend. That is not a bad thing though. For Hanukkah, I received a book that I simply must share with my fellow grammar geeks and word nerds here on blogspot: Robert Hartwell Fiste's The Dictionary of Disagreeable English. I should have the review up in a couple of days.