Thursday, May 24, 2012
1984: And Related Readings by George Orwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Because they so neatly did my thinking for me, I'm selecting two popular user reviews to represent my opinions with a correlation above 90%:
The book is still relevant today, as the demonstrated by the pro review's advanced setting. The warnings are timeless; a free civil society is always at risk from a number of malignancies. Ideas and culture keep them in check, but what can happen if these mechanisms are subverted?
What do you do when you've drafted a brilliant essay on political theory and realize its only hope of having an impact is through the widest possible exposure? Novelize it, and cross your fingers. If it goes viral, you have an audience and now your work is immortal.
As described in the con review, this novel is pretty "meh", not poor, but not great. I found the ending thoroughly lacking in power, and wondered if something important had happened, or not. Like Winston, at the end I found myself questioning the reality of the novel's events. Was is comfortable endgame existence at his sinecure all just a simulation? What's really motivating his sudden love for BB at the victory announcement? To use a piece of Brit slang, the end seemed bodged on. I found it difficult to integrate the experiences from the moment Winston and Julia are raided, clear to the end of the book, with what had taken place in the book up to that point. At the moment of the raid, I see this novel as having many possible alternatives, some of which might have made it a superior work of fiction while leaving the underlying political message unaffected.
Perhaps I have just not thought things through completely (I am a rather concrete and pragmatic thinker, abstractions can sometimes escape me). Although in Winston's hands in the form of "Goldstein's" book, he never gets to read the part where central secret, the primary motivation for the construction of this pointless society was revealed. Society fell down a developmental cul-de-sac, and we're never shown how that happened, or why the power structure felt it was a great idea as they led the world toward it.
For all I understand, the whole shebang happened inside the Matrix. How else do you explain "agent" O'Brien?
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