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Erewhon

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Samuel Butler (1835 - 1902) was a Victorian novelist who wrote in many genres. The Way of All Flesh and Erehhon are his most famous novels. Besides fiction Butler also wrote on evolution, Christian orthodoxy, Italian art, literary history and translated the Illiad and The Odyssey. Erewhon is a utopian satire of Victorian England published in 1872. The title is the name of Samuel Butler (1835 - 1902) was a Victorian novelist who wrote in many genres. The Way of All Flesh and Erehhon are his most famous novels. Besides fiction Butler also wrote on evolution, Christian orthodoxy, Italian art, literary history and translated the Illiad and The Odyssey. Erewhon is a utopian satire of Victorian England published in 1872. The title is the name of a fictional country and it is also the word nowhere spelled backwards. The beginning of the book deals with the discovery of Erewhon, which is based on Butlers time in New Zealand where he worked on a sheep ranch for four years. The novel satirizes religion, anthropocentrism, and criminal punishment.


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Samuel Butler (1835 - 1902) was a Victorian novelist who wrote in many genres. The Way of All Flesh and Erehhon are his most famous novels. Besides fiction Butler also wrote on evolution, Christian orthodoxy, Italian art, literary history and translated the Illiad and The Odyssey. Erewhon is a utopian satire of Victorian England published in 1872. The title is the name of Samuel Butler (1835 - 1902) was a Victorian novelist who wrote in many genres. The Way of All Flesh and Erehhon are his most famous novels. Besides fiction Butler also wrote on evolution, Christian orthodoxy, Italian art, literary history and translated the Illiad and The Odyssey. Erewhon is a utopian satire of Victorian England published in 1872. The title is the name of a fictional country and it is also the word nowhere spelled backwards. The beginning of the book deals with the discovery of Erewhon, which is based on Butlers time in New Zealand where he worked on a sheep ranch for four years. The novel satirizes religion, anthropocentrism, and criminal punishment.

30 review for Erewhon

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Erewhon, as a satire and/or essay, is interesting and has some thought provoking ideas. Erewhon as a novel has a fairly thin but still interesting plot line in an intriguing environment. Unfortunately, meshing the two of these together makes for a difficult book to swallow at times. I enjoyed the thought provoking elements of the satire that Butler presents. He turns the world upside down in order to have us explore just how "civilized" we truly are. He maintains the same basic structure...that a Erewhon, as a satire and/or essay, is interesting and has some thought provoking ideas. Erewhon as a novel has a fairly thin but still interesting plot line in an intriguing environment. Unfortunately, meshing the two of these together makes for a difficult book to swallow at times. I enjoyed the thought provoking elements of the satire that Butler presents. He turns the world upside down in order to have us explore just how "civilized" we truly are. He maintains the same basic structure...that a society should have a government with laws that people can be punished for, education to help them in society, religion to help with their conscience. However, he turns all of these "normal" conventions on their heads to get us to think not about the conventions themselves, but about the way we approach them. For example, instead of being punished for what we crimes (theft, murder, etc.), the people of Erewhon are punished if they fall physically ill...sometimes being imprisoned or even sentenced to death. And conversely, if a person finds himself in the throes of robbery or some other 'crime', he is instead consoled and properly treated for the recovery of this behavior and looked on with sympathy from friends and family. In this satirical move, Butler asks us to examine our treatment of criminals. The Erewhonians provide rehabilitation for liars, thieves and murderers while simply shutting away those who commit "crimes" of physical illness. While we profess to offer rehabilitation for our criminals, what good does it do to stick them in an 8x8 box for years and then throw them out on the street with a black mark on their "permanent record?" Which system is better for helping with crime? As to illness, the Erewhonian treatment of illness is definitely ludicrous, but to a small degree it has logic in that it quarantines the truly ill and it also cuts down on people feigning illness or complaining over small headaches. In Erewhon, there is truly very little illness and no 'calling in sick', or making an excuse of "I've got a headache." Butler also satirizes religious devotion (he alludes to religion in terms of the different types of money in the kingdom...the "religious" type having no earthly value yet being esteemed as of great personal worth...and yet citizens of Erewhon barely go through the motions with the 'religious' currency and have a completely different value system for each type of currency). His lengthiest satirical discourse is with regards to the idea of consciousness. He takes it to the absurd (at least for his day) by suggesting a world in which machines would become self-aware and potentially overthrow mankind as the dominant race (a la Terminator or others). We're not there yet, but I think Butler would have a coronary if he saw how today's technology compared of that ~120 years ago. While the discussion on consciousness has some holes, it's also intriguing, especially when looking at the advancements of the last hundred years. He makes some good arguments and it's interesting to transition those arguments into the natural world and look at the advancements of mankind as a race or of other animals out there. The rise of consciousness or self-awareness is a very interesting topic. I'd be interested to read more of his thoughts since in the book he basically opens the can of worms and sets it on a shelf. So in terms of the satire, Butler brings forth some interesting ideas. In terms of the plot, it's a fairly basic adventure novel of the nineteenth century...a man in a distant British colony seeks fame and fortune through exploration and hopefully finding either a place to gain more wealth or to find savages to convert to Christianity or both. The first 50-100 pages contain standard Victorian descriptions of the landscapes and the travels. While poetic and pretty, they did drag on and I wanted to skip beyond them. As our narrator finally gets closer to Erewhon, his travels actually have some drama unfold. Once he finally arrives at the city, he's initially thrown into prison and has some moderate adventure. The "adventures" he has in the country of Erewhon are very lightweight in terms of adventure. The level of excitement is pretty bland since it is often broken up by dozens of pages of satirical essay exploring strange elements of Erewhonian culture. Again, this is moderately typical of 19th century literature, but I was hoping for a bit more in terms of action within Erewhon itself. The "story" of the book could probably take ~1/3 of the pages (with probably a third of those devoted to description of the countryside and his initial travels) with the remaining 2/3 being devoted to thoughtful discourse on the various absurdities of society. All in all, this was an interesting and thought provoking book...but I would've preferred the abridged version and/or simply reading the "essays" as essays rather than having them interjected into an adventure novel. *** 2 1/2 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    "I never asked to be born" says a character in The Blind Assassin, and is promptly corrected. I wonder if Margaret Atwood was thinking of Erewhon. Members of Erewhonian society are all obliged to sign a document at birth admitting that they have chosen to be born of their own free will, and obliging them to indemnify their parents for any trouble it may cause them. Other appealing ideas are the inverted treatment of crime and physical illness: if you embezzle money, you're given medical treatmen "I never asked to be born" says a character in The Blind Assassin, and is promptly corrected. I wonder if Margaret Atwood was thinking of Erewhon. Members of Erewhonian society are all obliged to sign a document at birth admitting that they have chosen to be born of their own free will, and obliging them to indemnify their parents for any trouble it may cause them. Other appealing ideas are the inverted treatment of crime and physical illness: if you embezzle money, you're given medical treatment, but anyone foolish enough to contract pneumonia is sent to jail. It's still a fun read!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Summers-Stay

    I admit I skimmed over a lot of this book. It's a satire about Victorian society and frankly I'm too far removed from a lot of the issues to get much out of his turning them upside down. But the three chapters on machines-- Wow! When I read Dune in the 80s the idea of the "Butlerian Jihad" struck me as a particularly unusual new idea. I never would have believed that the plot of these chapters-- machines evolving through natural and artificial selection into a kind of artificial life, reproducin I admit I skimmed over a lot of this book. It's a satire about Victorian society and frankly I'm too far removed from a lot of the issues to get much out of his turning them upside down. But the three chapters on machines-- Wow! When I read Dune in the 80s the idea of the "Butlerian Jihad" struck me as a particularly unusual new idea. I never would have believed that the plot of these chapters-- machines evolving through natural and artificial selection into a kind of artificial life, reproducing with the aid of humans like flowers reproduce with the aid of bees, evolving into cyborgs and an alien intelligence far beyond our own but as incomprehensible to us as the thoughts of animals are to plants, and finally being destroyed by humans in order to preserve a place for themselves in the universe-- could have been conceived before 1960, let alone 1860! Butler already understood that heredity was a form of mechanical information transfer: he called it "unconscious memory." He already saw the exponential improvement in machine complexity and how it would someday surpass human intellectual ability in many ways. None of his contemporaries understood him; they thought he was making some kind of "ad absurdum" attack on Darwin.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sunny

    Good overall. The book is about a young dude who gets lost in the far realms of England somewhere and stumbles on a passing in a mountain which is seemingly impenetrable but somehow he manages to get through and in a scene similar to the Lost World by Conan Doyle he comes to a new and seemingly untouched land. This land isn’t untouched however and is inhabited by a race of humans and clearly sentient beings who have developed laws, and cultures and customs and ways of living almost completely po Good overall. The book is about a young dude who gets lost in the far realms of England somewhere and stumbles on a passing in a mountain which is seemingly impenetrable but somehow he manages to get through and in a scene similar to the Lost World by Conan Doyle he comes to a new and seemingly untouched land. This land isn’t untouched however and is inhabited by a race of humans and clearly sentient beings who have developed laws, and cultures and customs and ways of living almost completely polar to the ones in England at the time that the book was written (1872). There the protagonist is greeted at first with trepidation but eventually manages to live and get along with the inhabitants for a considerable period of time. He eventually escapes by means of a hot air balloon (reminded me of Dorothy escaping from wizard of Oz) with a lady he had fallen in love with in Erewhon (the name of this strange land which some of the sharp eyed amongst you will notice is almost like “nowhere” spelt backwards. There were some really interesting things that Butler brings up as the norm in Erewhon which fascinated me: • Erewhonian children are taught hypothetics. This was the study of what could possibly be based not only on the facts and data that surrounded individuals in that country but also the “study” of what could hypothetically be based on the children’s imagination. I thought that would be an incredibly interesting subject or discipline to teach children and a way for them to challenge the norms (clearly one of the hidden messages of this book) and think well outside of the box. • In Erewhon if you are ill you are sent to prison and if you commit a criminal act you are taken to hospital. The former part smacked of Eugenics but the later made sense in a strange way. Instead of incarcerating their criminals Erewhonians would instead send them to hospital because the thinking was that no one in his right mind would commit a crime in Erewhon because that would be deleterious to his own well-being and soul and the wellbeing and soul of the state itself. Criminals were treated with a compassion which our society would find very hard to fathom. • Machinery was almost completely forbidden in Erewhon. Butler must clearly have been a bit of a Luddite because in Erewhon almost all machinery has been banned. Butler was a little ahead of his times and foresaw the damaging effects that technological progression had the potential to have on society and individuals today. In Erewhon the protagonist is found to have a watch and is put in prison for that and suspected of being a miscreant for a long time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Despite a truly impressive level of irony throughout, ‘Erewhon’ takes a lot more effort to read than I expected for such a short book. There are several reasons for this, the most important being the deeply annoying narrator. While he is almost certainly meant to be annoying, this fact in no way detracts from the overall annoyance. Seventy pages pass before he even gets to the mysterious lost civilisation of Erewhon, during which time the reader gets mighty tired of Victorian colonialist attitud Despite a truly impressive level of irony throughout, ‘Erewhon’ takes a lot more effort to read than I expected for such a short book. There are several reasons for this, the most important being the deeply annoying narrator. While he is almost certainly meant to be annoying, this fact in no way detracts from the overall annoyance. Seventy pages pass before he even gets to the mysterious lost civilisation of Erewhon, during which time the reader gets mighty tired of Victorian colonialist attitudes. Rapacious greed is complemented by ugly racism and patronising hypocrisy. From the perspective of nearly 150 years later, it’s very difficult to tell how much of this is parody and how much sincere. From the introduction (read last, as ever), this has always been a problem with Butler’s work, given his tendency to argue both sides. It obviously isn’t necessary to know the author’s intentions, however it’s also depressing to contemplate how realistic the narrator’s perspective may have seemed in the 1870s. ‘Erewhon’ became a more interesting and worthwhile read in the latter half, when attempts at travelogue are largely abandoned in favour of lectures on Erewhon’s ideological and social idiosyncrasies. Butler has no gift for plotting or characterisation, but some of his absurdist philosophisification is genuinely fascinating. I also found the sting in the tail shocking(view spoiler)[: the narrator plans to sell the Erewhonians into slavery, which he justifies on the basis that they aren’t Christians. Holy fuck, that’s absolutely monstrous (hide spoiler)] . Here’s an example of Butler making me wonder to what extent he was being ironic: Who shall limit the right of society except society itself? And what consideration for the individual is tolerable unless society is the gainer thereby? Wherefore should a man be so richly rewarded for having been son to a millionaire, were it not clearly provable that the common welfare is thus better furthered? We cannot serious detract from a man’s merit in having been the son of a rich father without imperilling our own tenure of things which we do not wish to jeopardise; if this were otherwise we should not let him keep his money for a single hour; we would have it ourselves at once. For property is robbery, but then, we are all robbers or would-be robbers together, and have found it essential our thieving, as we have found it necessary to organise our lust and our revenge. Conversely, here is an example of where I was more confident of parodic intent, yet Butler managed to prefigure current debates about mechanisation and AI in a manner that verges on uncanny: I would repeat that I fear none of the existing machines; what I fear is the extraordinary rapidity with which they are becoming something very different to what they are at present. No class of beings have in any time past made so rapid a movement forward. Should not that movement be jealously watched, and checked while we still can check it? [...] We cannot calculate on any corresponding advance in man’s intellectual or physical powers which shall be a set-off against the far greater development which seems in store for the machines. Some people may say that man’s moral influence will suffice to rule them; but I cannot think it will ever be safe to repose such much trust in the moral sense of any machine. There is some interesting philosophical wrangling to be found in here, unfortunately you have to dig for it rather. I also get the impression that Butler would be one of those irritating conversation partners who insists on perpetually playing devil’s advocate for no good reason. This vintage dystopia includes some clever ideas, although the modern reader can easily get frustrated by the manner of their expression.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Clint

    Eh. Ehhh! I was not impressed. Okay, I get it is a satire of Victorian society, but seriously I felt like I was getting beat over the head with how blatant the satire was. Samuel Butler tried to squeeze in much more than there was room for. It could have been a solid read, but I just wasn't feeling it. Compared to other authors of that time, it just doesn't compare. And don't even get me started on the Book of the Machines and the Rights of Animals and Vegetables...it just dove into a death spir Eh. Ehhh! I was not impressed. Okay, I get it is a satire of Victorian society, but seriously I felt like I was getting beat over the head with how blatant the satire was. Samuel Butler tried to squeeze in much more than there was room for. It could have been a solid read, but I just wasn't feeling it. Compared to other authors of that time, it just doesn't compare. And don't even get me started on the Book of the Machines and the Rights of Animals and Vegetables...it just dove into a death spiral from that point.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jakk Makk

    Does not respect the reader's time. Dude looks for better land. Now you can skip to Chapter Four. It's about the half-hour mark on audiobooks which contain the first two prefaces such as the Librivox recording. I'm abandoning it here, since I sense this will not rate more than a three star review, even if I complete it--since it's some chunky caramel essays wrapped in a thin layer of plot.

  8. 5 out of 5

    MisterFweem

    Pardon me, but the English geek inside me is coming out. Remember as Dave Barry said, if you can easily come up with idiot interpretations of novels, you should major in English. I majored in journalism, meaning I could easily come up with idiot interpretations of news events. Same thing. So here’s my idiot interpretation of Samuel Butler’s contribution to Frank Herbert’s Dune. Herbert, author of the Dune novels, may have taken the name of Butler and the idea of a societal rebellion against machin Pardon me, but the English geek inside me is coming out. Remember as Dave Barry said, if you can easily come up with idiot interpretations of novels, you should major in English. I majored in journalism, meaning I could easily come up with idiot interpretations of news events. Same thing. So here’s my idiot interpretation of Samuel Butler’s contribution to Frank Herbert’s Dune. Herbert, author of the Dune novels, may have taken the name of Butler and the idea of a societal rebellion against machines from Butler’s novel Erewhon into Herbert’s books as the Butlerian Jihad, in which sentient robots and thinking machines were banned, with the ensuing chaos and violence that the word jihad implies. This is certainly not an original thought, as many Dune enthusiasts (I hesitate to call them scholars, since there are no endowed chairs, at least that I know of, for the pupose of literary study of the Herbert canon, though it would not surprise me at all to find someone, several someones, who have focused on Herbert in masters or doctoral theses. I'll bet Comic Book Guy would have a few words to say on the subject.) have also come to the same conclusion. There’s a lot of disagreement, however, most of it superficial, such as this. I believe there is strong evidence that supports Herbert’s drawing on Butler’s name and Erewhonian philosophy as background for the Butlerian Jihad. Butler’s Erewhonians believed that an overreliance on machines would weaken humanity and cause natural selection to stumble in allowing weaker humans, aided by machines, to continue contributing to the gene pool. This belief is in line with the criminalization of illness in Erewhon, where diseases of the body were treated as crimes and justly punished, while what we consider to be crimes – embezzlement, tax evasion – are tolerated under Erewhonian law as proof that the minds that performed such activities are stronger than those that do not, pushing the drive to succeed by any means above the drive to succeed honestly. In addition, Butler’s Erewhonian scholar writes: The misery is that man has been blind so long already. In his reliance upon the use of steam, he has been betrayed into increasing and multiplying. To withdraw steam power suddenly will not have the effect of reducing us to the state in which we were before its introduction; there will be a general break-up and time of anarchy such as has never been known; it will be as though our population were suddenly doubled, with no additional means of feeding the increased number. The air we breathe is hardly more necessary for our animal life than the use of any machine, on the strength of which we have increased our numbers, is to our civilization; it is the machines which act upon man and make him man, as much as man who has acted upon and made the machines; but we must choose between the alternative of undergoing much present suffering, or seeing ourselves gradually superseded by our own creatures till we rank no higher in comparison with them, than the beasts of the field with ourselves. Here we see the roots of and consequences of Herbert’s Butlerian Jihad. Erewhonians feared overreliance on steam. Herbert’s empire-dwellers feared the overreliance on thinking machines. Despite the fact that withdrawing the steam/thinking machines all at once would introduce a period of anarchy, both the Erewhonians and Herbert’s people chose war, rather than continue to become subject to the machines they created. Both there Erewhonians and Herbert’s people prepared alternatives – Erewhonians relied solely on men, judged by horse-power, to accomplish the work of the steam-engines; Herbert’s people used the mentats. But both in Erewhon and in the Empire, overreliance on machine became overreliance on the “machine” built to replace the machine, leading to the same general conditions the rejection of machinery and the jihad were meant to overcome. Not until mélange is made synthetically – and never in Erewhon – is the paradigm shifted enough to bring about another revolution.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tommy Carlson

    For some reason I no longer remember, I decided to read Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race. It's a bit of utopian fiction that came out in 1871. It describes an adventurer stumbling onto an unknown civilization. The protagonist describes the people and society, falls in love with a woman, and attempts to escape when the society endangers him. Later, I learned of Samuel Butler's Erewhon, published the very next year. It describes an adventurer stumbling onto an unknown civilization. The protag For some reason I no longer remember, I decided to read Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race. It's a bit of utopian fiction that came out in 1871. It describes an adventurer stumbling onto an unknown civilization. The protagonist describes the people and society, falls in love with a woman, and attempts to escape when the society endangers him. Later, I learned of Samuel Butler's Erewhon, published the very next year. It describes an adventurer stumbling onto an unknown civilization. The protagonist describes the people and society, falls in love with a woman, and attempts to escape when the society endangers him. So, let's say there's some similarity here. Butler, in a later version's forward, assures the reader that his book was written without any knowledge of the other. It's difficult to believe that this book was written at the same time as The Coming Race. Although there really isn't much plot here either, the delivery feels fresh, the language almost modern. I actually cared about the protagonist. The society itself is a reversal of real-world society, for the purposes of satire. It's not really meant to represent a real alternative society. (The reversal goes to the extent of forming proper names by near-reversals of normal words and names. "Erewhon" is nearly "nowhere" in reverse.) As with The Coming Race, the middle consists of essays. However, instead of being dry, they're lively and chuckle-worthy. Some of the targets of the satire flew by me. Either I'm not smart enough or the targets themselves are strictly of another time. (Most likely the former.) There's a wonderful trio of chapters detailing the dangers of technology. It's not far off from some of the concerns you hear today regarding artificial intelligence. The section on children is simply hilarious. The plot aspects are wrapped up quickly at the end, mostly just as a means of getting the protagonist into a position to be able to hand over the narrative to the reader. This book isn't a novel. It's essays wrapped in just enough plot to justify itself.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    So, I finally finished this 200 page book that I started reading in October! Well, although it took me a long time to get through the book, I think it was worth it. The thing is, it is a very, very thoughtful book - certainly not a light read, so I couldn't read it unless I really had the free time and energy to concentrate. And, if I didn't get through a chapter in one sitting, I usually had to start if over later because I couldn't follow the chapter otherwise. AT ANY RATE, I found this book t So, I finally finished this 200 page book that I started reading in October! Well, although it took me a long time to get through the book, I think it was worth it. The thing is, it is a very, very thoughtful book - certainly not a light read, so I couldn't read it unless I really had the free time and energy to concentrate. And, if I didn't get through a chapter in one sitting, I usually had to start if over later because I couldn't follow the chapter otherwise. AT ANY RATE, I found this book to be incredibly interesting. It was written during the 1870s (published 1872) and is considered a satire of the [then] modern day English society. However, there are a lot of themes in the book that hold true today. Butler uses this fictional society (Erewhon) to discuss human nature, the good and the bad. In Erewhon, machines are outlawed, for fear that they may take over the society. Additionally, being sick/diseases is considered a crime punishable by imprisonment, while committing what WE consider to be crimes - such as stealing/damaging the property of others - is considered an illness for which one is sent to a hospital. There are many, many other interesting points of discussion in the book on subjects ranging from physical beauty to pregnancy to the rights of plants and animals. Another note I'd like to make is that it is clear in the book that Butler was very familiar with works by Darwin (with the Origin of Species having been published in 1859). I'd love to discuss the book with other who have read it!

  11. 5 out of 5

    John

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Here's an old one about a dystopic society. In this tale, a European visitor stumbles upon Erewhon, a society hidden up in the mountains of some unspecified continent. The story itself is short - the visitor falls in love with a native, gets in trouble with authorities when his novelty begins to fade, and attempts his escape. The book is much longer than the actual plot, because the narrator spends a lot of time explaining the peculiar conventions of Erewhon, which are obvious satires of importa Here's an old one about a dystopic society. In this tale, a European visitor stumbles upon Erewhon, a society hidden up in the mountains of some unspecified continent. The story itself is short - the visitor falls in love with a native, gets in trouble with authorities when his novelty begins to fade, and attempts his escape. The book is much longer than the actual plot, because the narrator spends a lot of time explaining the peculiar conventions of Erewhon, which are obvious satires of important European beliefs. This gets very tedious because the book, written as a memoir, reads like anthropology instead of a story. It took me a long time to finish it because I wasn't enjoying it at all. Maybe I missed something?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    A Utopian society that is (almost) the inverse of ours. Such is the isolated country of Erewhon which the narrator stumbles upon. What follows is a satirical philosophic view of a society that has progressed - or regressed? - along lines different than our own path. What I love most about this novel is the author's devices to put forth ideas from differing perspectives. And though it was first published in 1872, the novel still resounds deeply with modern life; perhaps even more so now than when A Utopian society that is (almost) the inverse of ours. Such is the isolated country of Erewhon which the narrator stumbles upon. What follows is a satirical philosophic view of a society that has progressed - or regressed? - along lines different than our own path. What I love most about this novel is the author's devices to put forth ideas from differing perspectives. And though it was first published in 1872, the novel still resounds deeply with modern life; perhaps even more so now than when it was first published. After all, regardless of time period, regardless of ethnic background, regardless of political and religious stripe, human nature is human nature.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    The story is narrated by Higgs, looking back on the great adventure of his life in a strange land. As a young man, Higgs travelled to one of the British colonies, which he doesn't expressly name, but which sounds a lot like New Zealand (where Samuel Butler spent time as a youth). Here, Higgs found work on one of the large sheep stations in the interior of the country, at the limits of the region hitherto explored by the British and up against a seemingly impassable mountain range. Higgs feels su The story is narrated by Higgs, looking back on the great adventure of his life in a strange land. As a young man, Higgs travelled to one of the British colonies, which he doesn't expressly name, but which sounds a lot like New Zealand (where Samuel Butler spent time as a youth). Here, Higgs found work on one of the large sheep stations in the interior of the country, at the limits of the region hitherto explored by the British and up against a seemingly impassable mountain range. Higgs feels sure that there are great tracts of fertile pasture just beyond the mountains and imagines the wealth that could be his if he is the first to discover them, so he sets off - ignoring the protests of his unwilling native guide who warns him of terrible dangers ahead. After many hardships and struggles, Higgs finds a narrow pass through the mountains, though his guide soon runs off and leaves him to it. On the other side he finds a wondrous civilisation of beautiful people, lovely architecture and harmonious living. Could this be a Utopia? Well, though at first glance everything seems perfect in Erewhon - as the country is named - once Higgs starts to settle in, learn the language and get to grips with the Erewhonian customs, he discovers some surprising and disturbing differences between their culture and his own. I really wanted to love this book, and at first I did. Higgs's journey across the mountains is entertaining and the discovery of a lost civilisation makes for some great reading. But once Higgs got to Erewhon the story stalled completely and the largest middle section of the book is entirely given over to a detailed description of their way of life. Butler basically uses the premise of an imagined society to satirise Victorian attitudes to religion, money, and society in general. However, you need a pretty good knowledge of the period to understand many of the points Butler is making and it wasn't until I consulted Wikipedia after finishing Erewhon that much of it became clear. Butler does sometimes labour his points, and his motto seems to be "why say something in one sentence when you can drag it out for a whole chapter?" I have to confess to skimming some bits where I realised Butler was just reiterating things he'd already said. The book picks up again towards the end once Higgs's analysis has finally finished and he continues with the story, but by that time I'm afraid I had lost interest. On the plus side, he did have an amazing imagination for the time and there's a section about the possible evolution of machines which is very relevant in the computer-dominated world of today. This is the section which Scarlett Thomas alluded to in The End of Mr Y, and it's mainly this that inclines people to categorise Erewhon as a very early example of science fiction. I'm glad I read this very proto-sci-fi tale, if only as a curiosity-sating exercise, but I don't think I'll be rushing to read the sequel, Return to Erewhon.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dylan McIntosh

    My favorite section from the book was: “Why,” asked one Professor, “should a man want to be better than his neighbours?  Let him be thankful if he is no worse.” I ventured feebly to say that I did not see how progress could be made in any art or science, or indeed in anything at all, without more or less self-seeking, and hence unamiability. “Of course it cannot,” said the Professor, “and therefore we object to progress.” I absolutely loved this book when it was in fiirst person as you read from the My favorite section from the book was: “Why,” asked one Professor, “should a man want to be better than his neighbours?  Let him be thankful if he is no worse.” I ventured feebly to say that I did not see how progress could be made in any art or science, or indeed in anything at all, without more or less self-seeking, and hence unamiability. “Of course it cannot,” said the Professor, “and therefore we object to progress.” I absolutely loved this book when it was in fiirst person as you read from the journal, however much of this was written a general discussion of theories of the fictiotious Erewhon. The story telling reminding me of Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, the "translations" tended to loose me as my focus wandered. However, Butler brings up some interesting concepts of a Utopian society. What if your well being was based exclusively on your appearance? It was a crime to embezzle or steal, however a common cold could land you in prison. A child will be killed if unable to be a commercial value to their parents in a early age. Over all, an enjoyable book, just wish there would have been story and less "translations".

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kim Wong

    Erewhon is most famous for its satirical commentary on Victorian values, using a utopia to mount criticism of the beliefs and practices that Butler finds ridiculous in his own society. Specifically, he attacks the attitudes on the ill and unfortunate in society by treating disease as a crime and crime as a disease, which just reminds me of Cobra. The physically sick are punished, the unfortunate are imprisoned and sentenced to hard labor, and the criminals are treated at hospitals and at their h Erewhon is most famous for its satirical commentary on Victorian values, using a utopia to mount criticism of the beliefs and practices that Butler finds ridiculous in his own society. Specifically, he attacks the attitudes on the ill and unfortunate in society by treating disease as a crime and crime as a disease, which just reminds me of Cobra. The physically sick are punished, the unfortunate are imprisoned and sentenced to hard labor, and the criminals are treated at hospitals and at their homes by straighteners, which seem similar to psychiatrists. It's a depiction of a denial of common humanity. Butler also targets organized religion by comparing the Anglican church to Erewhon's Musical Banks, which are revered but little visited. The ministers of the Musical Banks are cashiers that deal in valueless currency, and sons are brought into the profession in their infancy when they are impressionable and unable to make the choice consciously. Butler also attacks academia with Erewhon's Colleges of Unreason and industrialization, mechanization, and the resultant dehumanization with the Book of the Machines. The satirical elements of Erewhon and its textual relationship with Sir Thomas More's Utopia have been discussed elsewhere. What interested me were Butler's forewords, which humanized him greatly. Butler would carry his attacks on Victorianism throughout his works until his final novel, The Way of All Flesh, published posthumously because he feared his attacks would be too contentious. In his second foreword, Butler expresses high hopes for the publication of Erewhon Revisited, his revised version of Erewhon. Unfortunately, Butler had great difficulty identifying a publisher for Erewhon Revisited despite Erewhon's commercial success. His attempts to address criticisms of his novel and his optimism for his follow-up work have stayed with me more than his satire of Victorian society or his idea that machines will evolve beyond human imagination and possibly replace or subjugate human beings.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    Probably will not finish Erewhon, another classic I picked off the shelves of Project Gutenberg. It started out as a fairly pedestrian colonization / exploration story along the lines of something Louis L'Amor might write. But once our (unnamed) hero made it over the mountains and into Erewhon itself, it took and abrupt left turn and became something much closer to Gulliver's Travels. Many, endless chapters are devoted to the study of the peculiarities of Erewhonese culture, in which all illness Probably will not finish Erewhon, another classic I picked off the shelves of Project Gutenberg. It started out as a fairly pedestrian colonization / exploration story along the lines of something Louis L'Amor might write. But once our (unnamed) hero made it over the mountains and into Erewhon itself, it took and abrupt left turn and became something much closer to Gulliver's Travels. Many, endless chapters are devoted to the study of the peculiarities of Erewhonese culture, in which all illness, deformity, and even bad luck are criminalized but actual anti-social behavior such as swindling, lying, and all forms of violence are treated as if they were illnesses: patients immediately confess and are assigned to the tender mercies of a "straightener." Obviously the author is attempting to make a point, but living as a we do in a society that has strayed far too close to the Erewhonese system for my comfort, I am not sure I quite like it. Nor is the book interesting enough (the author freely confesses to a lack of real plot or character development in his forward to the second edition) for me to bother. I may read a few more chapters, but I doubt I'll actually finish.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Squire

    "The awakened conscience of an individual will often lead him to do things in haste that he had better have left undone, but the conscience of a nation awakened by a respectable old gentleman who has an unseen power up his sleeve will pave hell with a vengeance." What began as a series of satiric articles entitled "Darwin Among the Machines" under the pseudonym Cellarius in 1863 became the novel Erewhon at the behest of one of Bulter's friends. The result is an interesting mixture of travelogue a "The awakened conscience of an individual will often lead him to do things in haste that he had better have left undone, but the conscience of a nation awakened by a respectable old gentleman who has an unseen power up his sleeve will pave hell with a vengeance." What began as a series of satiric articles entitled "Darwin Among the Machines" under the pseudonym Cellarius in 1863 became the novel Erewhon at the behest of one of Bulter's friends. The result is an interesting mixture of travelogue and satire (much like Gulliver's Travels). The satire can get lost in Butler's philosophic ruminations and his methods of satire seem to be scattershot; at one point, he seems to be satirizing organized religion by comparing it to the Erewhonian system of banking--which was actually quite effective, until he detailed the prevailing religion of Erewhon in the next chapter. However, the last hundred pages are screamingly funny and scathingly satiric on issues of Victorian society that are still prevalent in the 21st century. And his final scheme to capitalize on his discovery his as horrifying as it is pathetic. Recommended to all science fiction buffs. It will be quite eye-opening I'm sure.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Bennatan

    Samuel Butler expresses in this book some of the same ideas that were behind The Way of All Flesh. Going to an undiscovered land is just a means of criticizing parenting, religion in general and the Church of England in particular and the English education system. It is all very clever. There is also a section on machines and they're increasing resemblance to human beings. This was more prophetic than Butler could have imagined. Butler didn't write the book to give us an interesting story or cha Samuel Butler expresses in this book some of the same ideas that were behind The Way of All Flesh. Going to an undiscovered land is just a means of criticizing parenting, religion in general and the Church of England in particular and the English education system. It is all very clever. There is also a section on machines and they're increasing resemblance to human beings. This was more prophetic than Butler could have imagined. Butler didn't write the book to give us an interesting story or characters. You might just be as well off to skim the first fifty pages which are only a mechanism to get the hero to the land of Erewhon. The story at the end of the book is, predictably, just there to get him back home and give us one last joke. So if you don't read the beginning you don't get the joke at the end. In any case the ideas on religion and philosophy make the entire endeavor worthwhile.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Sci-fi folks take note: everybody owes a debt to Samuel Butler. I've been trying to decide whether Erewhon deserves 3 or 4 stars for a couple hours now, and I think that's the thought that tipped the scales for me. As a satirical, philosophical novel of ideas, this shit is on point. At times, despite the very 19C prose, it felt like reading commentary from Orwell, Ray Kurzweil (if he was a bit saner), or even Harlan Ellison -- sharp, current, and snarky. The call for critical thinking is one to wh Sci-fi folks take note: everybody owes a debt to Samuel Butler. I've been trying to decide whether Erewhon deserves 3 or 4 stars for a couple hours now, and I think that's the thought that tipped the scales for me. As a satirical, philosophical novel of ideas, this shit is on point. At times, despite the very 19C prose, it felt like reading commentary from Orwell, Ray Kurzweil (if he was a bit saner), or even Harlan Ellison -- sharp, current, and snarky. The call for critical thinking is one to which I am particularly attuned, given the teaching thing, and I found myself mostly engrossed in the intricacies and allegories. That said -- it's not a great novel, proper (except for the hilariously sanctimonious voice of the narrator/protagonist). Several sections were tedious, a few were made too obvious, and overall there wasn't much plot -- but enh. It was too smart for only 3 stars, in the end, and more fun than I thought it'd be.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Funny and biting satire that successfully lampoons much that is arbitrary about our own society as well as caricaturing ideas that identify beauty with good, criminality with illness, technology with evil. Successfully predicts the invention of autopilot too.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Steve Joyce

    Samuel Butler has proven to me that he can write. There wasn’t really any time that I didn’t want to keep turning the pages of Erewhon. This as he transitioned from discovering a Lost World, to his satire on society (via a first glance Utopia / second glance Anti Utopia), to his personal dealings and ultimately to his risky (and at the time futuristic) balloon escape from this odd place. Erewhon is possessed of High Concept. Yet something gnawed at me while reading it. I couldn’t quite put my fing Samuel Butler has proven to me that he can write. There wasn’t really any time that I didn’t want to keep turning the pages of Erewhon. This as he transitioned from discovering a Lost World, to his satire on society (via a first glance Utopia / second glance Anti Utopia), to his personal dealings and ultimately to his risky (and at the time futuristic) balloon escape from this odd place. Erewhon is possessed of High Concept. Yet something gnawed at me while reading it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first but I gradually realized … it lacked focus. Anyway, along the way I had dog-eared a lot of pages. Let’s go back and see a few passages that caught my eye: “Among those who came to visit me were some who had received a liberal education at the Colleges of Unreason, …” “Possibly they would be consigned to the Hospital for Incurable Bores, … " “Ill luck of any kind, or even ill treatment at the hands of others, is considered an offence against society…” “When anyone dies, the friends of the family write no letters of condolence, neither do they attend the scattering, nor wear mourning, but they send little boxes filled with artificial tears, and with the name of the sender painted neatly upon the outside of the lid.” “He had been asking me about my watch, and inquiring whether such dangerous inventions were tolerated in the country from which I came.” “…they say it is by chance that man is drawn through life with his face to the past instead of the future. For the future is there as much as the past, only that we may not see it.” “… if a man has made a fortune of over £20,000 a year they exempt him from all taxation, considering him as a work of art, and too precious to be meddled with, they say.” “Surely if a machine is able to reproduce another machine systematically, we may say that it has a reproductive system. … But it is man that make them do so. Yes: but is it not insects that make may of the plants reproduction …?” “The only animal food that you may eat, is the flesh of any birds, beasts, or fishes, that you may come upon as having died a natural death…” I found it intriguing that Butler essentially anticipates the space time continuum, trickle down economics (of sorts), the Rise of the Machine and animal rights all in the course of a couple hundred pages. The final quote comes from the preface (which I went back to find because I had vaguely recalled this passage): “There is no central idea underlying Erewhon … Erewhon was not an organic whole” And there you have it from the horse’s mouth. My ultimate conclusion is that Erewhon is a minor masterpiece but a flawed one. However, it is definitely one “worth it”. Otherwise, I guess, I wouldn’t have written so much about it!!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marlise

    I’m not entirely sure how this ended up on my to-read list but it did. It’s a 19th century Victorian satire that was sometimes hard to follow due to my lack of full understanding of the Victorian era. What I liked least of all was that it wasn’t a novel or an essay but a strange mashing together of the two. I wanted to get through the essay parts quickly in order to get back to the more intriguing storyline, but when the book was concluded, I found that the story was really just a loose string o I’m not entirely sure how this ended up on my to-read list but it did. It’s a 19th century Victorian satire that was sometimes hard to follow due to my lack of full understanding of the Victorian era. What I liked least of all was that it wasn’t a novel or an essay but a strange mashing together of the two. I wanted to get through the essay parts quickly in order to get back to the more intriguing storyline, but when the book was concluded, I found that the story was really just a loose string of events to justify the essay. The last chapter is the most disconcerting of all and it is hard to know if it was earnest or the taking of his satire to the farthest level. Anyway, I’ve read it. I guess I can check a box or something but I feel I may have wasted a few hours of my life with this one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    jeffrey

    This was a surprisingly difficult book to plow through. The satire of Victorian society mostly did not resonate with me, and there were long, dry and dense discourses on machines, the rights of animals, the rights of vegetables, etc. The thin veneer of adventure and "romance" didn't help a whole lot. I did find Kingley Amis' comments in the "afterword" to be most illuminating and clarifying.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Pattranit Kongsaenkam

    a bit confusing but I like it

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marc Kozak

    Trying to explain this book to someone inevitably results in some kind of "what the fuck are you reading" response. First of all, the title instantly makes you think Lord of the Rings (as in, "King Erewhon rode through Mordor while battling demons with his light saber"), but in actuality, it's a version of 'nowhere' spelled backwards. Secondly, trying to make a snap judgement about the plot after hearing it briefly explained will make your head explode. Not to mention the assertion that this boo Trying to explain this book to someone inevitably results in some kind of "what the fuck are you reading" response. First of all, the title instantly makes you think Lord of the Rings (as in, "King Erewhon rode through Mordor while battling demons with his light saber"), but in actuality, it's a version of 'nowhere' spelled backwards. Secondly, trying to make a snap judgement about the plot after hearing it briefly explained will make your head explode. Not to mention the assertion that this book is part Gulliver's Travels, part Darwin's "Origin of Species", part 1984, and part Francis Bacon. You really want to read it now, don't you?!? The basic premise here is that a fine upstanding Englishman discovers a remote society of people tucked away in the mountains who have some pretty strange beliefs. Upon first meeting them, the narrator Higgs is impressed that everyone is beautiful, vibrant, and seemingly very happy. After learning their language and getting to know their customs, Higgs is shocked at the kind of things these people blindly believe in. For starters, physically ill or unwell people are disgraced and imprisoned, while criminals and murderers are sympathetically looked upon as ill, and sent to be rehabilitated by 'straighteners'. So someone who has a cold will try to conceal it from everyone so as not to be arrested, whereas the butchering of a house full of people is nothing more than a passing trifle in a person's head that can be corrected. Wacky! Erewhon's belief system may seem arbitrary, but it serves to satirize particular aspects of the English Victorian Era of the 1800's. Which I'm sure was SUPER obvious. As with most well-executed satire, an understanding of what is being poked fun at definitely adds to the story, but being completely clueless doesn't mean you won't find any enjoyment in reading it. However, the satire, when understood, is pretty funny - people's belief in the church of England is compared to Erewhon's system of 'musical banks': financial institutions that almost everyone uses, but only to keep up appearances with the enlightened society, and without any confidence or use for the bank in general. The second half of the book is a fairly interesting (if not overly wordy) look at the theory of consciousness within machines - machinery was destroyed and forbidden in Erewhon hundreds of years ago, as they fear that machines will eventually evolve and take over (satirizing Butler's views of the Industrial Revolution). The argument laid down against machines may not be the most original anymore, but at the time, this was some pretty heavy stuff, and still holds up fairly well today. Higgs gradually gets frustrated with Erewhon's willingness to believe things that sound good without questioning reason: at one point, a 'prophet' convinces everyone that eating meat is not moral, while another 'prophet' convinces everyone that eating vegetables is even worse, leading to quite a food problem. Eventually Higgs bails with his lover (part of a horribly underdeveloped bullshit love story subplot) and pledges to return and convert them all to Christianity. (LOL!) This book, while short in pages, feels like it takes forever to get through due to Butler's unexciting and pedantic tone. While the book's topic admittedly wouldn't work as well with a lot of action and dialogue, it still feels like a chore at times to get through certain parts. Other complaints include a pretty weak escape scene, the aforementioned love story, and waaaay too long of a setup before Higgs even gets to Erewhon. Despite these style-related concerns, and not every aspect holding up as well as others since the time this book was written, Erewhon makes up for it in ideas. If anything, I'd suggest looking through 'The Book of Machines' section for a facsinating and still relevant look at technology's role in society.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    Erewhon reminded me of an H.G. Wells story. Compared to The Way of All Flesh by Butler, written about 30 years later, this novel seems rather amateurish. Erehwon is an undiscovered area in an ambiguous country. The people living there aren't too far behind modern society, but they have a lot of strange customs. The main character happens upon this land by while exploring, and spends time living there and observing. It's apparent that this type of story was very popular during this time period, in Erewhon reminded me of an H.G. Wells story. Compared to The Way of All Flesh by Butler, written about 30 years later, this novel seems rather amateurish. Erehwon is an undiscovered area in an ambiguous country. The people living there aren't too far behind modern society, but they have a lot of strange customs. The main character happens upon this land by while exploring, and spends time living there and observing. It's apparent that this type of story was very popular during this time period, in which a white Englishman makes a journey to an undiscovered land and reports about all the strange customs. Luckily, the natives aren't half-naked hunter-gatherers so the modern reader won't need to grimace at the assumptions about race that often plague these types of novels. There is a non-white sidekick that the main character is just a straight up prude, fancy-pants to. Chowbok was probably rolling his eyes over the pretentiousness of the guy. Of course Chowbok is a good-for-nothing, lying drunk that isn't Christian. Of course. There isn't a strong plot, nor any strong characters. Butler states in the introduction he's re-written the book, and it's clear what where the original parts and what were the rewrites. The chapters regarding Erewhonian philosophy and religion were more intriguing, and were more reflective of Butler's abilities. I never realized that the Butlerian Jihad in Dune came out of this book. There's about two chapters in which Butler describes the Erewhonian's fear of machines being sentient, and therefore have stopped scientific progress in that regard. Certainly, Erewhon doesn't make the leap that sentient machines are going to take over the universe in a space opera, but the ideas are the same. I thought Butler was just a random name, not a reference to Samuel Butler. I guess Butlerian Jihad is a bit easier to say and write than Erewhonian Jihad. In other literature references, there's a planet named Erewhon in the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. There's a lot of satire in this book. The Erewhonians treat sickness as criminal, and criminal actions as sickness. Rather messed up, but in a way it's not entirely bad, considering that maybe some support and emotional rehabilitation for the criminal minded can be helpful. Vegetarism and veganism are explored - animals in this land become suicidal if they're not eaten, which I found rather amusing. Not that animals are dying, I myself am a vegetarian, but that the animals are just lost without people eating them. Another amusing part is the thought that dead spirits haunt Erewhonians, and make women pregnant (without their consent) to allow the spirits to live again. Once the infant is born, the friends and family ridicule it for its wanton depravity, and draw up a contract that leaves the child completely liable for its actions: "...acknowledges that he is responsible for all physical blemishes and deficiencies which may render him answerable to the laws of his country; that his parents have nothing whatever to do with any of these things; and that they have a right to kill him at once if they be so minded, though he entreats them to show their marvellous goodness and clemency by sparing his life." Plenty of things in this book are humorous and take a nice jab at Victorian society. However, I was disappointed by Erewhon because Butler is a lot more talented than this effort. Granted, there are interesting, satirical ideas here, but this is his first book, and it shows. If you want to read Butler, read The Way of All Flesh, and then come back for this later. Unless you're looking for something similar to H.G. Wells, then this is a good selection

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jean Bosh

    First, the bad: there was so much potential here for a more interesting/thorough storyline! What we get is a very watered-down plot which exists solely as a jumping off point for commentary and satire on society and whose main points are often plainly announced before they occur. Further, a fair bit of the commentary is thin and lacks much force due to the way in which it is presented. But, there are some great ideas here! For me, the chapters near the end of the book provide the most interesting First, the bad: there was so much potential here for a more interesting/thorough storyline! What we get is a very watered-down plot which exists solely as a jumping off point for commentary and satire on society and whose main points are often plainly announced before they occur. Further, a fair bit of the commentary is thin and lacks much force due to the way in which it is presented. But, there are some great ideas here! For me, the chapters near the end of the book provide the most interesting insights - particularly The Colleges of Unreason and The Book of the Machines. Since many reviewers have already commented on aspects of the satire here, I will just touch on some things I have not seen mentioned. While many correlate The Book of the Machines to the idea of future machines gaining consciousness, I find underlying this an attack (or, at least, an aggressive questioning) of our very notion of consciousness. Butler does the same, too, for our notions of intelligence, will, mechanical processes, and others as well. In regard to this, he anticipates the later work of Wittgenstein, though he's hardly the first to analyze language in this way. Butler seems to me to be pointing out that while we are different from animals, vegetables, and machines, we are not so different as we are accustomed to thinking. We believe that we are special, and we must believe so in order to have a better chance of survival. But, from some other standpoint, it's all potayto and potahto. I also got a kick out of the fact that Butler anticipates the frustration that some readers would find in the book by making his narrator get frustrated with the writer of The Book of the Machines: "Here the writer became again so hopelessly obscure that I was obliged to miss several pages." Brilliant. Lastly, a comment on Butler's feelings toward education. Since completing the book, I've thought a lot about a quote from The Colleges of Unreason in which the narrator says of England: "...our seats of learning aim rather at fostering mediocrity than anything higher...". I wonder if this isn't the case with every system of education. And, if so, I wonder whether it's right, wrong, or just plain inevitable.

  28. 5 out of 5

    blakeR

    This was a remarkably unenjoyable read, seeming much longer than it's 192 pages. I do, however, bump it up from two-star status for two reasons: a) I recognize that I am in no frame of mind to be reading novels of this caliber at present time, precluding me from giving it a fair chance, and b) the amount of thought and tenacity that Butler employed in developing his arguments (however tedious they may have seemed) is rather impressive. Ultimately, though, it was impossible for me to care about a This was a remarkably unenjoyable read, seeming much longer than it's 192 pages. I do, however, bump it up from two-star status for two reasons: a) I recognize that I am in no frame of mind to be reading novels of this caliber at present time, precluding me from giving it a fair chance, and b) the amount of thought and tenacity that Butler employed in developing his arguments (however tedious they may have seemed) is rather impressive. Ultimately, though, it was impossible for me to care about a satirical critique of Victorian England. The somewhat-inappropriate yet nevertheless-unavoidable comparison is to Gulliver's Travels, which succeeds because it has a more universal application. Likewise, Butler is at his best with his universal critiques of human nature or western society (e.g. "The College of Unreason"), although those moments occur far too infrequently. But take this review with a grain of salt because I really just shouldn't be reading any novels at this time. Apologies to Mr. Butler's remaining legacy: I'll give you another go-round with The Way of All Flesh in a few months. Next stop: non-fiction! Not Bad Reviews @blakerosser1

  29. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    My word, this one took me a good while! I enjoyed Erewhon at first, having not read anything quite like it. It begins with the tale of an adventure, where Higgs the explorer tries to discover a new country for farming over the mountains in New Zealand (perhaps). He's a bit of a haphazard traveller, left to rot by his native guide, but somehow manages to stumble into a beautiful tribe of people known as the Erewhonians. Believing them to be one of the long lost Hebrew tribes, he tries to learn ev My word, this one took me a good while! I enjoyed Erewhon at first, having not read anything quite like it. It begins with the tale of an adventure, where Higgs the explorer tries to discover a new country for farming over the mountains in New Zealand (perhaps). He's a bit of a haphazard traveller, left to rot by his native guide, but somehow manages to stumble into a beautiful tribe of people known as the Erewhonians. Believing them to be one of the long lost Hebrew tribes, he tries to learn everything about their strange culture, where being ill is a crime, real crime is treated as a mental disorder to be "straightened," and all machines invented in the previous 300 or so years have been destroyed. Higgs is initially arrested for possessing a watch, but talks his way out into the wider community, where he falls in love with a beautiful woman, who he cannot lawfully marry. So far, so good. Unfortunately, he then spends 120 pages or so describing the books of law and history of the nation, and it's so damn slow and boring that I felt no impetus to read more than 5 or 6 pages a night. A highly improbable escape follows, and it's all done, leaving a poor taste in your mouth. Starts well, finishes poorly.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Adam Mills

    It's not a great book, but it is very important and worth reading. Butler is essentially limited by the form he had to adopt for this book, which took a lot of cues from other books in the Victorian era. It works well as travel writing, oddly enough, taking advantage of the increased demand for this kind of writing at the time, and it works extremely well as a science fictional imagining of a plausible otherworld that could exist within the boundaries of our own, give or take some curious altera It's not a great book, but it is very important and worth reading. Butler is essentially limited by the form he had to adopt for this book, which took a lot of cues from other books in the Victorian era. It works well as travel writing, oddly enough, taking advantage of the increased demand for this kind of writing at the time, and it works extremely well as a science fictional imagining of a plausible otherworld that could exist within the boundaries of our own, give or take some curious alterations in worldview and philosophy. The best part of this book is the segment about the Book of Machines, which is quite honestly still mindblowing for its examination of the birth and nature of consciousness and the relationship of humanity to machines and technology; imagine what it would've done to Victorian readers! You could actually read that segment independently from the book and it would still provide much to ponder and enjoy. The worst feature of the book is that like many Victorian texts of this nature, it drags on too long and takes a plodding pace throughout. Very skimmable. I recommend reading some background info on the book first, then skimming through the novel until you hit segments you find particularly interesting.

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