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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books.
NOBODY IS ONE, ONLY ONE OF
I know this is translated, but the language is beautiful. Here are some examples: A THOUSAND POUNDS OF SILENCE, HER LAUGHTER SPLASHED ALL OVER ME and SAGGING VOICE. The book is full of these beautiful examples of descriptive writing without being over the top. I was very intrigued by this world of numbers, tables, geometry and We. For the first three hours I was very interested. Towards the end when the ship was built, I was interested, but in the middle when the main character is going on and on about going crazy, I got a bit bored. He dissects every sentence and action made, mostly because he has fallen in love in a world that does not allow love.
Grover Gardner is fantastic, I can't imagine listening to this with any other narrator.
THE ONLY WAY TO RID MAN OF CRIME, IS TO RID HIM OF FREEDOM.
This book, published in English in 1924, was George Orwell’s inspiration for “1984” (1949) and likely Aldous Huxley’s inspiration for “Brave New World” (1931). I guess that makes it the grandmother of all dystopian novels that followed
I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. Partly because, as others have noted, Grover Gardner’s narration is excellent, but also because it’s a really good sci-fi story.
I also really enjoyed the initial historical information. It helped me enjoy the book more. I highly recommend this book to fans of sci-fi, and possibly others.
This is an important vintage sci fi dystopia, said to have influenced George Orwell’s 1984. My rating 4.0.
D-503 is a citizen of OneState where the “Benefactor” takes care of everyone for the collective good. Everyone is provided housing, identical clothing, work, food and sexual engagement with choice of partners. Everyone is expected to be happy and satisfied with their needs taken care of within the glass city. The secret police and spies are quick to deal with anyone who tries to go beyond the Green Wall, or refuses to conform to the regulated routines.
D-503 has an important job as one of the mathematicians helping to build the Integral, the first space ship to expand the world of OneState. He deals with numbers, facts and logic. He is not a poet but he is intent on journaling his thoughts as a record to share with the future even as he records the steps of his 'madness'.
One day D-503 and his usual female partner are walking during personal time, the time when the masses walk along the prescribed route. D-503 becomes aware of another couple walking beside him. He is immediately smitten by I-330, a woman who defies the rules and invites him to meet her a few days hence. She leads him on a walk at an unscheduled time to a strange house off the usual paths and then proceeds to captivate his thoughts and energies.
D-503 shares his jumbled emotions and fears as I-330 leads him into rebellion and a conspiracy to take down OneState. He struggles with his logical training to obey the regulations and his inner yearning to break free of the government system. Is it better to be controlled and ‘taken care of’ or to be free and experience the highs and lows available with individual freedoms?
This is not an unusual theme for a science fiction dystopian but I found the story remarkable particularly because it was written in 1921 by a Russian. The story was banned in the author's own country for over half a century. The world that Zamyatin creates may not be so fantastic by today’s standards but in its own time was an excellent creation. Although the story was a bit confusing, I found myself fascinated by D-503s dilemma of self-discovery. It was also fascinating understanding this was penned by an author living during revolutions in a totalitarian country.
The introduction provides a good history of the writing and the struggles to provide a proper translation. Some translators call the city ‘United State’ but this translation uses OneState which I think fits. Also, the prose and satire are nicely presented in this translation. This may not be as exciting as some of today’s sci fi adventures but it is a worthwhile read in the catalog of vintage sci fi.
Audio Notes: Grover Gardner is a masterful narrator. I have listened to him on many titles and I discovered I had to adjust to his narration on this. Once I was absorbed by the web of the character’s life and confusion I totally enjoyed the easy flow of the narration. I recommend this in audio format.
The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history
It's a shame more people don't read "golden age" scifi like this gem. Even in translation from the original Russian, it is a tremendously powerful allegory of the politics of oppression and the dangers of giving up one's freedom for the perception of safety. Couldn't be more topical now, as citizens of the world's mature democracies vote for ever-escalating surveillance and run toward the candidate who promises to keep them "safe" . . . from what, exactly?
[I listened to this as an audio book performed by Grover Gardiner, who did an excellent job of conveying the irony of the book without sacrificing believability]
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