Wednesday, June 03, 2009

We is a Winner

So far, so good! My first book of the Reading in Order Challenge is going swimmingly. It's not surprising that We is right up my alley since I've been in love with dystopian fiction for a very long time.

To give you a little background: I became interested in dystopian fiction as a high school student. I read Ray Bradbury's short story, "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains" when I was a sophomore--about 15 years old. It's a tale about the Earth reclaiming a family's automated home after nuclear war. If you'd like to read the story yourself, click HERE. It's a nice, easy-to-read PDF. It's a selection from The Martian Chronicles, by the way.

I wasn't reading much in those high school days--occupied by extracurricular activities, boys (those are one and the same), the usual teenager stuff. However, Bradbury interested me enough with this horribly beautiful creation that I wanted more dystopia. Though, thinking about it now, "There Will Come Soft Rains" is more post-apocalyptic fiction. Oh well...whatever. It whetted my appetite for more! With the help of a great English teacher and a lifelong friend, I discovered Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

I think what fascinated me then--and still fascinates me now--about dystopian fiction is the way it takes elements and problems of our past, or elements and problems from our contemporary world, and blows them up to such outlandish proportions so as to make us ponder where we're headed.
We was written in 1921 and is considered the first dystopian novel. I can definitely see shades of it in Huxley's and Bradbury's work, and I haven't read Orwell yet (for shame!), but I will definitely pick up 1984 during the course of this challenge. Zamyatin imagines the society in his novel to be completely based on math--concerned that life be one beautiful, infallible equation. Like Brave New World each person is open to have sex with any other--just need a pink ticket and you can close the blinds with anyone. We's main character, D-503, meets a strange woman who wishes to test the boundaries of the OneState rules. She drinks alcohol, smokes cigarettes, and wears savage clothing...yellow dresses and private. All of her daring feats are punishable by death, and death consists of being reduced to water by a scary leader called the Benefactor. What's more, she makes D-503 think he's losing his mind. He starts feeling things he's never felt before like jealousy and having vivid dreams. For shame!
I won't reveal any more of the plot right now, but it's really a great book so far, and I'm really enjoying the translation...something I was concerned about in my previous post. If you're a dystopian fiction fan--or not--go ahead and snatch this one up!

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