Have you ever wondered how to make the literary equivalent of an expressionist painting? (If not, good for you.) Yevgeny Zamyatin has found the formula: 1. Lots of ellipses and unfinished sentences! 2. Action is okay as long as it's purposeless! 3. Nothing needs to make a whole lot of sense! 4. Use a LOT of exclamation marks!!!!
The fact that this book was unfinishable was the only thing that kept it from being a complete waste of time. Thank god. Had I finished it, I would have been forced to spend the rest of my life questing for the secret of time travel, so that I could travel back and slap the author.
In another update on Sir Thomas Mores Utopia (1516), Zamiatin, in We (1924), develops a diaphanous world (literally, as everything seems to be made of transparent glass) regulated by the multiplication table (a nightmare for todays average person) and dedicated to the works of Frederick W. Taylor (whom all academians seem to despise, but who never really understood). It is a world in which everyone is designated by a number (more specifically an alpha-numeric code). We is habitually compared with Aldus Huxleys Brave New World (1932) and George Orwells 1984 (1949). However, several other works have been written in the same vein, notably:
Kurt Vonnegut Player Piano (1952) (My favorite)
Ayn Rand Anthem (1937)
Jack London Iron Heel (1908)
H. G. Wells The Time Machine (1895), A Modern Utopia (1905), New World Order (1940)
All of these border upon describing totalitarianism as the ultimate democracy. But then, has democracy become a mere sham to obfuscate an autocratic or advanced socialist government?
The ideas within this book are extraordinary! This book had the potential of a 5 star book. It has the seeds of some later literary works: Atlas Shrugged, Foutainhead, Anthem, 1984, Brave New World. Lord of the Flies, etc...
However, the author's writing style is not smooth. There are often abrupt changes in topic within the same paragraph. (Perhaps something was lost in translation. This book was translated from Russian.) Furthermore, dialogue between two characters is interchanged within the same paragraph, all within the same " ".
The inspiration for Orwell's "1984", this book is a must for fans of dystopian fiction. It is not as difficult a read as you would imagine. The chapters are short and they are structured to be some sort of daily journal written by the main character.
I had to read this for a college literature course, and I was amazed at how truthful, accurate, and ultimately scary this little novel was. Written long before the equally-amazing '1984', 'We' also tells a story set in the future, where government rules and individuality is totally repressed. This is an amazing work, full of prophecy about where the world can go and what human beings are capable of doing to one another. I recommend this book to any dystopia fans out there, and for all others in need of good enlightenment - 'We' delivers!