Wednesday, 10 August 2011

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (4/5)

The back says: Inside its glass dome, the One State is a place of mathematical precision, a community where everything is everyone’s and integrity, clarity and unerring loyalty reign over all. D-503, Constructor f the Integral, is an honest number, ashamed of the hairy hands that link him to a barbaric ancestry. It is this forbidden legacy that torments him by making him lust, that allows him to imagine, that has given him a soul. Consumed by his sickness and obsessed with the seductive and mysterious I-330, D-503 is led by his new lover outside the Wall, where he colludes in a plot to overthrow the Benefactor. As the Benefactor retaliates by ordering a state-administered Operation to return order to the perfect world, D-503 finds himself fighting for the primitive and natural state of chaos – and rebelling against all that he once held true.

I say: I only heard about this a few months ago and since I've developed a distinct love for dystopian literature lately, I was excited to read what is said to be the very first in the genre. Somehow it left me a tad disappointed, and I think that's because I wanted to love it from the get go –

which I didn't.

The first thing was the writing. Now, I get that D-503 is a mathematician and isn't used to writing and that was very well conveyed, but it was still hard for me to read. However, on the flip side of this, there were instances where his words were downright beautiful, and even poetic in a sense - and that, I loved. So it was a bit of a struggle some of the time and an absolute joy at others.

The plot in itself was good, but it is here that my problem arises: because I read Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley before We (both were hugely influenced by it), I was reluctantly comparing them to this. Since both the other works are written in a manner that is more appealing to me, with a quite defined plot (if I may), I was slightly 'twitchy' when reading this. This whole business with I-330 leaving him her pink slips and him not knowing what was going on, but silently accepting, then rushing off to the tunnels, and then what lay beyond the wall.

It just didn't resonate with me at all.

I did, however, love the ending.

Absolute perfection.

On a philosophical level, this is a masterpiece - no doubt about it. The reason I love dystopian novels is because they make me think, and the issues encountered in We will keep my mind occupied for a few. Somehow I wish that I had read this before the others in the genre because I feel like I would have appreciated it more, but alas, I was not that insightful. It's like falling in love with the cover version of a song and only afterwards hearing to the original.

So yeah, I want to give this a full 5/5 but I'm having to dwindle it down to a 4 because of the above mentioned. I'm really looking forward to reading this again, though, because I have a sneaky feeling it'll be better the second time around.


  1. Wow, it's crazy how similar our reading styles are! I'm currently reading We and just put it on my latest Top Ten Tuesday as an underrated book because I've never come across anyone else who's read it. And today I see your review! I totally agree on the writing style being a little difficult in places but overall I'm enjoying it. Now I can't wait to get to the end to see what happens. And I'm glad you mentioned Brave New World and 1984 and how reading them before impacted you. I haven't read either yet but I'll keep We in mind when I do get around to them. Thanks for a great review! :)

  2. I saw it on someone's blog a few months back and just had to pick it up. It's a good thing you're reading this first because you'll be able to clearly see the influences when you read the other two - it's almost like they were fine-tuning the whole concept (Orwell more than Huxley). I'm looking forward to see what you think of it when you're done.