14 December 2009


I have been watching you. I know that you did not like my review of The Inheritors. I saw that grimace on your face when I mentioned Golding's name. Don't deny it! I watched your reaction over the telescreen I have installed next to your computer. And do not claim the review never existed. I said it existed; therefore, it exists. You must repent of this thought crime against the Dark Lord Zella…or else.

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.


  1. You know, this novel 1984 is really prophetic. I believe that if society continues as it is going, by 1984 we will be exactly like that described society. Don't look at me like that! I'm not kidding, I tell you! I'm serious! You are blinded by society!

  2. *peers around in a bewildered manner* I know exactly what you mean! When 1984 comes, I am hiding from Big Brother in a remote bunker. I have my calendar marked. It will be soon... :D

  3. I need to read this again. It disturbed the hell out of me the first time I did, and I completely credit my fascination and liking of dystopian fiction to this novel.

    Loved your intro to the review, by the way. ;)

  4. Merc, thanks for commenting! :)

    Yes, this is one of the more disturbing dystopian books I've read as well. There were several scenes that completely unnerved me.

  5. I am halfway through this book (like many others) but am massively enjoying it.
    I really dislike Julia too. I love his distopian society and Winston's diary entery at the end of chapter 2.
    While studying for my Higher School Certificate my mum stuck up on my wall:
    War is Peace
    Freedom is Slavery
    Undying Obedience is Strength.
    She didn't think the whole ignorance is strength line was going to make me study so she edited it to suit her own tyrannical views.

  6. Hehe Your mom is clever. :D

    Yes, I really enjoyed 1984. For some reason, I was expecting it to not be well-written. I am glad I was mistaken. It's a good book. Tell me what you think of the ending when you finish. :)