the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for January 11th, 2014

first published in England in 1938, Anthem is eligible for the Retro Hugo awards. This book certainly won’t be found in the science fiction section of the bookstore, but it does take place in a dystopian future.

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Anthem, by Ayn Rand

published in 1938

where I got it: have owned this copy forever. probably purchased new.












There is a future where you and I do not exist. A future in which only we and us, the collective, exist.  A future in which man finds joy and satisfaction in working with and for others and for the society. All are equal, all are taken care of and none ever yearn for anything beyond their station. None ever need to think about anything, because the collective does their thinking for them.  In this future, everyone is safe, and freedom doesn’t mean what you think it means. In the times before, horrible things happened, with large groups of people fighting against a small group of people. It was decided afterwards that this collective society was best for all.

Equality 7-2521 is a sinner. Those sins include that of ambition, preference, and being alone, among many, many others.

Anthem is an epistolary story, told from Equality 7-2521’s writings. Not exactly diary entries, these are more confessions, a record of what’s been done and what’s been discovered. Equality hopes to one day show these writings to the city scholars, to earn their mercy and respect.

Instead of joining the others at evening theater shows (all of which promote the goodness of toil, equality, and brotherhood), Equality 7-2521 sneaks out to the edge of the city to a secret underground cavern.   With it’s smooth floors, tracks, burned out lightbulbs and other detritus, I think the underground cavern is a subway station, but Equality 7-2521 has no way of knowing that, having never seen a train track or light bulb before.  Equality 7-2521 steals books and candles, and indulges in a love for the physical sciences, joyously learning about electricity and magnetism, sometimes completely by accident.

While working on the edge of the city, Equality 7-2521 meets Liberty 5-3000, and commits the ultimate sin of thinking of this new friend, of finding joy in those thoughts, of wishing to spend more time in the company of Liberty 5-3000.

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