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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Affecting and dark, 20 Dec 2006
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This review is from: 1984 Nineteen Eighty-Four (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
In 1984, Orwell relates the depressing story of Winston Smith, a doomed citizen living in Airstrip One (formerly known as London), a poverty-ridden dystopia ruled over by The Party: a city where those who show signs of independent thought vanish in the night, where gigantic telescreens monitor Winston's every move, where he must scratch a living on what The Party provides, working a job rewriting old newspapers in The Party's favour while clinging to his sanity through tiny acts of secret rebellion.

The first of these acts is to purchase and write in a diary, and later to meet a female Party member in private (marriage is formally controlled by The Party, and is strictly for the sole purpose of reproduction). It is only when he finds true happiness and apparent haven from the eyes of the Thought Police that The Party choose to act, arresting him and subjecting him to a torture too cruel and lasting to imagine: one that destroys him in a more important way than death ever could.

As harrowing as Winston's despair-ridden tale is, it's the sheer relevance of the world he inhabits that makes the book such a joy to read in the 21st century. With our highly-filtered and biased news reports, a network of CCTV cameras watching us in city centres, tax on our products feeding the government money and censoring laws and activists stifling free speech, comparisons to 1984 are inevitable. In the world of 1984, people are robbed of personal freedom, brainwashed, abducted, tortured, gradually starved, lied to and killed, and the truly terrifying result of The Party's efforts is that there exists no material proof of their crimes.

The book illuminates the darkest eventuality of politics and government control, and makes it feel that bit too real for comfort.

Orwell's writing has not aged noticeably - I had no problem reading it, and I'm all of seventeen, so most readers will fly through it. If anything, however, some may find the writing style too coarse or simple: Orwell never entirely escapes the analytical style so well-suited to his essays, and in places the book lacks emotion and descriptive flair. In particular, the female protagonist is painfully shallow, never extending very far beyond a "Hello, Dear!" persona. At one point, Orwell also diverts away from the main story and dedicates a large portion of writing to a book within the story, one that Winston is reading, which should be interesting but is annoyingly long-winded and detracts from the main story.

Overall, though, 1984 is profound and chilling. It is a timeless tale of man vs state, and may be uplifting or depressing depending on the individual reader. At any rate, the countless parallels to modern culture make it interesting, and the arguments of logic between Winston and an Inner Party Member will give budding philosophers food for thought. Political enthusiasts will also find issues to chew over, and fans of popular culture may pick up on some unlikely links; musicians, authors and directors in years since have taken heaps of inspiration from the book: the iconic expression "a rebel from the waist down", made famous by a Marilyn Manson song, finds its roots here, alongside the concept of Big Brother and the inspiration of the video game Half-Life 2.

Something for everybody.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Dec 2011 12:21:41 GMT
Kvothe666 says:
i know this will seem pedantic, but london is still london, airstrip one is the uk

Posted on 20 Jan 2012 23:20:26 GMT
Gryzler says:
I agree with the view on 'The Book' by Goldstein - the only section of the book which dragged for me due to it pretty much repeating what we already knew, only in a long-winded and tiresome manner.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Nov 2013 09:46:09 GMT
strange - i really enjoyed the theories in goldsteins book, it was the part i actually re-read as i found it so interesting. Anyway shows you how people differ! good review and good book.
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