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We (A Dystopian Science Fiction Classic) - The Original 1924 Unabridged Edition

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This carefully crafted ebook: “We (A Dystopian Science Fiction Classic) - The Original 1924 Unabridged Edition” is formatted for your eReader with a functional and detailed table of contents. We is a dystopian novel which is set in a dystopian future police state. D-503 lives in the One State, an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass, which allows the secret This carefully crafted ebook: “We (A Dystopian Science Fiction Classic) - The Original 1924 Unabridged Edition” is formatted for your eReader with a functional and detailed table of contents. We is a dystopian novel which is set in a dystopian future police state. D-503 lives in the One State, an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass, which allows the secret police/spies to inform on and supervise the public more easily. The structure of the state is analogous to the prison design concept developed by Jeremy Bentham commonly referred to as the Panopticon. Furthermore, life is organized to promote maximum productive efficiency along the lines of the system advocated by the hugely influential F. W. Taylor. People march in step with each other and wear identical clothing. There is no way of referring to people save by their given numbers. Males have odd numbers prefixed by consonants; females have even numbers prefixed by vowels. Along with Jack London's The Iron Heel, We is generally considered to be the grandfather of the satirical futuristic dystopia genre. Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) was a Russian author of science fiction and political satire. Due to his use of literature to criticize Soviet society, Zamyatin has been referred to as one of the first Soviet dissidents.


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This carefully crafted ebook: “We (A Dystopian Science Fiction Classic) - The Original 1924 Unabridged Edition” is formatted for your eReader with a functional and detailed table of contents. We is a dystopian novel which is set in a dystopian future police state. D-503 lives in the One State, an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass, which allows the secret This carefully crafted ebook: “We (A Dystopian Science Fiction Classic) - The Original 1924 Unabridged Edition” is formatted for your eReader with a functional and detailed table of contents. We is a dystopian novel which is set in a dystopian future police state. D-503 lives in the One State, an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass, which allows the secret police/spies to inform on and supervise the public more easily. The structure of the state is analogous to the prison design concept developed by Jeremy Bentham commonly referred to as the Panopticon. Furthermore, life is organized to promote maximum productive efficiency along the lines of the system advocated by the hugely influential F. W. Taylor. People march in step with each other and wear identical clothing. There is no way of referring to people save by their given numbers. Males have odd numbers prefixed by consonants; females have even numbers prefixed by vowels. Along with Jack London's The Iron Heel, We is generally considered to be the grandfather of the satirical futuristic dystopia genre. Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) was a Russian author of science fiction and political satire. Due to his use of literature to criticize Soviet society, Zamyatin has been referred to as one of the first Soviet dissidents.

30 review for We (A Dystopian Science Fiction Classic) - The Original 1924 Unabridged Edition

  1. 5 out of 5

    Forrest

    George Orwell, you poser. You punk. You . . . thief! I heard that you had read this before writing 1984. But I didn't expect Zamyatin's writing to be so superior to yours. And it is. It is so much more intriguing than your sterile work. D-503 is so much the better character than Winston. And you rob I-333 of her power and respect by demoting Julia to the role of a sexual object that stirs Winston to action. Yes, D-503 is stirred to action by I-333, but she's the political activist, the George Orwell, you poser. You punk. You . . . thief! I heard that you had read this before writing 1984. But I didn't expect Zamyatin's writing to be so superior to yours. And it is. It is so much more intriguing than your sterile work. D-503 is so much the better character than Winston. And you rob I-333 of her power and respect by demoting Julia to the role of a sexual object that stirs Winston to action. Yes, D-503 is stirred to action by I-333, but she's the political activist, the intelligent one in this revolution. Besides, Zamyatin had the guts to apply a letter and a name to his characters, while your very English "Winston" makes your work smack of parochialism and, frankly, condescension. D-503 is the universal toadie and I-333 the universal revolutionary. "Winston"? Really? Were you trying to evoke Churchill? Somehow I sense . . . Regardless of this, Zamyatin's prose is far better than yours. It never seems hackneyed, and rarely pedantic, though I suppose any novel that portrays rebellion against totalitarianism has to be somewhat pedantic. But because Zamyatin actually lived under a totalitarian state - TWO, actually! - and you only imagined what the Socialists would do in your imaginary world, he avoids much of the rhetoric that you seem to embrace, even while lampooning the imagined society of Big Brother. You see, despite his impersonal name, D-503 is so much more human than Winston. Yes, Winston is a revolutionary like D-503, but when I read him in comparison with the protagonist of We, Winston comes off as disingenuous. D-503 is the real deal, because Zamyatin was the real deal. The man was exiled by both the Tsar and the Communists for his free-thinking while you were worried about threats from within your country that never materialized. Maybe that's why 1984 feels so forced (remember that awful middle section outlining the world's politics - BORING!), while We feels so much more natural and easy to read. Furthermore, Zamyatin's prose is beautiful. Yes, you have the occasional turn of phrase that came out well, iconic, even, but Zamyatin's writing is beautiful throughout, even in its stochasticity. It's the writing of a poet who actually lived under totalitarianism, not a vested academic who feared a potential threat. You were fighting despotism, Zamyatin was living with it. You surmised, he knew. And for these reasons, I am doing the unprecedented (for me, at least): I am taking one of your stars and giving it to Zamyatin. Because, while his work isn't perfect, one must give credit where credit is due. Censorship, along with the the Cold War, gave you your day in the sun of America's high school classrooms, when, all along, those kids, myself included, should have been reading Zamyatin's work. That's an injustice. Maybe you're not totally to blame. Maybe Western society has to shoulder some of the guilt here. But . . . but . . . you copycat!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    It's been a decade since I first read Zamyatin's masterpiece, and even though this book remains unchanged for almost a century now, the person who read it is not. A decade later, I'm a very different person, no longer the wide-eyed undergraduate who thought she had the world all figured out. Physically, I still look under twenty (thanks, youthful genetics!) but mentally time has added a bit more life experience, an overdose of cynicism, a few collisions with the rougher edges of the universe, It's been a decade since I first read Zamyatin's masterpiece, and even though this book remains unchanged for almost a century now, the person who read it is not. A decade later, I'm a very different person, no longer the wide-eyed undergraduate who thought she had the world all figured out. Physically, I still look under twenty (thanks, youthful genetics!) but mentally time has added a bit more life experience, an overdose of cynicism, a few collisions with the rougher edges of the universe, and a few still subtle grey hairs. Time has dispelled some of the youthful cocky confidence, softened a few edges, sharpened a few more, and helped open my eyes to the areas of life I used to give little thought to before. It managed to keep my love of philosophical discussions intact but greatly decreased the amount of wine I can have fueling those. In short, I'm no longer the same person as I was a decade ago, reading Zamyatin's masterpiece for the first time. And this book for me now is very different than it was back then. I can see more of its unsettling depth, and it leaves me almost speechless (just joking, of course, nothing in this world can make me really shut up). I remember being impressed by the dystopian society, focusing on the idea of One State, the totalitarian oppression and the parallels between it and the soon-to-follow societal changes in Zamyatin's motherland. You know, the obvious, easy stuff, the one that gets quite old after reading a few dystopian books (like Orwell's one, inspired by 'We'), the stuff that causes exasperated sigh of 'Yes, I get it, totalitarian = bad, individualism suits humans, oppression is evil, so what?' And that's right - so what? If that was all there was to Zamyatin's 'We' it would have disappeared from the public eye by now, lingering perhaps only in a few dusty college classrooms. What makes 'We' special is not dystopian society alone. It's the amazing atmosphere Zamyatin creates through the pen of his protagonist, a little formerly happy cog in the wheel with a few atavistic features and an unexpected development of an incurable condition - a soul. The writing so amazingly reflects the mental state of the confused man - so fractured and frantic and stuttering and urgent and anxious and often disjointed, laden with metaphors and unexpected emotions and full-on scream of soul. "Because I live now not in our rational world but in the ancient one, senseless, the world of square roots of minus one." It's the strength of unexpected chaotic emotional outpouring and emotional breakdown from the protagonist, running headfirst into the hitherto unknown to him wall of passion and jealousy and possessiveness, with all the both lovely and frustrating humanity that follows. “You're afraid of it because it's stronger than you, you hate it because you're afraid of it, you love it because you can't master it. You can only love something that refuses to be mastered.” It's the prominent in Russian literature motif of search for happiness and attempts to figure out the secret of this elusive happiness for all, the soul search that leads to fewer answers than it inspires questions. “So here I am in step with everyone now, and yet I'm still separate from everyone. I am still trembling all over from the agitation I endured, like a bridge after an ancient train has rumbled over it. I am aware of myself. And, of course, the only things that are aware of themselves and conscious of their individuality are irritated eyes, cut fingers, sore teeth. A healthy eye, finger, tooth might as well not even be there. Isn't it clear that individual consciousness is just sickness?” I read this book again. It left me unsettled and confused, it left me uneasy, and for all this I love it. Because it does what literature is meant to do - to disquiet the soul. And for this I love it. --------- --------- ORIGINAL REVIEW FROM 2012 BASED ON THE MEMORY OF FIRST READINGS OF THIS NOVEL IN 2004-2005: Zamyatin's masterfully written dystopian masterpiece predated (and likely inspired) the popular Western books that explored the similar themes - Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. ............ Written in 1920, before the Soviet Union even existed, it predicted the Stalin and Brezhnev eras with terrifying foresight. Evgeniy Zamyatin did not share the fascination with the new State and the glory of the Great October Socialist Revolution. “The only means of ridding man of crime is ridding him of freedom.” With his novel, Zamyatin disagrees. No wonder it was banned in the Soviet Union until late 1980s - since one of his characters brings up the ultimate blasphemy: "There is no final revolution. Revolutions are infinite." At that time, during the birth of the "new world order" that emphasized the good of the State over the good of individual "cogs in the machine", the beauty of uniformity of unity over individual variations, Zamyatin described the hollowness that replacing soul and love with cold reason and logic and individuals with "numbers" would bring. In this world everything is rationalized, de-individualized, regimented, and oppressively safe. Even the leader, the "Benefactor", is little but a slave to the State. “Now I no longer live in our clear, rational world; I live in the ancient nightmare world, the world of square roots of minus one.” Zamyatin's characters try to go against the great tide, try to resist the State. As a result, at least for a short while, his protagonist gets diagnosed with a serious medical condition - developing a soul. But, fittingly for a dystopia, there is no happy ending - just a reader's faint hope that for some of them not all is lost. ------------------------------ I read this book in its original Russian, so I really cannot comment on the quality of translation. In Russian, the writing is superb and the narrative voice is unique and fascinating - exaltingly, sickeningly cheerful at the beginning and growing more and more confused as the story progresses. I can only hope that the translations managed to capture at least some of that. 5 stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Let’s play “Guess That Groundbreaking Novel”! Question: A party functionary who is recording his experiences in a journal lives in a future fascist society which maintains its solidarity by compulsory attendance at public events dominated by a remote, all-powerful leader. He meets a woman, a secret rebel who expresses her revolutionary impulses through her sexuality, and the two of them carry on an affair in room in an old house which symbolizes what life was like in the days before the new Let’s play “Guess That Groundbreaking Novel”! Question: A party functionary who is recording his experiences in a journal lives in a future fascist society which maintains its solidarity by compulsory attendance at public events dominated by a remote, all-powerful leader. He meets a woman, a secret rebel who expresses her revolutionary impulses through her sexuality, and the two of them carry on an affair in room in an old house which symbolizes what life was like in the days before the new society. The man becomes a revolutionary too, but still has doubts, and, after undergoing a mind-violating experience, betrays his lover and the revolution too. Guess that groundbreaking novel! Answer: George Orwell’s 1984? Response: Close. But not exactly groundbreaking. The proper answer is Yevgeny Zyamatin’s We. We was published in English in 1924, and reviewed by Orwell in the Tribune Magazine in 1946; 1984 was not published until 1949. Yes, it is Zyamatin not Orwell who has the honor of being a groundbreaking dystopian novelist. (As well as the “honor” of being one of the first soviet dissidents. His novel could only be published abroad, and he was soon forced into exile.) Still, Orwell’s novel is clearly superior to Zyamatin’s. We, unlike 1984, is an honest-to-god science fiction novel, complete with an honest-to-god rocket ship, futuristic buildings, and experimental brain operations. Because of this, it has a charm the Orwell novel lacks, for 1984 is essentially a bleak, clear-eyed vision set in a shabbier version of post-war Britain (plus the totalitarian, of course). Where We fails is precisely where 1984most succeeds: in its treatment of language itself and its effects on pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary consciousness (which in We's case is synonumous with the before and after of love). The hero of We is a builder of rocket ships, and a typical man of his society. He thinks of everything in terms of logic, quantifiers and physical entities, and his metaphors are filled with numbers and geometrical shapes. Only later, when his heart is touched by sexual passion, does he speak a language more like ours, touched by emotion and the beauties of our natural world. This is all fine in theory, but it results in a prose--at least in the two translations I used--which is often odd and alienating, and sometimes completely baffling. Unfortunately, when our hero falls in love, his language becomes filled with cliché, and it is difficult to distinguish his revolutionary sentiments from the sentimental outpourings of a second-rate romance novel. The novel buckles under its burden of language, and that is why the plot of We (which thankgoodness Orwell stole and turned into a classic) is more interesting than the novel itself.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    This is a classic Russian science-fiction dystopian novel published in 1924 that influenced many following books: 1984 and Brave New World and authors such as Kurt Vonnegut and Ayn Rand. According to Wiki “We is generally considered to be the grandfather of the satirical futuristic dystopia genre.” The book had to be published outside of the USSR because under Stalin the author ended up first imprisoned and later exiled to France. In an Introduction, Foreword and Preface we are told that the This is a classic Russian science-fiction dystopian novel published in 1924 that influenced many following books: 1984 and Brave New World and authors such as Kurt Vonnegut and Ayn Rand. According to Wiki “We is generally considered to be the grandfather of the satirical futuristic dystopia genre.” The book had to be published outside of the USSR because under Stalin the author ended up first imprisoned and later exiled to France. In an Introduction, Foreword and Preface we are told that the book emphasizes the “insidious pressures for conformity” in the new Russia. People of the United State are called ‘Numbers,’ which they all wear on the chests of their unifs as they walk around four-abreast. They all wake up at the same time and leave work at the same time and have a ‘personal hour’ and sexual days. They live in high-rise glass cubicles, with curtains. They attend compulsory meetings in auditoriums where they sing hymns to the state and hear from the ‘Well-Dooer’ on a big screen. They have to vote for him each year on the Day of Unanimity. They eat a petroleum-based food. Rare resistances are punished by the offender being placed in a machine that dissolves him into water. A ‘Green Wall’ separates the urban area from the remining wild world outside. The main character is an engineer involved in building a spaceship to conquer other planets. He happens to find a lover who is involved with a small group of potential rebels. (And ‘lover’ is the wrong word – the system does not allow love or permanent pairings – just hookups). A corrupt doctor gives them alcohol and nicotine and they have a way of getting to the outside world beyond the wall. The main character starts thinking about his soul and about having a child. The rebellion may be spreading but at the same time, the state is introducing a new required lobotomy-type operation to nip this in the bud. Why a rating of 3? This book has been in my TBR for years but I’ll be honest and say I’m not a fan of sci-fi or dystopian novels. The author uses math terms in symbolic ways that don’t help the story along. The dialog seemed herky-jerky to me at times and some of the plot I thought was confusing. Still I’m glad I read it! Top image: Le Corbusier’s 1924 plan for Paris envisaged razing the city from Montmartre to the Seine to build 18 giant skyscrapers. From thetimes.co.uk Sketch of the author from Wikipedia

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is a must read for fans and students of the Dystopian genre. Published in 1920, before Brave New World and well before 1984 (which could even be considered a second generation 1984 as Orwell began his seminal work after reading a French translation of We) Zamyatin’s vision is well before his time. Writing in response to his experiences with the Bolsheviks but without a direct link to the communists, We takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where pockets of “civilized” We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is a must read for fans and students of the Dystopian genre. Published in 1920, before Brave New World and well before 1984 (which could even be considered a second generation 1984 as Orwell began his seminal work after reading a French translation of We) Zamyatin’s vision is well before his time. Writing in response to his experiences with the Bolsheviks but without a direct link to the communists, We takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where pockets of “civilized” humanity survive in a totalitarian state. We, however, is not timeless as Huxley’s and Orwell’s works may be. Perhaps some of his original meanings have been lost in the cultural and generational translations as well as from the original Russian, We can be a difficult story to follow and lacks some of the malevolent charm and suspense of the more recognized works. The glass house is at once a statement about the loss of individualism and privacy and also a metaphor for socialism that Pasternak would poetically describe years later.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    The prototype of dystopian fiction - a vivisection of monolithic faith and cruelty in the name of “We”! Dystopian science fiction never analyses the future, even though it is the supposed topic of the novel. It looks at the past, and follows the road that humanity has already embarked on, to its logical next step. When Zamyatin wrote “We”, the society he knew was rapidly changing, breaking apart, one authoritarian structure was being replaced with another, through the means of a violent clash, a The prototype of dystopian fiction - a vivisection of monolithic faith and cruelty in the name of “We”! Dystopian science fiction never analyses the future, even though it is the supposed topic of the novel. It looks at the past, and follows the road that humanity has already embarked on, to its logical next step. When Zamyatin wrote “We”, the society he knew was rapidly changing, breaking apart, one authoritarian structure was being replaced with another, through the means of a violent clash, a revolution, supported by a technological jump to modernity, delivering tools to control ideology through mass propaganda and effective weapons. What triggers revolutions? What makes human beings accept authority? What defines collective and individual identity? How does power make use of human needs to control society? All these questions are raised in the voice of a member of a monolithic state, OneState, a futuristic powerhouse that has managed to create a system that guides its citizens towards collective sameness. The community of “We” is protected from the outer world - the freedom of choice - by a great Green Wall. Yes! A wall! Ever since the beginning of time - and in Zamyatin’s traditional mythological context, that means since the beginning of Christian tales in the paradise of the all-powerful, authoritarian god - a wall has protected the collective in possession of truth from the evil of freedom, or diversity. According to OneState’s dogma, Adam and Eve were stupid to choose freedom over “happiness”, and since they were expelled from the beautifully walled-in paradise, (Christian fundamentalist) believers in monolithic conformity have strived to re-establish the chains that deliver complete safety, which is falsely labelled “happiness”. In the automatised, regulated OneState, this “utopian” idea of a new paradise is accomplished, and everything is done according to the collective need, in complete disregard of personal identity and emotions. Sexuality is regulated to the point of absurdity, and each individual follows a strict schedule for the benefit of the superior Benefactor, who is the authoritarian leader or monotheistic god of OneState. There are cracks in the wall, though, as people still think and feel. Even though it is supposedly illegal, a precursor to Orwell’s idea of thoughtcrime, free will is not completely suppressed, and there is resistance. The enemies of happiness, no less! In the narrator’s character, the two concepts clash. Submission under authoritarian dictatorship stands against humanity’s longing for freedom of choice, for genuine love, for diverse experience. In the chilling end, the state has found a solution to make individuality obsolete: an “Operation” to remove imagination from the human brain. The outlook on the world therefore is bleaker than anything I have read so far: not only brainwashed with propaganda and scared into submission by external enemies and fear of punishment, but biologically reduced to prehuman thinking capacity, the world has become inhuman. And thus a paradise for an authoritarian godlike leader. “We” believe in “Him” as soon as our imagination is no longer threatening to make us to see two sides of the story, alternatives, a plurality of choices, equally possible and justified. This scares me more than anything else, for it touches on the fundamental need of human beings to conform in groups, to cruelly suppress individual longing in order to function as an unthinking mob, as witnessed over and over again in the 20th century, in One Party (or One Religion) states around the world. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century describes the unfolding of Zamyatin’s dystopia with almost perfect accuracy. It also emphasises the fact that monotheistic belief is not compatible with a pluralistic, tolerant society if if is in power. As it relies on a concept of itself as a saving truth, it will never be able to fully accept a pluralistic worldview. The danger of losing its followers to any other lifestyle is too great. The walls of the world are built to keep followers of certain dogmas (political or religious) in order, out of touch with freedom and choice, as well as separated from an overarching, comparative education that opens up perspectives rather than spreading populist slogans of “truth”. There is no happiness in paradise, is the lesson I learned from this novel. If you can’t choose, you are not fully human. Sheep are not happy, regardless of how well the shepherd guides them. They do not understand the concept of happiness as they cannot think in abstract terms. Be a sheep in paradise, or a human beyond the wall! That’s the choice. And being a human involves many different scenarios that cannot be regulated. It will sometimes include pain and chaos, and certainly unhappiness, which is the only means to even grasp the idea of happiness. To deal with freedom in a responsible way without hurting others, that is the challenge of democracy. It is vulnerable, as godlike populists use ancient shepherd methods to gather their sheep and lock them into paradise, - but it is possible to resist the urge to conform in order to feel safe. Carrying out routines prescribed by authority is a soothing medicine for sheeplike nonthinkers, but it does not really make humanity more safe. It is an illusion: like planning next week’s regulated work schedule while you are sitting on a plane that is about to crash, as the narrator puts it. Knowing what is going on gives you a choice. But for the narrator, it is too late, a temporary new wall is already being erected around him, and his imagination is removed. There is always hope, however. After all, Zamyatin thought, and created, and imagined, and wrote this masterpiece in the middle of Armageddon! And it survived several waves of religious (political) fundamentalist rule. Recommended to all people who believe that you can learn more from books than from sheep, as opposed to the wisdom of The Alchemist!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    Sci-fi's in my top three least favorite fiction genres. However, this one is thankfully not Brave New World, has traces of madness and poetry both, and possesses the Waltmanesque quality of being organic, though the theme of Dystopian Machinery should be inevitably super-structured. The protagonist's POV is impressive. As builder of a space ship that will provide aliens (or: us) with an account of the glass metropolis (see: communism), he transitions from zombie troglodyte to someone infected Sci-fi's in my top three least favorite fiction genres. However, this one is thankfully not Brave New World, has traces of madness and poetry both, and possesses the Waltmanesque quality of being organic, though the theme of Dystopian Machinery should be inevitably super-structured. The protagonist's POV is impressive. As builder of a space ship that will provide aliens (or: us) with an account of the glass metropolis (see: communism), he transitions from zombie troglodyte to someone infected with a "soul." This was one of the "landmark" classics of science fiction, and along with the aforementioned "World" (sorry, just not a fan) & 1984 (haven't read it) makes up a celebrated trilogy. The protagonist becomes human & his confusion infuses the work with a sense of wonderment, of a certain etherealness. There are events that both the reader and the hero do not fully understand, and this is my favorite thing about this work. Some things are overexplained, others oversimplified. That nouns are described geometrically and in terms of mathematics is quite a unique interpretation of the fall of a machine society. Well beyond its time, this is tellingly an important brick in the wall of the Global Lit/ Sci-Fi fortress.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ariel

    Thoughts: - If it was utterly up to me, I'd actually think about classing this more as a "utopia" rather than a "dystopia" understanding that they're ultimately the same thing. - Living in glass houses is the most terrifying part of this novel. - I-330 is basically a manic pixie dream girl. - The commentary on the Russian Revolution and Socialism are heavy, bro. - Zamyatin had a FASCINATING life that very much influences this book. - The writing style wasn't my thing. It was by no means bad, but it Thoughts: - If it was utterly up to me, I'd actually think about classing this more as a "utopia" rather than a "dystopia" understanding that they're ultimately the same thing. - Living in glass houses is the most terrifying part of this novel. - I-330 is basically a manic pixie dream girl. - The commentary on the Russian Revolution and Socialism are heavy, bro. - Zamyatin had a FASCINATING life that very much influences this book. - The writing style wasn't my thing. It was by no means bad, but it just wasn't my thing. On Comparing it to 1984: - So, the deal is that George Orwell absolutely admits that his book was inspired by this book, and any person who has read them both will know that this is undoubtedly true. Here are some of my observations. - We is more about Humanity, and 1984 is more about Politics. - The stakes feel higher in 1984. - I might be biased (I'm definitely biased) but Orwell improved on certain things (Room 101, general feelings of unrest, the book line). - One of the best parts of 1984 is when Winston becomes a traitorous bastard, and we didn't see that to the same extent in this novel. - The best part of 1984 is the last line, and this last line was good but not as good. You should read this, srs.

  9. 5 out of 5

    William2

    Zamyatin's theme here is the impossibility of being fully human in totalitarian society. His future is not technologically superior. It contains little of what we'd call high-tech. This is still very much the age of steam. The story seems both forward-looking and dated, almost paradoxically so. The mood it inspires is rather like that of Fritz Lang's classic Metropolis. I liked that. It was like finding this artefact of world lit. Another piece in the long history of dystopias—and one that Zamyatin's theme here is the impossibility of being fully human in totalitarian society. His future is not technologically superior. It contains little of what we'd call high-tech. This is still very much the age of steam. The story seems both forward-looking and dated, almost paradoxically so. The mood it inspires is rather like that of Fritz Lang's classic Metropolis. I liked that. It was like finding this artefact of world lit. Another piece in the long history of dystopias—and one that influenced George Orwell. But We is worth reading for more than historical reasons. In Cormac McCarthy's The Road we are in a post-apocalyptic thus post-technology future. In We science is very much at the service of OneState. Thanks to "our glass," with its steel-like properties, buildings are completely transparent, so one can see everything everyone else does. Except during sex when one can lower one's blinds, with prior authorization of course. The fictional patterning is admirable throughout, but there are inconsistencies of logic. For instance, the spy agency of OneState known as the Guardians seems inanely feeble in comparison to, say, the efficient quasi-Stasi of 1984. But then Orwell was writing more than 25 years later when advanced ideas like television were in the air. For D-503 everything is fine and dandy. He begins by being a rather tiresome booster of OneState. He's happy sharing O-90's favors with R-13. He's happy with his work on the INTEGRAL which is some sort of missile, time-capsule affair destined for other civilizations on other planets. (Later, when it flew, I was assailed by mental footage of Buck Rodgers' low-tech rocket jiggled on fishing line before the camera.) Everything is fine with D-503 until he falls passionately in love with I-330, who is both beautiful and a willful transgressor of state laws. She's a revolutionary. I-330 is constantly gaming the system. And because D-503 is insanely in love with her, he's drawn into her crimes for which death appears to be the only possible punishment. There are a number of disconnected images, scenes that don't quite fit with the otherwise lucid patterning of the novel. It's as if the book never made it through it's final draft. But I, ordinarily so unforgiving, was willing to live with that. After all it's an artefact. If you're seeking perfection this is not your novel.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    A city of glass, 1,000 years in the future, domed, with a green wall, to keep out all the undesirable, primitive life forms. Animal, human, vegetable or insect...A clean and sparkling place, for its millions of citizens, everything and everyone, has a schedule, the perfect "One State". No privacy, people have numbers for names, they dress (light blue uniforms) , and eat the same food, live in small, sparse apartments, which are transparent. No drinking or smoking, even sex regulated by, yes, an A city of glass, 1,000 years in the future, domed, with a green wall, to keep out all the undesirable, primitive life forms. Animal, human, vegetable or insect...A clean and sparkling place, for its millions of citizens, everything and everyone, has a schedule, the perfect "One State". No privacy, people have numbers for names, they dress (light blue uniforms) , and eat the same food, live in small, sparse apartments, which are transparent. No drinking or smoking, even sex regulated by, yes, an appointment. Regular daily walks, pep talks at auditoriums, to keep all, motivated. Thousands sing and listen to the sacred words, they have heard, countless times before. Guardians to help the "Benefactor's" rules, be followed, timetables are enforced! Any deviations, are rigorously crushed. D-503, is the chief, in charge, of building the spaceship, Integral, now the perfect society, can conquer space, soon bringing happiness and order, to a chaotic universe. D-503, has a regular sex partner, 0-90, but she falls in love, with the mathematician, the State, doesn't approve, emotional entanglements. It causes disorder, in a strict culture, no more conflicts! The blue planet, was devastated, after the 200 - year - long war, 99% of the population died. Then he sees 1-330, a Will -o'-the- Wisp, forever coming and going, befuddling D-503. He can never differentiate, reality from a mirage, when she's around, a brilliant man, who returns to Earth. Love reduces people to silliness, misery and sometimes, a little euphoria, but there is something strange going on, a secret, she has an agenda. His best friend, R-13, is somehow connected, the poet, is full of big dreams, what ? Mad Revolution, unthinkable, "Unfreedom", is paradise, D-503 is scared ... He is taken by her, amazingly, outside the walls, he feels naked, uncomfortable . Seeing crawling things, always moving about, in the frightening, and unknown green environment, is the vegetation, very unhealthy ? Yellow fruit, which D-503, recognized, from ancient books, in old museums. The hot sun shining down, nothing to regulate it here, humans too, dressed unalike ... Weird, they don't look any different, from us. The wise man, is drawn deeper into a plot, he just can't say no, to the beautiful, 1-330. Causing much turbulence between he and dear, jealous, 0-90, but he is being watched, closely, by the Guardians. Does he risk torture and death, for the woman he loves, who may just be using D-503, for her own, personal ambitions? Still the builder, is a romantic, at heart, in a civilization, that doesn't believe or tolerate, such nonsense. What will it be, a bland but safe existence, all the worries, taken care of, by the suffocating, inhuman, State ? Not very fulfilling, or an exciting, prospect, an unfamiliar, perilous world? ... And Birds are seen, inside the city ...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Luís C.

    In the futuristic world imagined by Zamyatin in 1920, D-503, inventor of the spaceship "The Integral', is sick. He developed a soul, tells it with humility and sincerity. And good God, that's beautiful! Beautiful as I can write it to a lover, yet here torn between the temptations of I, rebellious woman and the laws of his perfect Euclidean world, Taylorism world where the best way to stop a man from committing a crime is to deprive him of liberty. I've felt invaded by some compassionated, In the futuristic world imagined by Zamyatin in 1920, D-503, inventor of the spaceship "The Integral', is sick. He developed a soul, tells it with humility and sincerity. And good God, that's beautiful! Beautiful as I can write it to a lover, yet here torn between the temptations of I, rebellious woman and the laws of his perfect Euclidean world, Taylorism world where the best way to stop a man from committing a crime is to deprive him of liberty. I've felt invaded by some compassionated, tenderness emotions.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David

    Well, I can see why We by Yevgeny Zamyatin was 'problematic' for the Soviet regime. It unequivocally debunks the utopian collective ideal. Communism (in practice, if not in theory) demands each of its fellow-travelers to exist on a purely atomic level. Good, responsible communists are mere corpuscles in a bland, unfulfilling social body. Sure, economic equality seems like a nice ideal, right? A cute ideal, even? But aside from being virtually impracticable (because humans will always be human), Well, I can see why We by Yevgeny Zamyatin was 'problematic' for the Soviet regime. It unequivocally debunks the utopian collective ideal. Communism (in practice, if not in theory) demands each of its fellow-travelers to exist on a purely atomic level. Good, responsible communists are mere corpuscles in a bland, unfulfilling social body. Sure, economic equality seems like a nice ideal, right? A cute ideal, even? But aside from being virtually impracticable (because humans will always be human), however, it becomes a nightmare when individuals are forced to relinquish their selfhood at the altar of the purely collective. The religiosity of communism has always embarrassed me. All these puffed-up intellectuals imagining they've thrown off the weight of myth and simplistic, primitive 'gods' when they've only invented a new one—all the more absurd for its rationalist pretensions. Call me a decadent bourgeois if you wish, but I am unwilling to give up my individualism—yes, including my selfishness!—for the sake of some theoretical, neutered society—an always-deferred happiness that resembles heaven to an almost satirical extent. Zamyatin pulls no punches in dealing with these blind spots of Soviet totalitarianism. (And please don't infer that my condemnation of the Soviet model implies a wildly enthusiastic endorsement of the American model. America needs its own satires.) The narrative centers on a social cog named D-503 in some distant future who struggles to maintain his naive faith in the new hypercollective world order in the face of a sudden, unexpected obstacle: love. Sure, it sounds really quaint, but We is a whirlwind of intellectual and emotional chaos, brought to life in strangely mathematical imagery and feverish mystery. Reading this fractured, oddly-phrased story, I can only imagine that it was extremely difficult to translate, so I'll point out that I read the fairly recent Natasha Randall translation put out by the Modern Library. I can't vouch for other translations, but this one is modern, gripping, and evocative. The final fifty pages, coupled with the coffee I was drinking, actually gave me anxiety. And now that I close the book, I'm left with this vague sort of dread-slash-melancholy. I consider that a good thing. The truly great books are the ones you feel even when you aren't reading them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    Taylor and irrational numbers and calculus must have really made impression on Zamyatin. Just as the ideation of 'sex free for all' that he likely could have perceived around at the time. Visionary, seer and dystopianist of 1920.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Now, why would I think that an old SF novel from 1924 might not be as polished and extravagant in exploring ideas and crafting a truly delicious dystopia as, say, 1984, or Anthem, or Brave New World as they did many years later? Or be as timely now as it was in the time where it was heralded as a "malicious slander on socialism"? Did I avoid this mainly because I couldn't pronounce the author's name? Maybe. But that's horrible! Especially when this little gem is polished to a very high degree. It Now, why would I think that an old SF novel from 1924 might not be as polished and extravagant in exploring ideas and crafting a truly delicious dystopia as, say, 1984, or Anthem, or Brave New World as they did many years later? Or be as timely now as it was in the time where it was heralded as a "malicious slander on socialism"? Did I avoid this mainly because I couldn't pronounce the author's name? Maybe. But that's horrible! Especially when this little gem is polished to a very high degree. It lambasts current and past ideas of utopia, turning sex and the "greatest good" into a truly timeless dystopia. Not only that, it's witty, speaks of the death of all imagination, makes me care for its hero in a profound way even when he's following the grand dictates of this "final" society, and of course we feel the effects of the new revolution even when there could never BE another revolution. You know what it reminds me of? The old move Metropolis. Now that's a true classic, too, and just as good today as it was back in 1927. Notice a trend? That perhaps this little novel inspired all these names I dropped? Well, it's true, or at least, the authors admitted as such. Make no mistake. The other authors took things into somewhat wilder directions, but We is closest to what we are now, for all that. And it's no less polished. In some ways, it's better. It all depends on whether you want your SF dystopias a bit more hardcore and dark or with more worldbuilding. Rand was nuts with the worldbuilding and Huxley feels like he cribbed this entire novel, but 1984 goes the distance. Anyway I look at it, though, this novel belongs with all the greats. At least in dystopias. :)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Russian Big Brother: "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and “We”: both have constant surveillance of the individual, though through different means. Both have the protagonist discovering a class in society that is free, but powerless. Both have state control over passion, albeit in rather different ways. But “1984” (the new title) is rather turgid though. “We” by contrast is actually a lot of fun, I rather prefer it of the If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Russian Big Brother: "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and “We”: both have constant surveillance of the individual, though through different means. Both have the protagonist discovering a class in society that is free, but powerless. Both have state control over passion, albeit in rather different ways. But “1984” (the new title) is rather turgid though. “We” by contrast is actually a lot of fun, I rather prefer it of the two; it's not afraid in places to be a bit silly and it's vision of the future is somehow inspired, with their transparent dwellings and privacy granted only for your allotted hour of sex with your pre-selected partner.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    I had noticed 1984 pop up in my feed and more chatter about that and Brave New World in the media, which my thoughts upstream towards their source Zamyatin's 1924 novel We. Zamyatin's book as is the way of books, did not pop out of the void but is itself in dialogue with older books, in particular I felt Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground and the Bible. For those afraid of spoilers, you were better off avoiding this review altogether. For if, persons unknown, credit Zamyatin with writing I had noticed 1984 pop up in my feed and more chatter about that and Brave New World in the media, which my thoughts upstream towards their source Zamyatin's 1924 novel We. Zamyatin's book as is the way of books, did not pop out of the void but is itself in dialogue with older books, in particular I felt Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground and the Bible. For those afraid of spoilers, you were better off avoiding this review altogether. For if, persons unknown, credit Zamyatin with writing the first dystopia, he himself shakes his head and says no - the first dystopia and the first utopia is the Garden of Eden. The same feelings impel us to the one and repel us from the other, but the difference between the two states is about one heart beat in Zamyatin's story. Zamyatin's principal character is Adam, or D-530 as he is known here in the world in which everybody is a number, apart from The Benefactor who is maybe Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor or possibly God himself. The problem with Edens as we know from Notes from the Underground, is human nature, man confronted with the most beautiful Crystal Palace imaginable, a shining promise of modernity, has an overwhelming desire to lob a brick through it's bloody great windows, and as for woman...well as we know from books and life, woman makes man look like a saint by comparison. For me on the reread it seemed that Zamyatin took that as his starting assumption but was more interested in the motive forces that work for and against Utopias and Dystopias. A friend in my rereading updates was gracious enough to mention Anna Karennia and Vronsky, and there is a current in society which sees love and sexual attraction as a rebellion in the making against society, something intrinsically disruptive, here says Orwell, watch my man Winston Smith gambolling as happy as a new born lamb - now introduce woman into my test tube and lets stand well back and see what happens, in a rarefied form Huxley says acceptance of the realities of the world is a spell, sufficient exposure to something else (view spoiler)[ but probably not something sexual since he has designed his utopia with ubiquitous guilt free sex (view spoiler)[ fortunately much of his society is automated (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] will lead to disenchantment and escape from the iron cage of the Ford factory(view spoiler)[ even at the cost of entirely mangling Max Weber's metaphors, sorry Max (hide spoiler)] . But Zamyatin's Adam is a man of passion masquerading as an Engineer. He tells us that as a child he dissolved into a tantrum of tears and deep distress when he was taught about the square root of minus one. The intensity of D-530's desires for a complete world is I think it's main strength over its daughter books, it is D-530 who yearns for complete absorption whether in the arms of his lover or nestling into the arbitrary order of the one state, the desire for the dissolution of self is the same, he flees from the troubling reality of irrational numbers just as he struggles against himself, his obsession with lips and his hairy hands, he can't accept the irrationality inherent in his own person which his initial love interest O-90 can, she accepts her desire be pregnant even though the nature of this society means that is a death sentence. The problem, for Zamyatin is not that man and woman have a natural tendency to first make bricks and then to throw them through windows, but on the contrary that humans have a deep longing not to escape childhood, but to cling to a parent particularly perhaps if they are arbitrary and abusive. O-90 achieves Enlightenment, while for D-530 the Buddha remains in the museum, the war over the direction of his own dissolution takes place on the Dostoyeskian backfield - his own soul - the Entropic one state or Lilith and the rejection of domination in favour of energy. The one battle he can't face is for self acceptance - the self that doesn't laugh at the music of Scriabin (view spoiler)[ possibly, or maybe I'll change my mind after breakfast (hide spoiler)] . Not that E-330 is an ideal positive figure, Orwell shamelessly demotes her to Julia in his novel, E-330 is a far more powerful figure, the prime mover in rebellion, but also deluded in her faith in D-530 - a weak reed and nursed as well as nurtured by a state in which no human has an individual value, apart from the Platonic philosopher king who rules the while show, she has no drive to spare human life herself. Her power though does appear to have the capacity to bring down the state which plainly isn't the case in Orwell or Huxley for them the individual is too weak in the face of state power. It strikes me that D-530's longing for unity is another strength, Winston Smith only comes to love Big Brother after the careful application of a certain amount of expertise and coercion, this is highly inefficient, and no sensible way to run an entire state as one can see - even extreme governments prefer mostly, as Zamyatin imagines in his one state, that the regime works with the grain , through love. Although to be fair the removal of his inner conflict is achieved through brain surgery. Apparently inspired by the time Zamyatin spent studying ship building in the North-East of England before the first world war. This was read by Orwell and Huxley before they wrote their dystopian fantasies, Orwell read the French translations presumably in between washing dishes or while waiting to pawn something. After the first world war Zamyatin designed ice-breakers that remained in service well into the soviet period. Like the narrator of his novel he was a man designing functional objects in a society that was set on designing functional citizens.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    This book has universal five stars among my Friend's and Follower's reviews, but I'm skeptical. Having read more than two dystopian novels in my life, what does this have to offer that's new, besides simply being the first? I get that totalitarian governments and loss of individual expression is bad, but what else? (That wasn't rhetorical–someone who's read and loved this please explain to me the benefits of this one.) --- Well, let's find out. --- I started getting into adult literature—as many do— This book has universal five stars among my Friend's and Follower's reviews, but I'm skeptical. Having read more than two dystopian novels in my life, what does this have to offer that's new, besides simply being the first? I get that totalitarian governments and loss of individual expression is bad, but what else? (That wasn't rhetorical– someone who's read and loved this please explain to me the benefits of this one.) --- Well, let's find out. --- I started getting into adult literature—as many do—with 1984. It took me half of sixth grade to read it, but I loved it (and it isn't a bad book; I still use it to introduce my less-cultured friends to literature with, it's good for that). Within the next few years, I absorbed Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. Going into high school, I learned that everyone else did too. Reading Anthem as a class in English (sophomore year) was a nightmarish experience. It's hard to find the oppression of individuality by a totalitarian government a captivating or important topic after hearing the most ditsy, brain-dead girl in the class ask question after question about the Sex Days (or whatever they're called) to the teacher, with newfound emotions of confusion, shock, horror and awe slowly setting into her face and voice. At this point, dystopia would forever remind me of this same ditsy stupidity, which in turn made me reflect back on my own enjoyment of dystopian novels, and question my own quality of intelligence and personality. Sophomore year came and went, and my own reading tastes had developed, but no one else's had. As I was lugging around post-modern tomes, various ancient epics, and masochistic reads in general in Junior year (aren't I special?), The Hunger Games crept its way into the dystopian canon. When someone would be talking about how baaad the Capitol is, I hate myself for wanting to smack them with whatever paperback is at hand, because, well, they are reading after all—a rare activity that must be nurtured, not smacked at the sight of. They aren't quite faux-intellectuals, as they genuinely are smitten and awestruck at the revelations they come up with. In the end, I am forced to quietly endure painful reminder after painful reminder of my regrettable prepubescent tastes in literature. As you might understand, I do not enjoy acknowledging the existence of such books as these, let alone have a dying urge to jump right into a new one. A unanimous list of five stars from friends and followers has a way of clouding your judgement, however. I wish I could care more about the fact that this is a groundbreaking, original, and rather ballsy novel, than I do about not looking and acting like dumb kids in my high school, but I cannot. I just can't do it. Part of me wishes I would look at the things that make We special and unique than its successors, but I can only hear in my head an imaginary teen in an imaginary English class saying "Ohmigosh they only have numbers for names that's ssoooooo crazy" and "This is JUST like The Giver!" I convinced myself that this book's antiquity and originality would be enough for me to willingly drop my deterrence to dystopia and to be able to enjoy this for what it is. Turns out, Rand and Orwell squeezed this puppy to its last drop. This book's antiquity and originality didn't make me like it more, it made me like Anthem and 1984 less. The plot and themes of the later books don't make We predictable, they're carbon copies. They turn We into a dull rerun. It deserves much better than that, but I cannot feign that I found it to be anything more than that to me. The book isn't even written badly. I wasn't crazy about the journal entry format, but it was effective in showing what a chaotic revolution does to the mind of a loyal cog of a society hell-bent on rationality and right-angles. While a journal, it is (in-story) written for other people to be read, but it reads much more like a conversation, complete with numerous ellipses and em-dashes. I don't know about others' tastes, but I always found conversational styles more easy to read than long bits of exposition, so that made this a much easier read for me. Some passages and dialogues are beautiful and witty, my favorite probably being the dialogue about how revolutions are infinite. Many of the better parts have been lifted and put in the Quotes section for the author page for Yevgeny Zamyatin. If you like the quotes on that page, the book has plenty more. My biggest problem with the writing was how Zamyatin describes his characters—he doesn't go overboard with details, he instead chooses one small insignificant (and often ugly) detail to constantly refer to people as. The only details described about women, for example, seem to be their mouths (Zamyatin even addresses this on page 71, with "All women are lips, nothing but lips.") He'll take someone's "round pink lips" and this will become their new name. "Round pink lips," "round pink lips," "round pink lips," nonstop. The rhetorical device of referring to an entity by only one small detail of it is called "metonymy," which is only a couple consonants away from "monotony!" Another character (who is supposedly to be the attractive love interest) is described as having "sharp teeth" incessantly. Twice, the narrator takes his time to describe how her eyebrows and mouth wrinkles form a giant "X" on her face. Allow me to illustrate the images these descriptions put in your head: Her quivering pink-brown gills her quivering pink-brown gills his flat face his flat face his S-shaped body his S-shaped body his translucent wing-like ears his translucent wing-like ears his MAKE IT STOP AAAGHHHGHGH. If you're sick of dystopia, doubting whether you'll enjoy this, and can identify even a smidgen with my digression, avoid We. If you absolutely love dystopian fiction, have no idea what I'm whining about, or by some miracle haven't already read 1984 and that ilk, disregard everything I've just said, and go enjoy it while you still can. I just wasn't able to. --- EXTRA CLARIFICATION: The answer is no, I'm not special. (The "Aren't I special?" comment in the review was meant to be sarcastic.) In my review, I was admitting my inner elitism and assholishness (which was probably a mistake) that largely prevented me from enjoying this. I fully recognize I'm assholish, and I'm not expecting to win any hearts merely by being self-aware; I was just being honest about some negative aspects of my personality I'm working on correcting. I'd say objectively this is close to a four-star book, but Goodreads star ratings are subjective, so that's why this review has two stars.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    We: A classic warning against political tyranny from Russia that remains relevant today (Also posted at Fantasy Literature) Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924) is widely recognized as a direct influence on George Orwell when he composed his dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four, and there are certainly strong signs of influence in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World as well. Zamyatin edited Russian translations of works of Jack London and H.G. Wells, and We can be viewed as a reaction against the We: A classic warning against political tyranny from Russia that remains relevant today (Also posted at Fantasy Literature) Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924) is widely recognized as a direct influence on George Orwell when he composed his dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four, and there are certainly strong signs of influence in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World as well. Zamyatin edited Russian translations of works of Jack London and H.G. Wells, and We can be viewed as a reaction against the optimistic scientific socialist utopias promoted by Wells (of note, Aldous Huxley claims no influence from We, stating he was also opposed to the utopian ideals of H.G. Wells). Okay, so how does the book read now, in 2015, almost 100 years after its first English publication? Would it not be so dated as to be unreadable? We must consider all the cataclysmic events that have happened since it was written: World War II, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Korean War, Vietnam War, the Cold War between the US and USSR, the fall of the Soviet Union, the economic rise of Japan and more recently China (where communism still exists but has been greatly tempered by the forge of capitalism), the increasing globalization of the world’s economies, not to mention the innumerable list of technological inventions, not least of which are computers and the internet. It’s really pretty hard to read We without all the baggage that we are equipped with as members of today’s world, including all the dystopian SF books and films that have come since then. Even now some of the most popular YA series include Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES and Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT series. But when Zamyatin published We back in 1924, there weren’t many earlier dystopian works other than Jack London’s The Iron Heel (1907). But to return to the book itself, it is a very powerful exploration of a totalitarian society gone mad, where happiness is defined as the absence of free will, and emotions are considering mental illness. Society is completely regimented with mathematical precision by the government (headed by the iron-fisted Well-Doer), public executions of any aberrant Numbers are carried out by the Well-Doer under the Machine (all individuals only have letters and numbers to distinguish them), and nature is suppressed outside a Wall that encloses a perfectly organized geometrical glass city where citizens live like clockwork, regimented by the Tables of Hours down to their waking, working, exercise, eating, even copulation. The story revolves around D-503, builder of the Integral spaceship, which is intended to go forth and subject other planets to the benign dictatorship of the One Ship. He get’s involved with a dissident temptress named I-330, who drags him unwillingly into a plot to overthrow and destroy the United State. The storyline now seems fairly familiar, and the writing, although beautifully poetic and very impressionistic, is sometimes confusing. Much time is spent describing the inner mental turmoil of D-503 as he struggles with the conflicting imperatives of his perfect geometric existence and love of mathematics and the wild, illogical, passionate and manipulative I-330. There is so much soul-searching and internal debates that the story itself really takes a back seat to the battle seething in his mind. In the final analysis, although We succeeds marvelously in criticizing the absurdity of scientific utopias and the horrors of Soviet totalitarianism, it sometimes fails as a conventional narrative. For that reason, it does not have the same towering stature as a dystopian masterpiece in Western society that Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World have, though it fully deserves it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amy Sturgis

    This is the "granddaddy" of the modern dystopian novel, the book that influenced Huxley's Brave New World, Rand's Anthem, and Orwell's 1984: Yevgeny Zamyatin's We (1924). I've read it repeatedly and taught it, as well, and I always discover something new in the novel each time I turn to it. It's a brilliantly chilling depiction of a futuristic totalitarian regime that organizes its people's lives with almost scientific precision, as seen through the troubled eyes of one of its leading citizens. This is the "granddaddy" of the modern dystopian novel, the book that influenced Huxley's Brave New World, Rand's Anthem, and Orwell's 1984: Yevgeny Zamyatin's We (1924). I've read it repeatedly and taught it, as well, and I always discover something new in the novel each time I turn to it. It's a brilliantly chilling depiction of a futuristic totalitarian regime that organizes its people's lives with almost scientific precision, as seen through the troubled eyes of one of its leading citizens. Zamyatin is very clever in his use of names and numbers and mathematics, and his psychological portrait of the protagonist is as absorbing as it is disturbing. Also of special note are the remarkable secondary women characters. This book was banned in Zamyatin's native Russia for over sixty years. It remains a first stop for anyone wanting to explore the dystopian tradition, and an excellent example of science fiction at its finest.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Markus

    An overlooked classic. Written decades before 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, Yevgeny Zamyatin's We is arguably the founding text of the dystopian genre. Not necessarily the first, but the one on whose shoulders they all climbed. Today, this book is obscure and forgotten by comparison to the three mentioned above, but it still deserves to be read for its novel treatment of the themes of individual freedom and totalitarian control. I have read and heard many incredible things about those An overlooked classic. Written decades before 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, Yevgeny Zamyatin's We is arguably the founding text of the dystopian genre. Not necessarily the first, but the one on whose shoulders they all climbed. Today, this book is obscure and forgotten by comparison to the three mentioned above, but it still deserves to be read for its novel treatment of the themes of individual freedom and totalitarian control. I have read and heard many incredible things about those times when people still lived in a free, i.e., unorganized, savage condition. But most incredible of all, it seems to me, is that the state authority of that time—no matter how rudimentary —could allow men to live without anything like our Table, without obligatory walks, without exact regulation of mealtimes, getting up and going to bed whenever they felt like it Some historians even say that in those times the street lights burned all night, and people walked and drove around in the streets at all hours of the night.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    This review was written in 2003 for another website. I read the Clarence Brown Penguin edition of the book. I remember almost nothing about the book today, like the fact that the book takes place on a spaceship. My alphabetical reading list is done. Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel We takes up the tail end of my journey through the alphabet. This dismal piece of writing (and I’m not talking about the dystopian setting) is a perfect end for the self-imposed restrictions on my reading choices. This review was written in 2003 for another website. I read the Clarence Brown Penguin edition of the book. I remember almost nothing about the book today, like the fact that the book takes place on a spaceship. My alphabetical reading list is done. Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel We takes up the tail end of my journey through the alphabet. This dismal piece of writing (and I’m not talking about the dystopian setting) is a perfect end for the self-imposed restrictions on my reading choices. This book was so bad it makes my newfound freedom even more delightful. We, written in 1920, takes place in the 26th century A.D. The narrator of the tale is named D-503. All people have numbers, actually all people are called numbers in the world of the OneState. OneState is the winner of the 200 Year War, which seems to have ended sometime in the 23rd century. The war killed off 99.8% of the population. The survivors live in a walled in city, ruled by the elusive Benefactor. Their lives are dictated by the strict rules of hyper-rationality. Every second of their day is planned out for them highly structured timetable. The unbreakable rules of Mathematics are the basis for everything in the society, including the mechanical creation of music, poetry and literature. The novel opens up with D-503 writing his memoirs of sorts. He is the creator of the INTGERAL, the first intergalactic spaceship. The INTGERAL’s mission is to travel to other planets and colonize them. Loaded onto the INTEGERAL will be all kinds of testaments about the greatness of the OneState, over the irrationality of freedom. The idea being that the inhabitants of the planet will read these ‘beautiful’ pieces of prose and agree to coming under the control of The Benefactor. If they don’t agree to go along with OneState, the INTGERAL’s got some kind of weapon that will annihilate its enemies. D-503 is writing his memoirs to go along with the colonizing mission. While writing his memoirs though something unexpected happens. He begins to grow a soul. That irrational element in a person that knows good and evil and desires free will. This is a problem, since it goes against everything the society stands for. The society believes itself to the ultimate pinnacle of human endeavors. The paradise Adam and Eve had been exiled from by their freedom and rebellion has been recaptured by the total renunciation of freedom under the cold rules of mathematics. The novel from here goes on to show the narrators growing awareness of himself as more than a number as he involves himself with a small but rebellious minority. In this way the novel is typical dystopian fare similar to 1984 and Brave New World. Problems I started reading his novel before going to bed. I read the first thirty or so pages (about four chapters) and found the story to be engaging. The narrator was creating the society for someone reading his work that wouldn’t be familiar with just an advanced civilization. The pace was nice, he was telling the story but also explaining things to the reader. It was interesting. So I go to sleep, and in the morning pick the book up over a morning cup of coffee and find myself thrown into some kind of nonsensical symbolism. Huh? Is this the same book I was reading? The novel never really returned to explaining imaginative creations that the society had. Actually the novel never really returned to explaining very much of what was going on, from who was speaking or to when an action was happening. I don’t know if this was the author’s fault, or the translators. Reading the introduction to the book the translator showed that his grasp of writing coherent prose was weak at best. Take this line from the introduction: We is a Russian novel that first saw the light of day in English in New York. If it were not a Russian novel, that publication history would be moderately spectacular, but under the circumstances it is merely unusual. Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, Nadezhad Mandelstam’s Hope Against Hope, and many another twentieth-century Russian classic have all come out first on foreign soil and in a language other than Russian Besides being poorly written this first paragraph in the introduction doesn’t mean anything. What would make the novel’s publication history ‘moderately spectacular’? If it was one of the thousands of book that first sees the light of day in New York any year? If it was a French novel per se that was first published in New York? I don’t know, I would think that it was because of it’s Samizdat quality, and it’s émigré status coming out of Communist Russia, but in the next clause I am told that it being a 20th century Russian classic published first in New York is really no big deal. Am I being anal? Yes, but this horrible use of language continues throughout the entire novel. Many times the simple plot confounded me just because of bad transitions, grammatically awkward sentences and convoluted wordiness. I don’t know whose fault it is, but after reading ten pages of similar sentences to the one quoted above I have a sinking feeling that it’s more the translators fault than the authors. I have some other problems with the book and while I was working today I formulated them in my head, but really I don’t think anyone would care to read them. Maybe I’ll update this review tomorrow with them. They all have to do with philosophical problems contained in the book and holes in the basic plot of the novel that you could drive an army of really big trucks through. I was also going to complain about the linguistic use of the word I in a society that doesn’t believe in the individual. Since the narrator is a true believer at the start of the novel, one would imagine he would never use just an ideologically suspect pronoun over and over again. I’m being pretentious though. Recommendation This novel bored the pants off of me. More than half of the novel did nothing for the plot and just confused me for no apparent reason. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, everything good in this novel has been borrowed and improved on in Orwell’s masterpiece 1984 and in Huxley’s Brave New World. Possibly a better translation might have made the read a little more enjoyable, but it wouldn’t have helped the boring plot. The novel never dives into its philosophical qualities to any depth. Any of its ‘deep thoughts’ never get any deeper than the deep end of a wading pool. As an action novel it fails by never creating any kind of suspense. Even in the climax when the narrator meets up with The Benefactor the meeting is glossed over and then ended abruptly by the narrator deciding mid paragraph to start talking about something else. Maybe it’s kind of important how he saw his landlady later that day, but to break up the moment of resolution in the novel with just a banal thought almost made he throw the novel at the couple of homeless guys getting drunk down the street from where I was sitting. (Not that there was much resolution to be had in the novel.) I hate to say this, but I wanted to hero of this novel to die. I wanted the society to win, just because the argument for having freedom was never articulated except in a whiny negative manner. Unlike say Winston Smith in 1984 I had no feeling that this character would ever really be better off by having a soul, and being able to make his own decisions. If you are a fan of the dystopian genre, you will probably be called to this novel even over my complaints (I know I would be). The novel’s a quick read so it won’t be a huge investment on your part; but I would recommend not reading the Penguin version. There is a mass-market version available. Maybe it’s better, but at least it’s a few dollars cheaper.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rakhi Dalal

    We have witnessed Totalitarianism prevail in different countries of the World. We have studied its origins, pondered upon its dominion and contemplated the consequences with respect to its bearing on the human civilization and its future. That it still exists, casting a portentous shadow over the lot of people pruned off their rights as humans, divested not only of their freedom to live but also to think, is a travesty that discredits the human advancement. That the beast is still tamed to We have witnessed Totalitarianism prevail in different countries of the World. We have studied its origins, pondered upon its dominion and contemplated the consequences with respect to its bearing on the human civilization and its future. That it still exists, casting a portentous shadow over the lot of people pruned off their rights as humans, divested not only of their freedom to live but also to think, is a travesty that discredits the human advancement. That the beast is still tamed to unleash horror upon mankind is a grave reminder that humans have learnt nothing from the history. But it is also a reminder of the necessity to restore the dwindling faith in humanity earnestly. And who better equipped to prompt our attention than revered writers. Writers, including George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Yevzeny Zamyatin, Margaret Atwood, Anthony Burgess, and many others, through their works, have written accounts of such dysfunctional societies where either some form of oppression is imposed upon its people or they are manipulated to adopt and adhere to a lifestyle which is inevitable in the systematically controlled societal structure. Zamyatin’s “We” is such a work where the structure of society seems to be a result of some collective will in the face of a supposed disadvantageous order in twenty sixth century. The structure imposed by that will is not oppressive but orderly and restrictive. Everybody lives in glass houses, start their day at the same time, eat and work at fixed times. They are known by numbers instead of names. The system of marriage is abolished though they are allowed fixed hours for pleasure when they have to get pink tickets for a permission to lower their curtains during the period. Children, if born, are raised by the state. Deviation is a sin, as a punishment for which the sinner is incinerated by the Benefactor. Imagination is a sin too. The people are not free because they are not allowed to think. They are just mechanized to follow the system which in turns provides them with all possible material comforts, so that there is nothing to worry about, nothing to think of. In the introduction to this work, Peter Rudy writes: “With respect to the most extreme practices outlined in We, the question was not whether but when they would be realized. It became plain that even if man is born a rebel at heart, his psychological make-up is so plastic that he can usually be effectively intimidated to the point where he will accept a rigidly controlled pattern of life for a long period of time.” He further says: “Totalitarianism has shown that Zamiatin's state was right about the practicability of intensive regimentation over long periods of time; however, there has been no broad proving ground for the theory on which Zamiatin's state is built, the theory that most men believe their freedom to be more than a fair exchange for a high level of materialistic happiness. It appears, though, that this theory will be put to a final test in the future. If the present rapid rate of technological development continues, both totalitarian and democratic societies will be involved in this test. When the material wants of the Soviet people are satisfied, will many of them continue to resent regimentation? As we ourselves pursue even higher goals of materialistic happiness, the complexity of our technological society will increase and exert even more intense pressures for efficiency through the regulation of our lives. What decision will we make under those circumstances? Mankind is rushing toward a final proof or refutation of Zamiatin's prophecy.” After almost 60 years of Peter’s expression of his concerns, his words reverberate with the apprehensions of our times. In a world of high technological complexity, which only promises to become more complex in future, we find ourselves in a kind of obligation to pursue high materialistic happiness. Perhaps, as Peter writes, Mankind may rush forward to prove Zamyatin’s prophecy while apparently trading freedom for happiness thus proving that freedom and happiness cannot co-exist. In his review of the work, George Orwell observed that Zamyatin’s work depicted more of his concerns regarding the advancing industrialist society than a totalitarian regime. To quote his exact words: “It is in effect a study of the Machine, the genie that man has thoughtlessly let out of its bottle and cannot put back again.” Zamyatin’s concern for a technologically mechanized work where even the smallest chores of everyday life will be ordered, leaving no place for freedom of thinking and creativity, where there will be masses of brainwashed people following the pattern imposed upon them and where a deviation from that pattern would result in death penalty, doesn’t look like a far possibility. But what is even more terrifying is the thought that in that future, people may actually willingly accept the controlled pattern and purge their minds of any thought that may ask them to inquire and ponder.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Overmark

    Brace yourself and take notes. In a not so distant future you may be reduced to a number, a cipher that is. May the beauty of the perfect algorithm shine upon you, reflecting in thousand mirrors, ingeniously providing the adequate amount of light and darkness, enabling you to rest when time is and be awake when needed for the nation. You dont even have to think, WE have found the key to eternal happiness. All the choices our forefathers had to endure, WE have taken from your shoulders that burden. Brace yourself and take notes. In a not so distant future you may be reduced to a number, a cipher that is. May the beauty of the perfect algorithm shine upon you, reflecting in thousand mirrors, ingeniously providing the adequate amount of light and darkness, enabling you to rest when time is and be awake when needed for the nation. You don´t even have to think, WE have found the key to eternal happiness. All the choices our forefathers had to endure, WE have taken from your shoulders that burden. WE, the nation have carefully calculated the formula, based on mathematical principles, WE have proven that randomness equals chaos and happiness and chaos will never unite. However, WE acknowledge that the human nature of the ancient may still error, that it may take more generations yet before WE are a perfectly harmonic unity, a perfect WE. Therefore, WE must eliminate, make redundant, elements not compliant with us, elements who by chaos work against our happiness. If you suspect your coworker or your neighbor, do not hesitate to approach the Bureau that WE have appointed to deal with such elements. If you were to (re)create an Utopia, what would it look like? Would you abandon the individual rights, the free will? It is not without reason the book was considered "malicious slander on socialism" and banned in The Soviet. It demonstrates too well how a state apparatus regulates citizens. How you begin by inventing a glorious past, how you fought for the better in this world of chaos and trough sacrifices of brave men and women (ciphers) overthrew chaos and reached happiness. How you should respect the history and why you should never be shy of turning anyone in to the authorities. Why you should consider personal sacrifice a virtue and never doubt the “holy algorithm”, because you are a part of the great WE, and if you stop, you are nothing. If you stop you are dead to us, literally. The description predates both Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, the difference being that Yevgeny Zamyatin actually experienced this firsthand. When I open my paper, when I read news articles on the internet, I am constantly reminded that even East Germany was released from the grip of totalitarianism, I can easily pick a handful of countries which are treating their citizens as mere objects, small parts in a large machinery. Do you fear dystopia, or the coming of the zombies? Fear no more, the dystopias are out there, coming to a country near you – not so sure about the zombies though.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Read again to discuss on SFF Audio; will link to podcast when it is posted. This book has not been on my radar for long, but when something is considered to be "the best single work of science fiction yet written" (Ursula K. Le Guin) and the precursor of 1984 and Brave New World, not to mention the majority of current science fiction (Bruce Sterling introduction), I knew I couldn't put it off. An interesting historical note - it was published in England (1921) long before it was published in Read again to discuss on SFF Audio; will link to podcast when it is posted. This book has not been on my radar for long, but when something is considered to be "the best single work of science fiction yet written" (Ursula K. Le Guin) and the precursor of 1984 and Brave New World, not to mention the majority of current science fiction (Bruce Sterling introduction), I knew I couldn't put it off. An interesting historical note - it was published in England (1921) long before it was published in Russia (1988), and Orwell read it before writing 1984. For such a significant work, you might expect it to be difficult, or long, but We is around 200 pages and written as a journal. D-503 is a mathematician working on "The Integral," a rocketship of sorts that grows in importance throughout the story. The culture is completely mapped out, and everyone lives (literally) in step. Individuality is the most shameful trait. I enjoyed the characters, and all the little details, such as the idea that the desire to dance proves that humans desire non-freedom. A few quotations: "I love - we love - skies like this, sterile and flawless!" And since I'm such a great lover of Russian classical music, particularly Scriabin, the parts about creativity and music really capture me: "They could create only if they drove themselves to fits of 'inspiration,' a strange form of epilepsy. And here is an amusing illustration of their results: the music of Scriabin, twentieth century..." "...Epilepsy is a psychic sickness- a pain... a slow, sweet pain - a sting - and you wish it would go deeper, hurt more... Then slowly - sunshine emerges. Not our kind of sunshine, the pale-bluish-crystalline kind, which disperses evenly through our glass bricks- no: it was a wild, rushing, burning sun, expelling itself, shedding itself in little tufts." "'WE' is divine, and 'I' is satanic." "Individual consciousness is just sickness." "Revolutions are infinite." "[People] have wanted someone, anyone, to tell them once and for all what happiness is - and then to attach them to this happiness with a chain." For even more information on the context of We, consult Eric Rabkin's article in Foundation no. 65.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0076l2s Description: In a post-revolutionary future, OneState is ruled according to the principles of rationality. The penalty for dissent is death. D-503, the chief engineer of the state, meets the beautiful 1-330. Her initial intentions seem innocent, but soon D starts to question her identity and indeed his own. The first great dystopian novel of the 20th century, written in secret in early Soviet Russia by Yevgeni Zamyatin. Stars Anton Lesser as D-503, Joanna http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0076l2s Description: In a post-revolutionary future, OneState is ruled according to the principles of rationality. The penalty for dissent is death. D-503, the chief engineer of the state, meets the beautiful 1-330. Her initial intentions seem innocent, but soon D starts to question her identity and indeed his own. The first great dystopian novel of the 20th century, written in secret in early Soviet Russia by Yevgeni Zamyatin. Stars Anton Lesser as D-503, Joanna Riding as I-330, Don Warrington as R-13, Brigit Forsyth as U, Julia Rounthwaite as 0-90 and Russell Dixon as the Benefactor. Adapted in two-parts by Sean O'Brien. Director: Jim Poyser "Just an Old Fashioned Girl" (1958) From wiki: Allusions and references: Many of the names and numbers in We are allusions to personal experiences of Zamyatin or to culture and literature. For example, "Auditorium 112" refers to cell number 112, where Zamyatin was twice imprisoned and the name of S-4711 is a reference to the Eau de Cologne number 4711. The numbers [. . .] of the chief characters in WE are taken directly from the specifications of Zamyatin's favourite icebreaker, the Saint Alexander Nevsky, yard no. A/W 905, round tonnage 3300, where O–90 and I-330 appropriately divide the hapless D-503 [. . .] Yu-10 could easily derive from the Swan Hunter yard numbers of no fewer than three of Zamyatin's major icebreakers – 1012, 1020, 1021 [. . .]. R-13 can be found here too, as well as in the yard number of Sviatogor A/W 904. Many comparisons to The Bible exist in We. There are similarities between Genesis Chapters 1–4 and We, where the One State is considered Paradise, D-503 is Adam, and I-330 is Eve. The snake in this piece is S-4711, who is described as having a bent and twisted form, with a "double-curved body" (he is a double agent). References to Mephistopheles (in the Mephi) are seen as allusions to Satan and his rebellion against Heaven in the Bible (Ezekial 28:11–19; Isaiah 14:12–15).[citation needed] The novel itself could be considered a criticism of organised religion given this interpretation. However, Zamyatin, influenced by Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground and The Brothers Karamazov, made the novel a criticism of the excesses of a militantly atheistic society. The novel uses mathematical concepts symbolically. The spaceship that D-503 is supervising the construction of is called the Integral, which he hopes will "integrate the grandiose cosmic equation". D-503 also mentions that he is profoundly disturbed by the concept of the square root of −1—which is the basis for imaginary numbers (imagination being deprecated by the One State). Zamyatin's point, probably in light of the increasingly dogmatic Soviet government of the time, would seem to be that it is impossible to remove all the rebels against a system. Zamyatin even says this through I-330: "There is no final revolution. Revolutions are infinite."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    3.5 stars This is an early dystopian novel from the early 1920s and Zamyatin was Russian. We has inspired many other writers including Orwell, Vonnegut, Nabakov, Le Guin, possibly Huxley (he disputed this) amongst others. However Zamyatin in turn was influenced by H G Wells and especially by When the Sleeper Wakes. The novel takes place hundreds of years into the future in a society called One State. The citizens are known by numbers and the protagonist is D-503. He is the chief engineer building 3.5 stars This is an early dystopian novel from the early 1920s and Zamyatin was Russian. We has inspired many other writers including Orwell, Vonnegut, Nabakov, Le Guin, possibly Huxley (he disputed this) amongst others. However Zamyatin in turn was influenced by H G Wells and especially by When the Sleeper Wakes. The novel takes place hundreds of years into the future in a society called One State. The citizens are known by numbers and the protagonist is D-503. He is the chief engineer building a spaceship called The Integral. One State is a glass city where the whole of life is regimented on strict principles. Zemyatin applied the principles of Taylorism which were popular at the time (still are in some areas!) to depict a highly monitored society. D-503 meets a woman called I-330 who seems to break the rules and he begins to have feelings for her. She shows him aspects of the society that he isn’t aware of and even that there is a world outside of the glass city. There is a movement to overthrow One State called Mephi and a revolution is attempted in which I-330 is involved. The results play out at the end of the novel. These days novels about highly regimented societies are not unusual. Zemyatin was using lots of allusions and there are numerous biblical references and the novel is as much a critique of organised religion as military atheism. There is an interesting conversation between D-503 and I-330: “Do you realise that what you are suggesting is revolution?” “Of course, it’s revolution. Why not?” “Because there can’t be a revolution. Our revolution was the last and there can never be another. Everybody knows that.” “My dear, you’re a mathematician: tell me, which is the last number?” “What do you mean, the last number?” “Well, then, the biggest number!” “But that’s absurd. Numbers are infinite. There can’t be a last one.” “Then why do you talk about the last revolution?” There are several other messages; one is that you can’t extinguish human imagination. Another is that you really should not trust technology. This is a multi-layered novel with a focus on forbidden knowledge, especially in relation to science and art. But the goals of One State mean spreading their knowledge, even into space, which is what the Integral is designed to do: “A thousand years ago your heroic forebears subjugated the whole of planet Earth to the power of OneState. It is for you to accomplish an even more glorious feat: by means of the glass, the electric, the fire-breathing INTEGRAL to integrate the indefinite equation of the universe. It is for you to place the beneficial yoke of reason round the necks of the unknown beings who inhabit other planets – still living, it may be, in the primitive state known as freedom. If they will not understand that we are bringing them a mathematically infallible happiness, we shall be obliged to force them to be happy. But before taking up arms, we shall try what words can do.” Reminded me a little of the Borg in Star Trek. It is also interesting to see D-503’s internal struggle as he writes his journal: "I am completely bewildered. Yesterday, at the very moment when I thought that everything was already disentangled, that all the X's were found, new unknown quantities appeared in my equation." "Of course, it's clear: in order to determine the true value of a function it is necessary to take it to its ultimate limit ... Hence, if we designate love as 'L' and death as 'D,' then L = f(D). In other words, love and death --- yes, exactly, exactly." "Every equation, every formula in the surface world has its corresponding curve or body. But for irrational formulas, for my square root of -1, we know of no corresponding bodies, we have never seen them ... But the horror of it is that these invisible bodies exist ..." I found a fascinating website about mathematics in literary fiction which discusses We in depth! Nerds of the world unite!! There’s acres of print about We and it is an interesting dystopian novel which is worth reading. The comparisons with 1984 are interesting. I haven’t read much of Wells’ dystopian stuff to compare, but it is certainly firmly within a tradition which stretches to some of the modern YA dystopias. There are a couple of examples of racist language. The chapters are brief and it is easy to read, although D-503 is irritating at times!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    A thousand years in our future, D-503 is just one number among many in the One State. The One State is a city, a society, that revolves not around the individual but around the collective we, like a hive, with the Benefactor in God-like status at the centre. D-503 works as a constructor on the Integral, the ship that will take their ideology and philosophy of life to other planets, to civilise and free other species. When an article in the State Gazette calls for poems, manifestos etc. to go in A thousand years in our future, D-503 is just one number among many in the One State. The One State is a city, a society, that revolves not around the individual but around the collective we, like a hive, with the Benefactor in God-like status at the centre. D-503 works as a constructor on the Integral, the ship that will take their ideology and philosophy of life to other planets, to civilise and free other species. When an article in the State Gazette calls for poems, manifestos etc. to go in the ship, D-503 starts writing his Conspectus, a kind of diary that begins as his way of showing us what life is like in the One State. A mathematician in a highly mathematical society, D-503 lives like everyone else, every day more or less the same, until he encounters I-330, a woman who brings out strong emotion in him, who scares and confounds him but who he becomes obsessed with. She leads him to the Ancient House, a remnant of long ago serving as a museum at the edge of the city, where the Wall keeps the jungle and wild things out of the pristine, perfect glass city. As he tries to untangle and understand all the new sensations D is experiencing, he becomes unwittingly entangled in a revolt against the One State that, in this world where they have proven that the universe is finite, and where the One State is the perfected civilisation to end all wars and revolutions, can have only one ending. If We sounds familiar to you, there's a good reason for it. This is the powerful, hugely influential book credited with being the inspiration and influence behind both 1984 and Brave New World. In the introduction, translator Hugh Aplin explains that "Zamyatin's vision of life in a technocratic future society was formed in part by his experiences in the North-East of England when he worked in the Newcastle shipyards during the First World War"; we tend to thoughtlessly or arrogantly assume that a dystopia like this is shamelessly based on Stalin's Soviet Union. I'm sure, since Zamyatin lived there too, it had its impact, but we can sometimes forget that other places, places like England and America, had their own problems. (It doesn't help that Animal Farm was an allegory of the Russian Revolution and Stalin's dictatorship.) This is a tricky book to read. I could read it a hundred times more and still feel like I'm not getting it all. It's complex, but simple. Alienating, but readable. D-503's narrative voice is unlike anything I've read before, that I can think of. He deteriorates into a man who sounds like he's constantly high, tripping and paranoid at the same time. It's not always easy to tell if something's meant metaphorically or literally, and that did slow the story down for me. The usual cues and markers aren't always there, and I have the feeling that the reading experience engenders a feeling pretty close to what D is feeling himself. The truth is, as much as I enjoyed the story, there are too many clever things happening in this novel, both narratively and stylistically, and I would have to devote a month of my time doing concentrated reading and research, ideally in a university setting, to grasp even half of it. I barely have time to even write this review, which is a good week or so overdue. Some of the maths scared me off. D talks about Chaos and mathematical equations and leaves me behind. But there are other parts of his increasingly turbulent psyche that are fascinating and engrossing. Some of the passages, some of D's - or Zamyatin's - descriptive prose is an absolute delight to read. It's very visual, doesn't always make sense, but quite unique. "The two of us walked as one. Somewhere far away through the mist the sun was barely audibly singing, everything was filling with the elastic and pearly, gold, pink and red. The whole world is one single, unbounded woman, and we're right in her belly, we haven't yet been born, we're joyously ripening. And it's clear to me, inviolably clear: everything is for me - the sun, the mist, the pink, the gold - it's for me ..." (p66) "If you were told: your shadow can see you, can see you all the time? Do you understand? And then suddenly - you have a strange sensation: your arms are extraneous, they're a hindrance, and I catch myself swinging my arms absurdly, out of time with my steps. Or suddenly - you have to look round without fail, but you can't look round, not for anything, your neck's enchained. And I run, run ever quicker, and I can feel with my back that the shadow's following me quicker, and there's nowhere, nowhere to escape from it ..." (p79) "The click of the annunciator. The whole of me flung itself into the narrow white slit - and ... and some male (with a consonant) number I didn't know. The lift hummed, slammed. Before me was a forehead rammed on carelessly and tilted to one side, while the eyes ... a very strange impression, as though he were speaking from there, from under his brows, where the eyes are." (p100) Thing is, it's more interesting at this point to bring up the prose rather than the themes, because the themes are quite clear. They're common to this kind of dystopian novel, and the addition of science fiction doesn't really change that. If you were reading this for the first time as a teenager, say, or if you'd never had any exposure to dystopian worlds, the themes would be fascinating and mind-boggling. After all, it's one of the reasons why I love this genre. Themes of what happiness is, and what it involves and what it costs. Themes of individual need versus a collective good. Themes exploring the point of living and having a conscience, of what sets us apart from other creatures - and symbolism, lots of symbolism. The translator's Introduction, as well as the Foreward by Alan Sillitoe, spells out a great deal of it, from the nature of the One States' "elections" (everyone votes for the same person, the Benefactor, simply by raising their hand en masse) to I-330's ego-centric letter "I". It's fun to play "spot the symbol" with We because there are so many - it's laden with double-meanings, meanings only we can understand because of where and how we live, in the time period we live in. This is a fantastic book for discussion - there's so much going on, and so much to question and ponder and argue over. If you're looking for a good edition of this modern classic, I highly recommend this one. Not that I've read any others, but I was very impressed with this particular one, especially as I've had a lot of misses with Russian translations.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Poonam

    Buddy Read with Megha, Anu, Adita, Partho and Rohisa. Well this is the book which inspired all the dystopian novels that came along, especially 1984. You can imagine my excitement that I was finally going to read the father of all dystopian novels. I have to start by making a comparison to 1984, there is a shocking similarity between the worlds- (view spoiler)[The controlled environment, the whole story from the perspective of a protagonist scared to go against rules, a woman whose involvement Buddy Read with Megha, Anu, Adita, Partho and Rohisa. Well this is the book which inspired all the dystopian novels that came along, especially 1984. You can imagine my excitement that I was finally going to read the father of all dystopian novels. I have to start by making a comparison to 1984, there is a shocking similarity between the worlds- (view spoiler)[The controlled environment, the whole story from the perspective of a protagonist scared to go against rules, a woman whose involvement makes the protagonist do things he wouldn't have otherwise dreamed off. (hide spoiler)] I was a bit disappointed with 1984 after reading this because it is very clear from where the idea for 1984 came from. It pretty much took this book as an instruction manual. But 1984 corrected all the things that went wrong with this story and hence 1984 is a superior read (at least for me) The writing of this book is unique. The whole book is written in mathematical interpretation and I know some of my friends found this difficult or boring to read but for me this worked out perfectly. I found the writing interesting and different (good different). This whole concept of not having any individualism and following a set pattern is horrifying and intriguing all in one go. It makes you want to break the mold and live differently. Makes me clearly realize why this book was banned in Russia soo long ago - as this was published in 1924 (right around the time Russia became a communist country). The main problem with this book is it lacks the urgency that is expected in a dystopian novel. I took around 14 days to read this which is a long time as per my reading speed but this is because this is a slow paced novel (which can be disappointing to people used to reading fast paced dystopia novels). In spite of the slow read, overall I liked this book and hence the 3 stars.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carolina

    I enjoyed the writing style and the overall idea (the way the world functions and the story). That being said, I found it very confusing at times, which is why I kept it at 3 stars instead of 4.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    One of the most original works of dystopian fiction ever...a template for works that are much more famous.

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