Tag: dystopian

Book Review: 1984 (George Orwell).

1984

-George Orwell.


The last time I started reading this book, I left it incomplete. Now, I finally finished reading it, and in retrospect, I can’t remember why I left it back then in the first place. 1984 is a dystopian novel by George Orwell. It was published in 1949, and mainly, it is a political book about the post-war world.

The book is set in the future, in 1984. The geography of this world is different from ours with three superpowers – Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. These states are constantly in war with each other. Oceania is ruled by a political group simply known as The Party. Apart from the inner members and outer circle members of the party, everyone else is proles, who live in poverty and mostly ignored. The people here live under constant surveillance, conform to rules, and pledge complete loyalty to Big Brother (Head of The Party).


Winston Smith is a member of the outer party who works in the Ministry of Truth. He is a talented writer, but his job is to edit news articles to fit the ideals of the Party. Winston is the protagonist of the story and we see his world through his eyes. He is often described as frail and quiet, but he is curious and introspective. Winston starts maintaining a diary in which he writes his true thoughts about the world he lives in, which is a punishable offense. He imagines he is writing it for an inner member who is secretly against The Party, named O’Brien. Winston has an affair with Julia; their desire for each other is also like a rebellion.


This book is a commentary against communism because Orwell was worried about Stalin’s USSR and how other countries were turning a blind eye to it. The atmosphere created in the book where the Party doesn’t want people to have any individuality, and the focus is on collective identity. There is a branch called the Thought Police, who keeps an eye out for people who think in unorthodox ways or might rebel. These people are taken away by the Thought Police for committing thoughtcrimes.


This book was written more than 70 years ago, yet it is significant even today. The constant surveillance of people in the story is eerie, but it is also a concept we can relate to in our society. There is a reality that has been created and controlled by the Party. The rewriting of history to show how things are better under their rule, news that is edited to match Party ideologies; it is like a propaganda machine shaping your reality. As you read, you realize the political connotations throughout the story, and it is reminiscent of the Soviet Union and Nazi era.


There are many aspects of the story that surprised me. Winston and Julia are meeting in secret. They start going to a room above a shop where Winston bought the diary. Winston believes that proles are their only hope for a revolution against the Party. The lovers are practically led to a trap by the people they trusted who turned out to be members of the Thought Police. Desire, love, and loyalty should only be for The Party and the Big Brother which Winston accepts at the end.


Some aspects of the book are disturbingly similar to our reality. The surveillance of people, certain specific narratives of history or narratives by the media, and even the propagandas to some extent. These are the concepts that are familiar to us today though not to the level shown in the story. Political undertones are throughout the story, and it is a known fact that George Orwell was against totalitarian and communist ideologies. It took some time for me to get into the story especially at the beginning. Once the setting and the world of the story was established; it changed the pace of the plot. The story is told from a third-person omnipresent narrative, but the focus in on Winston. The character of Winston is introspective, so that helped me understand the gravity of the situation.


I don’t know I kept the book aside that first time because 1984 is a wonderful book. I wasn’t sure about it when I started reading it, but it gets interesting, and then you can’t wait to find out what happens next. It gets a little disturbing and heavy, but that adds to the plot. It has relevance in today’s world, and in a way, it is eye-opening. It is a must read.

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Book Review: Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro).

Never Let Me Go

– Kazuo Ishiguro.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years. It’s the dystopian element of the novel that intrigued me as well as worried me; I need to be in a certain mindset for them. Finally, I read it this month and I was taken by surprise. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a science fiction/dystopian novel which focuses on three friends Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth.

The story of Never Let Me Go is divided into three parts as it focuses on different periods of the characters’ lives. Kathy is the narrator of the story and everything that unfolds is from her perspective. The first part begins when Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth are young kids’ not even teenagers yet at a boarding school called Hailsham. Apart from the first chapter where it seems something might be off about the school, it is pretty idyllic. There are a lot of secretive things happening at Hailsham which all the kids notice but they don’t know why it is the way it is.


In the second part of the story, the three friends have left the school at 16 and now are living at Cottages where they start to really understand about their lives. It is then revealed that all the kids at Hailsham are actually clones, genetically engineered to be organ donors. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth spend time reminiscing about Hailsham while trying to accept their reality. Tommy and Ruth are in a romantic relationship now. Kathy notices the changes in Ruth’s behavior towards her and Tommy but she doesn’t say anything to her directly. Ruth has befriended an older couple there who tell her that if the clones are truly in love and can prove it, they can defer. By the end of this part, Ruth has successfully driven a wedge between Tommy and Kathy. It is after this Kathy signs up to be a carer.


In the third part, Kathy is now working as a carer, Ruth and Tommy have made their first donations. Kathy meets an old classmate from Hailsham who tells her about Ruth and her failing health after the donation. Kathy decides to become her carer. It is Ruth’s idea to go to the lake and she also insists and Tommy joining them. Ruth regrets keeping Tommy and Kathy apart and urges them to defer together. After Ruth’s death, Kathy and Tommy are romantically involved and she is also Tommy’s carer.


The main part of the story that I really liked were the characters. Kathy is empathetic which makes her a good carer; she is also more accepting of her fate. Even at a young age, she notices slight changes in the behavior of the guardians. Ruth can be superficial and difficult at times. She has fantasies and dreams which don’t match her reality and understandably, she lashes out. In the end, though she accepts she kept Tommy and Kathy away from each other and wants them to try and defer. Tommy is sensitive and introspective. As a kid, he is short-tempered but as he becomes older he is calm and thoughtful.


The book is disturbing in a way because you know they are clones and they have been brought up for a purpose but they are also human. Their emotions and reactions are real. They behave like regular kids and teenagers but deep down they know that they are not ‘normal’. They are human in all the ways that it counts but their life has a purpose and that has to be fulfilled. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth want to see if they can change their fate; Ruth dies without knowing the truth about their existence which Kathy and Tommy learn towards the end.


The novel is heartbreaking and disturbing. The way it is written and narrated just takes the story to another level. The themes of expectation versus reality, friendships and relationships, life and death, and humanity are beautifully explored in this novel. This novel put me in a bit of a daze; I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished. It is a must-read.

*Click on the image above to get a copy.

Currently Reading (May ’20)

Currently Reading (May ’20)

My reading list for this month.

  1. Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught.

I read ‘Perfect’ written by Judith McNaught and I liked her writing style. I found this book pretty randomly. I haven’t read historical fiction and romances much before but I think it is a fascinating genre. I started reading this book a couple of days ago and I have already finished 200 pages of it. The plot of the book focuses on the passionate and star-crossed love story of Elizabeth Cameron and Ian Thornton. The book is fast-paced and interesting. I think I’ll finish this one very quickly.

2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

I borrowed this book a couple of years ago from a library but never finished it back then before I had to return it. I was almost halfway through the book back then and now that I have a copy, I am going to start from the beginning. I have read just a chapter of it as of yet but the premise of the story keeps you hooked. Never Let Me Go is a dystopian novel yet it is grounded in the real world with its setting which enhances the impact of the story. This time I am going to finish reading it quickly so there are no breaks in continuity for me while reading.

3. All the Bright Places by Niven.

This is one of my favorite books of all time. I read it at least 4 years back for the first time. Its been too long so I am going to read this again because I liked it so much the first time. The story of Violet and Finch is fun, self-aware, and heartbreaking. The character of Finch is so well written and the way Violet and Finch help each other is beautiful. I can’t wait to read this book again even though I am sure it’s going to end with me crying over it again.

4. Selected Stories by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

I have been reading a lot of short stories lately. I never felt brave enough to start reading Crime and Punishment or any other works by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Reading classics can seem like a task at times but I want to read his works so reading the short stories will kind of ease me into his writing style. I read the first two stories and they are really good. The descriptions and the writing style is unique and it’s not as heavy as I expected it to be.

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