Skip to main content
PBS logo

Book Reviews of A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange
Author: Anthony Burgess
ISBN-13: 9780393312836
ISBN-10: 0393312836
Publication Date: 11/1986
Pages: 192
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.

3.8 stars, based on 367 ratings
Publisher: W. W. Norton Company
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

23 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

BarteringBibliophile avatar reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
"what's it going to be then, eh?"

I viddied the sinny before I read this veshch, which is most unfortunate. Once I had a chance to run my glazzies over the pages I was surprised, O my brothers, for I found the book to be real horrorshow. The nadsat language is quite oomny, even though the slovos are a malenky bit difficult on the gulliver at first. Indeed it is a raskazz for like vecks and ptitsas both. It hardly left my rookers at all that nochy. I recommend it to you, my faithful droogs, even if you're not interested in a bit of the old ultra-violence.
Shannatram avatar reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 33 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This book was very hard to get through, and not just because of the language. Like many good art pieces, A Clockwork Orange makes you feel uneasy, throwing the taboo in your face.

The main character and narrator, Alex, not only commits heinous crimes, but delights in them, and describes his delights in great detail to the reader. It's not often rape and violence is put in a positive light (at least not in books I read). You start off (rightfully) thinking of Alex as a monster, despite his likable personality.

To make things more uncomfortable for the reader, during and after Alex's "reform" you start to feel sympathy for him. Once you're lulled into believing that he's a victim, Burgess shoves reminders in your face of just how wicked Alex is. A lot of questions and thoughts come up that you never thought you'd have to ask. Did he deserve to lose his free will? Or did he lose that right by making his evil choices? Does bad behavior warrant such extreme, inhumane treatment?

Burgess gives us the questions but doesn't answer them for us. The answers are left ambiguous, for us to challenge our own thoughts and views and come up with our own answers. It is a hard reminder that not everything is black and white.

A lot of people felt the strange language and made-up slang detracted from the story, but I think it made the story what it is. It emphasizes this future scenario, acknowledging that language is ever changing. You are an outsider, looking in on a completely different (yet slightly familiar) society. I think it also helps distance the reader from what's going on. Not having a complete and comprehensive grasp of what the narrator is saying makes the pill of violence a little easier to swallow.

This was a very good book, and one that everyone should read at least once in their life.
mizparker avatar reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 87 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I had the pleasure of reading the version with the (very snarky) foreword by Anthony Burgess. It seems that the movie version, and the version of the novel released in America, were missing the critical last chapter (a decision by the publisher), which gives 'A Clockwork Orange' a distinctly different feel. I highly recommend reading it, but if your copy has twenty chapters, it is missing the twenty-first. The twentieth chapter ends where the famed movie does; the twenty-first outlines "what happened next." It changes it into a different story.

That said, I was also fortunate that my husband had read it first, and left a series of notes of the Nadsat (made-up language the characters use) / English translations, so my reading experience wasn't made more difficult trying to learn things from context. You may find an online translator here:

It's incredibly helpful. As far as the actual story goes - I was reluctant to read it because of the general feel that it's a highly disturbing story, and I generally dislike filling my head with disturbing - it tends to stick with me! I really enjoyed it, and would read it again. A true modern classic. And yes, haunting.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 28 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I really thought this book was great. Burgess creates an entire new world and a whole dictionary of slang, which in itself is extraordinary. The story is one of brutality, human choice, and the true meaning of redemption.
*The slang was very confusing for the first three or so pages, but then I felt like I could understand everything as if he were speaking plain English. Give your brain a chance and I think the same will happen for you!
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is one of my favorite books of all time. Although Anthony Burgess himself doesn't like it much, and thinks it is way too popular, I have lost count of the number of times I've read it. I think it's very, very interesting, and of course the way he uses language adds a great deal to the book.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 813 more book reviews
In a futuristic England beyond 1984, beyond Anthem, beyond We; it's a baddiwad, bad, bezoomny, mad, bezoomny, bezoomny, mad, mad world out there; not that England hasn't really been like that for several decades. Teens running amok with pseudo-impunity. Everything goes; everything tolerated. Incidentally, be sure to get a book with a glossary of the Nadsat language or you'll be bezoomny (mad) also. Nadsat, it seems, is a permutation of pig-Russian: a patois of the streets to rival that of the gamins of Hugo. Well, except for a few words (such as baddiwad) that don't exist at all, but are spelled correctly. This ego-centric invective has all the trash you can hope for: senseless violence, rape, rapine, murder, gang war, animal cruelty. Did I leave anything out? But, "Big Brother" has a novel method of rehabilitating criminals. None of that goody-two-shoes, namby-pamby parole board farce. If your tummy (guttiwut) is a tad queasy take a whack at this one; you'll feel real horrorshow (well) after a good heave. This book is little more than a big pile of cal; enough to satiate the most ardent sophist. Finished the book? Go ahead and puke. You've earned it!
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 22 more book reviews
He makes some interesting points about the divine free agency and about gov't corruption but the main character is horrible. Someone who loves hurting Others and He kind of wins. So not one I would recommend. The not real words slang the author creates also breaks up the flow. You have to look them up in the back of The book too often.
skysky avatar reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 5 more book reviews
This is a classic that is a must read for everyone. Even if you're not into the psychological stories that make you feel eerie, I, as well as many others, feel this is one of the most important books to pick up because of it's strong moral-questioning message.

Stepping aside from that and to the character's themselves, Alex Delarge is rather disturbing iconic figure. Throughout the whole story, we know him to be this cocky psychopath. When he goes through his "treatments", we slowly begin to learn, or at least by my opinion, is that the only people that are scarier than this loose canon is the doctors themselves. This really starts the whole debate on who is the real monster.

Of course, by the end, he's back to his regular self. Another lesson, you can't really change anyone.

I feel like a lot of people get confused with the literature he and the rest speaks. What's going on is, Alex is a horrible delinquent. Rape, break ins, yadda yadda, until he ends up murdering a woman and is sent to prison. They treat him, and they let him go. What makes him "better" is that everytime he gets a psychopathic thought, it literally makes him ill to the point he has to stop. A lot like shocking a dog if he's bad.

Anyway, if you really can't get through the book, not because it's bad (and it's not) but because the language is hard to understand, then defiantly consider watching the movie. You wont regret it.
charliedollie avatar reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 2 more book reviews
I must admit that I had a very difficult time reading this book at first. The fist couple of pages slapped me in the face with the unusual slang and grammar, then, the next couple of chapters slapped me in the face with horrific, violent acts (that is, when I was finally able to understand what was going on). I almost put the book down for good after the first rape.

Burgess does a wonderful job at building up the main character, Alex, to be a monster. The slang, in my opinion, added to the experience, and made it feel as though I was living in Alex's world.

A Clockwork Orange really made me think about the importance of choice, and is really a compelling story. It is disturbing, yes, but it makes you think.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 1436 more book reviews
Interesting read! I found it difficult to unravel the street talk of young Alex who tells the story but finally figured out most of it. If you choose to read this one, look for the online definitions for the street talk words and phrases. Alex goes through a period of violence where he and three friends rob, beat up people, rape girls and young women and smash and destroy whatever they choose. The title comes from the drug treatment and violent films to which Alex was treated prior to being released from prison after a reign of violence results in the death of an old woman. It was said that those who are subjected to the treatment become like mechanical humans who can make no choices. Using drugs and films of violence, authorities condition Alex to feel sick each time he saw, contemplated or encountered violence. Unfortunately for Alex, it also sensitized him to the classical music he loved as the violent films to which he was exposed were accompanied by this music. Even this beautiful music makes him ill. He contemplates suicide and becomes involved in a political scheme to oust the current party in power. The ending is interesting, too, when Alex discovers that he has grown up.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 7 more book reviews
an all-time classic...
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 134 more book reviews
A vicious fifteen-year-old droog is the central character of this 1963 classic. In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brillantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. And when the state undertakes to reform Alex to "redeem" him, the novel asks, "At what cost?"

This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."
Founder-PBS avatar reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 25 more book reviews
Another classic. I had not read this one in a while and was glad to read it again. A social pathology study from 1963 where criminals take over the future.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 39 more book reviews
A great book. A must read for anyone that likes a good, easy read.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 23 more book reviews
It's a classic but I just could not get into it. The author made up slang to suit the story. Lots of people love the book, so maybe it was just me.
liquid-velvet avatar reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 13 more book reviews
Great book. You must get use to the language he uses to tell the story, but that's not too hard to do.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 988 more book reviews
"Anthony Burgess reads chapters of his novel A Clockwork Orange with hair-raising drive and energy. Although it is a fantasy set in an Orwellian future, this is anything but a bedtime story." -The New York Times Told by the central character, Alex, this brilliant, hilarious, and disturbing novel creates an alarming futuristic vision of violence, high technology, and authoritarianism.Anthony Burgess' 1963 classic stands alongside Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World as a classic of twentieth century post-industrial alienation, often shocking us into a thoughtful exploration of the meaning of free will and the conflict between good and evil. In this recording, the author's voice lends an intoxicating lyrical dimension to the language he has so masterfully crafted.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 6 more book reviews
I attempted to read this but the vernacular made it difficult. I found a dictionary online but did not feel that it would be a good reading experience if I have to look up 80% of the words in the book.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 24 more book reviews
the slang dialect makes this book very difficult to read, definitelya classic with continuing relevance to topics of debate today
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 55 more book reviews
It takes a while to get into the lingo used by the narrator, Alex, but the story is a good one.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 9 more book reviews
The novel inspired the film and is just as bleak and disturbing. This edition has the controversial 21st chapter the author originally intended which I think undermines the point of the book.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 3 more book reviews
I liked this one.
reviewed A Clockwork Orange on + 18 more book reviews
Pretentious book with a lame moral. I hate Alex and the things that happened to him made me laugh.