Sunday, August 4, 2013

1984 Book Review

Rawr Reader,

   I never really cared much about this book but as of late I've been really in the mood for sci-fi. Plus I just finished reading a horrible chick lit so I need to read by authors that actually want to send a message and make feel something, not just show how me how life is not. So, this is 1984 by George Orwell, the synopsis of which is provided by Goodreads:

Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell's chilling prophecy about the future. And while the year 1984 has come and gone, Orwell's narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions. A legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.

  I've heard about this book for years and it's always sit on my mom's bookshelf but I never gave it much thought to read until now.

(safe for those who haven't read this book yet)
   First of all, I can never look at this cover in the same way again. I should have taken the hint.
   With only three chapters and page long paragraphs, it took me a couple days to read this book. However once you get past that, this book is so terrifying, if I was reading this pre-1984 I would be even more scared. This is the paradigm of dystopian (that I've read) because George Orwell really wanted to make sure that this world was real. Or is it? 
   For those wondering what this book is about, it's about a man named Winston Smith and his life in 1984. He lives in a world where there are three nations: "Oceania (which he lives) is the Americas, the Atlantic Isles including the British Isles (they merge British and American currencies), Australasia, and southern portion of Africa. Eastasia— is smaller than the others with a less definite western frontier, consists of China and countries south of it, Japanese islands, Manchuria, Mongolia, and Tibet. And Eurasia— whole of the northern part of the European and Asiatic land-mass, from Portugal to the Bering Strait" (pg 185). They are always in war with one another. And the three slogans in the Ministry of Truth is: 
"War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength"
   Debate on about its similarities to this world, but I want to just look at it as a literary novel. What both fascinated and bored me was the world-building. As I said before, this book has many page long paragraphs and I know for the first chapter I just read over words, I don't really remember what happened most of that chapter. I was worried that was how the rest of the story was going to go-- just world-building. Even then I was scared, I can't really give an example about what made this story so realistic, it just was. Well, actually I can give an example but I'll put it below in the spoiler section.
   The synopsis doesn't even say what the story is about, and that's because it isn't about one man, but man in general. We just so happen to look through Winston Smith's eyes, however it doesn't make it Winston's story. Why not? I think the principles that is discussed in chapter 3 pretty much answer my question. 
   And I didn't like this book for that reason, this was about the world in 1984, not about one characterone man in the world. I don't read many theoretical books, well, actually none. And this isn't one but it is more so than the typical journey/stranger in town story. Books I gear toward are generally about characters and their development in the story, and that is what I connected to most in this story. I know it sounds like I'm countering what I'm saying above, but throughout this predominantly world-building story, there were moments that Orwell was talking about the life of the protagonist Winston. And honestly those were the moments I connected to more simply because I could relate to him more than theoretical situations and movements and dogmas that were presented in this story. 
   Now this isn't a scary story in the traditional sense in which it's goal is to scare you (at least I hope that wasn't Orwell's goal), like other horror stories that have ghosts that pop out from the darkness and screams boo. Man is the scariest creature to walk this Earth, and when we witness them in their darkest hours, that is when the horrors become more frightening than those we read about or that we fear in our dreams.  Reading about them in our future (at least if reading this before 1984), raises the bar to a new standard of horror. Well, raised.
   Though the entire concept of Doublethink (at least what I understood of it) made me think the most. The Party's four Ministries: Ministry of Peace, Ministry of Plenty, Ministry of Love, Ministry of Truth, were one of the parts of the book that I didn't understand that well, so I can't say much about them. All I know is that they basically are the opposite of what they stand for.
    While I read this at an extremely slow pace, I did enjoy reading it (when I understood what was happening) and this is one of the rare times that I actually want to reread. I didn't quite grasp at certain concepts such as Doublethink, Newspeak, proles, the Thought Police, the Brotherhood, and Big Brother (yeah that's mainly all the components of the world...) so I think rereading this being at least somewhat familiar with them will give me at an advantage to better understanding them the second time around.

I give this book 4/5 stars. I deduct a star only for pacing, otherwise it would be 5 stars.

Author's Quote:
"We shall meet again—if we do meet again—"
Winston looked up at him. "In the place where there is no darkness?" he said hesitantly.
O'Brien nodded once without appearance of surprise. "In the place where this is no darkness." 
—George Orwell, 1984

My Goodreads:

Next To Read:
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

River Song's Spoilers:
(unsafe for those who haven't read this book yet, so don't read this section)
   What makes this story so scary? Everything.
   Just kidding, but even though I was majorly confused in the first chapter, I was genuinely frightened from the beginning. Man can be taken at any moment in time and disappear forever, your whereabouts never to be notified to friends (if you would have any) or family. Children ratted out their parents if they spoke badly against the Party. People were married not for love but to procreate, and even then it was controlled. Pasts and histories were arbitrarily updated, and wars were changed against one nation to the other and when they were changed were made to believe had been in war for years. Disbursements of food and supplies were steadily declining though the news reported they were getting better (lies, Lies, LIES!). The language was being reduced to omit unnecessary words (for example: they wanted to take out the word 'bad' out of the dictionary and instead substitute it with 'ungood'.) I'm sure there's more but I can't remember.
   Chapter 3 was practically Winston being tortured and the tactics that O'Brien used against him were so scary and powerful, it would have broken down the strongest man. Such as forcing Winston to see "five" fingers when he held up four. When he brought him to Room 101. When he starved Winston and showed him his image after an unidentified amount of days, one of the scariest moments of the entire book. That image could say so much about our society. I could go on, but I might as well requote that entire chapter but I'm not going to do that. I'm sure if you're reading this you have read the chapter already and understand what I'm trying to say.
   I really enjoyed the relationship Julia and Winston had. At first they thought they believed something but in the end, after going through torture and who knows what, they realize that they're feelings for each other doesn't live up to the image in their heads.
   And lastly, having O'Brien remain lacking a first name really made his character more enigmatic. It reminded me of Theodora from Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, who had no last name and her character was also very mysterious though she was a flamboyant character. It made his facade as an average person really question who else Winston meets that he may think as an average Joe but is really a very powerful government official. 

Until Next Time,
Nicole Ciel

1 comment:

  1. I've rented it from the local library, I've read a few chapters and I'm scared. I don't know if this is a valid emotion for this book. It became more prominent when I saw a picture of big brother on google. It was horrible. This is my first sci-fi book and It's really really really well written. I just need to get past the thematics and the horrible vision of big brother. It's a super good read and it gives you a different perspective on life. It makes you question everything you believed in . Sometimes I'm opposed to the thought police and sometimes I'm not. It's just an internal battle everytime.