A reader who’ll try anything once, including bad books in search of good ones. Eclectic as her tastes are, she tends to gravitate to historical romances, realistic contemporaries, and some fantasy novels.
I finished reading this last night and I've been vacillating between one and two stars but because two is my "theory good, practice not" shelf, mostly, I'm going with one. 1984 may have earned its place in history but it is not a good book. Proper review to come. Bugger.
Blunt instruments may have their uses but would you really use a claymore to remove mole when a scalpel will do? Important isn’t a synonym for good. 1984 may be a historically significant book, but a few good, scary ideas don’t make it into a great novel.
We all know that the Thought Police is alive and well—Hey NSA!—But that doesn’t mean we are living in an Orwellian society. George Orwell was too preoccupied in overtly criticising communism and listing his personal (and universal) grievances against the system to write a good story that would stand against the test of time and still be relevant today. Instead of using allegories and symbolism, he went for the brute force of unspeakable horrors and wrote his own anti-communism propaganda manifesto.
Except, are those horrors really that unspeakable? I was born in the 1980’s, went to school in 1990’s and grew up in the midst of global turmoil as one communistic state after another unravelled and democracy took its first wobbly steps right next door—it currently may have fallen flat on its arse but at least it’s trying. I’m not a scholar but I was there when people of oppressed nations learned to speak out again and things bled through the news and into everyday life. I am sure that whatever terroristic acts Orwell portrayed, out in the world there are real people who lived through it. Real, flesh and bone people you can’t help but care about when you hear their stories.
Orwell may have intentionally chosen two write Winston Smith as an everyman, who could be anyone in Britain to let his contemporaries imagine themselves in the Marxist paradise they dreamt of, but in doing so he failed to create an engaging character. If the readers don’t care about a character enough to hate or love him, how is anything that character is put through supposed to affect them? Even when Winston was being a little shit of a child and doing despicable things I didn’t care for him. I wasn’t repulsed by him or upset. I was utterly indifferent to him and subsequently to his plight.
I can sympathise with being watched, spied on, and manipulated on daily basis because that’s the society I live in. I can wince at the beatings, interrogations, brainwashings, random killins, because I know these terrors are real, were real, will be real for quite some time. Objectively I can recognise and react to these things. Objectively. There was nothing in the story that made me want to accept Orwell’s brand of indoctrination and take it as my own. With my propensity to over-counteract I’d probably have latched on to bolshevism instead. Except I know better than that. From real history.
Orwell deserves credit for being one of the first to speak out against communism when no one else would, but this ham-fisted attempt at fiction shouldn’t be placed over the accounts of real terror victims. 1984 still has a place in school as an example on how a blunt instrument—like a claymore—has its moments in history, but it should never be held as an example on how to write a good book.