Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Book Review "Nineteen Eighty Four"

I've just read George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty Four" and while it's brilliant, it isn't an unalloyed masterpiece. I was surprised to find that the book is short, exciting and easy to read. It's about the adventure and destruction of Winston in a dystopian future of total authority and ubiquitous surveillance. Orwell has invented and developed the setting painstakingly, but the exposition and the storytelling are frankly clumsy. He has created, in enormous detail, a world and a language. The language is explained in a long appendix but is also forced into the narrative in the mouth of a convenient lexicographer character that Winson just happens to work with. The lexicographer is removed from the story as soon as he's made his useful speeches about Newspeak.

A lot of the history of the world is read directly from a counter-revolutionary textbook thousands upon thousands of plotless words at a time.

Some of the story telling is no better: Within a couple of dozen pages of introducing a pretty female co-worker we get a moth-eaten mahogany double bed in a room without surveillance. It's like having Chekov's rifle trained on us until they inevitably end up in the bed together.

This is personal preference, but I wish my fiction authors wouldn't keep having a swing at Language-Shapes-Thought vs. Thought-Shapes-Language. It's an interesting subject, but it's obviously one for scientific investigation, not speculative propaganda nestling inside novels.

My favourite parts of the book were a love affair as an adventure story, and sex as an act of political rebellion. The book is unrelentingly bleak. I found it both depressing and strangely refreshing that Winston is wholly defeated, there is no last-minute rescue, no shred of hope, and if I read the ending correctly, not even one last defiant thought.

I really enjoyed the book, but it is in reality a political essay disguised as a story. It's very very good but it could have been _much_ better

Richard "Ignorance is Strength" B

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