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Erewhon (Erewhon #1)

3.32  ·  Rating Details ·  2,483 Ratings  ·  223 Reviews
Erewhon (an anagram for "nowhere") is a faraway land where machinery is forbidden, sickness is a punishable crime, and criminals receive compassionate medical treatment. Butler's brilliant Utopian novel is an entertaining and thought-provoking work, taking aim at such hallowed institutions as family, church, and mechanical progress.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 23rd 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1872)
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Mar 02, 2009 Chris rated it liked it
Erewhon, as a satire and/or essay, is interesting and has some thought provoking ideas. Erewhon as a novel has a fairly thin but still interesting plot line in an intriguing environment. Unfortunately, meshing the two of these together makes for a difficult book to swallow at times.

I enjoyed the thought provoking elements of the satire that Butler presents. He turns the world upside down in order to have us explore just how "civilized" we truly are. He maintains the same basic structure...that a
"I never asked to be born" says a character in The Blind Assassin, and is promptly corrected.

I wonder if Margaret Atwood was thinking of Erewhon. Members of Erewhonian society are all obliged to sign a document at birth admitting that they have chosen to be born of their own free will, and obliging them to indemnify their parents for any trouble it may cause them. Other appealing ideas are the inverted treatment of crime and physical illness: if you embezzle money, you're given medical treatmen
Douglas Summers-Stay
I admit I skimmed over a lot of this book. It's a satire about Victorian society and frankly I'm too far removed from a lot of the issues to get much out of his turning them upside down. But the three chapters on machines-- Wow! When I read Dune in the 80s the idea of the "Butlerian Jihad" struck me as a particularly unusual new idea. I never would have believed that the plot-- machines evolving through natural and artificial selection into a kind of artificial life, reproducing with the aid of ...more
Oct 14, 2009 MisterFweem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pardon me, but the English geek inside me is coming out. Remember as Dave Barry said, if you can easily come up with idiot interpretations of novels, you should major in English. I majored in journalism, meaning I could easily come up with idiot interpretations of news events. Same thing.

So here’s my idiot interpretation of Samuel Butler’s contribution to Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Herbert, author of the Dune novels, may have taken the name of Butler and the idea of a societal rebellion against machin
May 28, 2016 Sunny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good overall. The book is about a young dude who gets lost in the far realms of England somewhere and stumbles on a passing in a mountain which is seemingly impenetrable but somehow he manages to get through and in a scene similar to the Lost World by Conan Doyle he comes to a new and seemingly untouched land. This land isn’t untouched however and is inhabited by a race of humans and clearly sentient beings who have developed laws, and cultures and customs and ways of living almost completely po ...more
Oct 21, 2007 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, I finally finished this 200 page book that I started reading in October! Well, although it took me a long time to get through the book, I think it was worth it. The thing is, it is a very, very thoughtful book - certainly not a light read, so I couldn't read it unless I really had the free time and energy to concentrate. And, if I didn't get through a chapter in one sitting, I usually had to start if over later because I couldn't follow the chapter otherwise. AT ANY RATE, I found this book t ...more
Aug 22, 2008 John rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 04, 2010 Clint rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unhappily-read
Eh. Ehhh! I was not impressed. Okay, I get it is a satire of Victorian society, but seriously I felt like I was getting beat over the head with how blatant the satire was. Samuel Butler tried to squeeze in much more than there was room for. It could have been a solid read, but I just wasn't feeling it. Compared to other authors of that time, it just doesn't compare. And don't even get me started on the Book of the Machines and the Rights of Animals and just dove into a death spir ...more
Tommy Carlson
Jan 15, 2015 Tommy Carlson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some reason I no longer remember, I decided to read Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race. It's a bit of utopian fiction that came out in 1871. It describes an adventurer stumbling onto an unknown civilization. The protagonist describes the people and society, falls in love with a woman, and attempts to escape when the society endangers him.

Later, I learned of Samuel Butler's Erewhon, published the very next year. It describes an adventurer stumbling onto an unknown civilization. The protag
Dylan McIntosh
My favorite section from the book was:

“Why,” asked one Professor, “should a man want to be better than his neighbours?  Let him be thankful if he is no worse.”

I ventured feebly to say that I did not see how progress could be made in any art or science, or indeed in anything at all, without more or less self-seeking, and hence unamiability.

“Of course it cannot,” said the Professor, “and therefore we object to progress.”

I absolutely loved this book when it was in fiirst person as you read from the
Aug 20, 2012 Sophia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The story is narrated by Higgs, looking back on the great adventure of his life in a strange land. As a young man, Higgs travelled to one of the British colonies, which he doesn't expressly name, but which sounds a lot like New Zealand (where Samuel Butler spent time as a youth). Here, Higgs found work on one of the large sheep stations in the interior of the country, at the limits of the region hitherto explored by the British and up against a seemingly impassable mountain range. Higgs feels su ...more
Kim Wong
Erewhon is most famous for its satirical commentary on Victorian values, using a utopia to mount criticism of the beliefs and practices that Butler finds ridiculous in his own society. Specifically, he attacks the attitudes on the ill and unfortunate in society by treating disease as a crime and crime as a disease, which just reminds me of Cobra. The physically sick are punished, the unfortunate are imprisoned and sentenced to hard labor, and the criminals are treated at hospitals and at their h ...more
David Bennatan
Samuel Butler expresses in this book some of the same ideas that were behind The Way of All Flesh. Going to an undiscovered land is just a means of criticizing parenting, religion in general and the Church of England in particular and the English education system. It is all very clever. There is also a section on machines and they're increasing resemblance to human beings. This was more prophetic than Butler could have imagined.

Butler didn't write the book to give us an interesting story or cha
Jul 15, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sci-fi folks take note: everybody owes a debt to Samuel Butler.

I've been trying to decide whether Erewhon deserves 3 or 4 stars for a couple hours now, and I think that's the thought that tipped the scales for me.

As a satirical, philosophical novel of ideas, this shit is on point. At times, despite the very 19C prose, it felt like reading commentary from Orwell, Ray Kurzweil (if he was a bit saner), or even Harlan Ellison -- sharp, current, and snarky. The call for critical thinking is one to wh
Jul 25, 2015 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Utopian society that is (almost) the inverse of ours. Such is the isolated country of Erewhon which the narrator stumbles upon. What follows is a satirical philosophic view of a society that has progressed - or regressed? - along lines different than our own path.

What I love most about this novel is the author's devices to put forth ideas from differing perspectives. And though it was first published in 1872, the novel still resounds deeply with modern life; perhaps even more so now than when
Marc Kozak
Trying to explain this book to someone inevitably results in some kind of "what the fuck are you reading" response. First of all, the title instantly makes you think Lord of the Rings (as in, "King Erewhon rode through Mordor while battling demons with his light saber"), but in actuality, it's a version of 'nowhere' spelled backwards. Secondly, trying to make a snap judgement about the plot after hearing it briefly explained will make your head explode. Not to mention the assertion that this boo ...more
Erewhon reminded me of an H.G. Wells story. Compared to The Way of All Flesh by Butler, written about 30 years later, this novel seems rather amateurish.

Erehwon is an undiscovered area in an ambiguous country. The people living there aren't too far behind modern society, but they have a lot of strange customs. The main character happens upon this land by while exploring, and spends time living there and observing.

It's apparent that this type of story was very popular during this time period, in
Jean Bosh
First, the bad: there was so much potential here for a more interesting/thorough storyline! What we get is a very watered-down plot which exists solely as a jumping off point for commentary and satire on society and whose main points are often plainly announced before they occur. Further, a fair bit of the commentary is thin and lacks much force due to the way in which it is presented.

But, there are some great ideas here! For me, the chapters near the end of the book provide the most interesting
Monty Milne
Aug 21, 2016 Monty Milne rated it liked it
A flawed book, despite some interesting ideas. I rather enjoyed the adventure-story first part. The relationship between the narrator and his "savage" companion is very funny, and the point where the satire of the novel starts to emerge. Chowbok the savage is - of course - exceptionally ugly and stupid. The Anglo Saxon hero decides to convert him to Christianity: Chowbok is quite taken with some of the absurd superficialities of the Anglican Prayer Book, especially the prayers for "Adelaide the ...more
This was a remarkably unenjoyable read, seeming much longer than it's 192 pages. I do, however, bump it up from two-star status for two reasons: a) I recognize that I am in no frame of mind to be reading novels of this caliber at present time, precluding me from giving it a fair chance, and b) the amount of thought and tenacity that Butler employed in developing his arguments (however tedious they may have seemed) is rather impressive.

Ultimately, though, it was impossible for me to care about a
Jul 29, 2011 Annette rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, gutenberg
Probably will not finish Erewhon, another classic I picked off the shelves of Project Gutenberg. It started out as a fairly pedestrian colonization / exploration story along the lines of something Louis L'Amor might write. But once our (unnamed) hero made it over the mountains and into Erewhon itself, it took and abrupt left turn and became something much closer to Gulliver's Travels. Many, endless chapters are devoted to the study of the peculiarities of Erewhonese culture, in which all illness ...more
Book Wormy
Jun 27, 2014 Book Wormy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-read
Erewhon Samuel Butler

While I would probably only give this book 3 stars for reading enjoyment I have added the 4th star for it being so forward looking in terms of when it was written.

The narrator of the novel is a young man who has left England for an unnamed foreign country where he believes he can make his fortune, while there he discovers a passage way through the mountains to the land of a new kind of people the Erewhonians who believe they live in Utopia.

In Erewhon a person can be puni
Adam Mills
It's not a great book, but it is very important and worth reading. Butler is essentially limited by the form he had to adopt for this book, which took a lot of cues from other books in the Victorian era. It works well as travel writing, oddly enough, taking advantage of the increased demand for this kind of writing at the time, and it works extremely well as a science fictional imagining of a plausible otherworld that could exist within the boundaries of our own, give or take some curious altera ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Becky rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-list-books
My word, this one took me a good while! I enjoyed Erewhon at first, having not read anything quite like it. It begins with the tale of an adventure, where Higgs the explorer tries to discover a new country for farming over the mountains in New Zealand (perhaps). He's a bit of a haphazard traveller, left to rot by his native guide, but somehow manages to stumble into a beautiful tribe of people known as the Erewhonians. Believing them to be one of the long lost Hebrew tribes, he tries to learn ev ...more
Erewhon is one of those books that you know about and never quite get around to reading because you didn't take that particular English Lit class ... and then you graduate and think you won't read that kind of book on your own, until you join and someone suggests it as a buddy read and you think, well, why not?

And so, you read Erewhon, three syllables. Err-uh-wan. I wonder why that was important, other than maybe it's a poke at the precision of Upper Class Victorian British Pronun
2.5 stars
The plot was quite interesting but all the tracts...........stop...
Gregg Wingo
Jul 19, 2012 Gregg Wingo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A classic utopian work and a critique of Victorian society. Mr. Butler insightfully applies Darwinian theory to paradigm changes in the growth of technology. It provides seminal material on the question of artificial intelligence and precedes the work of Turing. Without this book Frank Herbert could not have written the Dune series. (Obviously, Frank's son and publisher of the posthumous work have never read it...)

Butler's critique on the utility of the Anglican clergy while preceding the reviva
Andrew Maccann
Erewhon certainly starts off well: the first third or so is a compelling adventure story of one man discovering an almost fantastical, hitherto unknown country. The narrator's journey through the land of Erewhon is classic fish-out-of-water narrative, as we learn more of the alien culture & exaggerated moralities these people live by. Very much a novel with Swiftian influences; it's all quite tongue-in-cheek and a little bit silly.

It all goes quickly downhill though by the latter half; the
Adam Rabiner
Erewhon is an anagram for Nowhere. Butler's novel is a satire of late 19th century England. Erewhon is a kind of Shangri La, a medieval, European-like country, populated by what might be the lost 13th tribe of Israel. Their customs are odd - they are frozen in time having a deep distrust of technology, they are rational thinkers but esteem hypothetical knowledge over common sense, they punish the sick for the the crime of being ill but consider felony a mere misdemeanor. It's a strange, upside d ...more
Jul 29, 2011 Andrew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Erewhon is an 'undiscovered' community which follows quite a different (and often opposing) set of principles to those in the Western world (well, the western world when this was written). The book itself is a hodge-podge of travel diary, theoretical discussion, and philosophical musings which occasionally works and is occasionally turgid. The most interesting section deals with how this community dealt with the advancement of machinery. In many instances I felt the author had written himself in ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Please merge these two records 3 23 Jan 23, 2012 06:26PM  
  • Marius the Epicurean
  • News from Nowhere
  • The Coming Race
  • Castle Richmond
  • Born in Exile
  • After London: or, Wild England
  • Some Experiences of an Irish R.M.
  • Ormond
  • The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle
  • Albigenses
  • Bold as Love (Bold as Love, #1)
  • The Monastery
  • Ascent
  • A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder
  • The Old Men at the Zoo
  • A Tale of a Tub
  • The Influence
  • A Glastonbury Romance
For the author of Hudibras, see Samuel Butler.

Samuel Butler was an iconoclastic Victorian author who published a variety of works, including the Utopian satire Erewhon and the posthumous novel The Way of All Flesh, his two best-known works, but also extending to examinations of Christian orthodoxy, substantive studies of evolutionary thought, studies of Italian art, and works of literary history a
More about Samuel Butler...

Other Books in the Series

Erewhon (2 books)
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“Property, marriage, the law; as the bed to the river, so rule and convention to the instinct; and woe to him who tampers with the banks while the flood is flowing.” 6 likes
“Exploring is delightful to look forward to and back upon, but it is not comfortable at the time, unless it be of such an easy nature as not to deserve the name.” 4 likes
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