the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘political

we-zamyatinWe by Yevgeny Zamyatin

written in 1921

where I got it: purchased used

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I’ve owned this little paperback for years, and I’ve always been intimidated by it. Because the introduction is 20 pages long? Because the story was considered so subversive that it couldn’t be published in Zamyatin’s native Russia until 1988, fifty years after the author’s death? Maybe. And maybe because I was nervous that what was a riotious dystopian political satire in 1922 wouldn’t hold up, that I’d be too far removed from what the story referenced to understand the satire.

 

I should never have been intimidated.  The story is not subversive to my modern eyes,  and the all-inclusive satire holds up very well, with Zamyatin going after everyone he possibly can in an unsubtle fashion – Christians, a helicopter-parenting government, Authoritarianism, Big Brother, and anyone who agrees tacitly with a majority without bothering to analyze what’s happening. I solved my problem with the introduction by leaving it until after I’d finished the novel.  The “utopia” of We is reason taken to the nth degree,  protection of the people by removal of all choice,  a society built around the concept that humans can only be happy if when when all choice, all worryor concern of making a misstep, all need of something out of reach, all creativity, all freedom is taken from us.   Citizens are referred to as numbers, not as people. This is a society madly in love with math, reason, and rationalism, and terrified by question marks, the unknown, and the imagination.   Dissidents are publicly executed.

 

“When a man freedom equals zero, he commits no crime. That is clear. The only means of ridding man of crime is ridding him of freedom”

 

Not only is choice and freedom gone, but so is privacy. Homes and buildings are constructed of clear glass, the concierge in your apartment building reads your mail and registers your visitors, and privacy blinds may only be drawn if the proper paperwork is product with the partner you have registered for that day.

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I originally reviewed this book here for SFRevu.

The Ashtheans have never known hatred, they have never known murder, they have never known distrust. The Earthlings bring them all these things, and such gifts can never be taken back.

On the edges of human colonized space, lies the planet Ashthe, or as the humans call it, New Tahiti. Soldiers, most ill equipped to be ambassadors to another race, are put in charge on a local level, told they have so many years until the colonists arrive, and told to make the island ready for human habitation. Far away from their central government, the soldiers can pretty much do whatever they want with no repercussions. And they do.

When the Ashtheans fight back with violence, the invaders are flabbergasted. They’ve brought civilization to these pathetic creatures, these creechies, how dare they fight back? What’s their problem? The problem is that the Earthlings refuse to believe this diminutive, undomesticated race could possibly be their equals in sentience or intelligence.
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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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