Set in the 26th century A.D., Yevgeny Zamyatin's masterpiece describes life under the regimented totalitarian society of OneState, ruled over by the all-powerful "Benefactor." Recognized as the inspiration for George Orwell's 1984, We is the archetype of the modern dystopia, or anti-Utopia: a great prose poem detailing the fate that might befall us all if we surrender our individual selves to some collective dream of technology and fail in the vigilance that is the price of freedom. Clarence Brown's brilliant translation is based on the corrected text of the novel, first published in Russia in 1988 after more than 60 years' suppression.
Public Domain (P)2011 Tantor
"One of the greatest novels of the twentieth century." (Irving Howe)
WE tells the story of the "One State," a sanitized, regimented world in which the individuals ("numbers"...nobody has a name) live sanitized, regimented lives. Rocket scientist D305 lives his clockwork life as expected until he meets and falls in love with the revolutionary I330.
WE is one of the earliest examples of dystopian literature---you can see elements of WE in 1984 (Orwell), Brave New World (Huxley), Anthem (Rand), Player Piano (Vonnegut) and many others.
The story is presented as D305's personal journal. The prose is a bit dated---it was written around 1920 and has very flowery internal narration and not a lot of dialog, and I started to find it getting tedious, until we got close to the end.
The audio book starts with a fairly long and involved history of WE and its publication (and the various translations). Usually, I find such intros boring and low-value, but in this case, I found it helpful.
Grover Gardner's narration is quite good...he doesn't really add anything to the story but he doesn't take anything away, either.
[Footnote: According to Wikipedia, Aldous Huxley denied having read WE before writing Brave New World, but Orwell definitely cited it as a source for 1984.] Of course, all have different themes and draw different conclusions.
Zamyatin's We is a dystopian sci-fi story set in the 26th century. Written in the early 1920's the author projected what he expected was the logical extension of the then emerging and evolving Bolshevik revolution in his native country. In this future, the totalitarian state, Onestate, is absolute. People have letter/number names and wear specific colored uniforms. Their days and nights are regimented with even pregnancies tightly controlled, all under the guiding hand of the Benefactor. Onestate is located inside a walled region surrounded by primitive savages. Clearly, We served as the inspiration for Orwell's 1984, but is actually even bleaker and more dystopic than big brother.
The main character, D503, is working on a rocket ship, the Integral, that will search out intelligent life and spread the totalitarian word. D503 is co-opted by I330 who is a woman with nefarious plans to overthrow the government. D503 slowly loses his sense of reality, while the Onestate machine grinds ahead with plans to "treat" people to eliminate imagination as a final solution to total population control. Clearly, Zamyatin outlines in great details his fears and nightmares with the changing social and political events in his native land.
The narration is excellent, as is typical for Gardner with superb pacing, tone, and range of voices. While We may not be the first dystopic, future vision, he certainly set the standard for this genre for decades.
I can't say I loved this book, but it the writer's sense of irony was pretty entertaining.
1984 because George Orwell self admittedly based 1984 on "WE" and he also accused Aldous Huxley of basing his Brave New World on it, though Huxley denied it and Orwell alleged that Huxley was lying. I personally feel that WE is superior to both 1984 and Brave New World, but not as good as Ayn Rand's Anthem -- but only because Anthem was done seriously whereas WE was more of a satire. As far as satires go, this one is tops.
The primary character (I can't remember his name offhand, but it's a number instead)/
I don't want to include a "spoiler" but the ending was pretty moving. It was hopeless and bleak but not as hopeless and bleak as other stories of this nature might be; in particular I liked the ending here better than that of 1984, Brave New World, and better than Harrison Bergeron.
If you're interested in serious dystopian and/or political fiction and enjoy reading non-fiction about totalitarian regimes, this book is for you.
Freedom from imagination
1984, Brave New World. All three are about modern dystopia.
I have enjoyed Grover Gardner's performance elsewhere, but I really enjoyed his poem-like presentation in this book.
No. I am not easily moved. I weigh 240 lbs.
I enjoyed reading the precursor to 1984. I enjoyed the story and expected the outcome, but the presentation was fantastic. I enjoyed how the character referred to Ancient Times and wondered why we were so difficult. I loved his explanation of our election process differences. It was a good story that ended too soon.
This book should be read by any fan of sci fi, post apoc, or dystopian society stories. It was an important, influential book in the genre. The story is a little slow paced and the characters don't really develop much. It was still a good read, but not one that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
This novel is written ahead of it's time. I think it is better than 1984 because the idea of One State is a trend unfolding even today. Fantastic narrative read extremely well.
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