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Erewhon (Erewhon #1)

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  1,972 ratings  ·  173 reviews
Erewhon (an anagram for "nowhere") is a faraway land where sickness is a punishable crime, criminals receive compassionate medical treatment, and machines are banned (for fear they'll evolve and become the masters of man). Butler's entertaining and thought-provoking Utopian novel takes aim at such hallowed institutions as family, church, and mechanical progress; its remark ...more
Paperback, 163 pages
Published May 29th 2002 by Dover Publications (first published 1872)
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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
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
"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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tommy Carlson
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
It took me some time to finish this, as I was often distracted by other, flashier, more interesting books. This is often touted as the first modern utopian novel, and in that respect it's interesting. It presages the computer age and the ethical dilemmas we're just beginning to face, while also telling something of an adventure tale.

It bogs down in many places, however, as Butler satirizes various aspects of Victorian society. It can be interesting to read these, and often, multiple viewpoints a
This is in many ways less of a novel than it is a satirical manifesto for a fictional country. The narrator is an explorer who stumbles onto a yet undiscovered nation and then proceeds to document it's cultures, customs and history throughout the remainder of the book. The society he describes is neither dystopian world of 1984 or the paradise of Huxley's Island, but rather a bizarre, absurdist satire of Victorian England.

In Erewhon, machines have been abandoned for fear they will evolve to sup
Josh Meares
I read this book because of a quote I read about Samuel Butler. He was complaining that in this book he questioned the very foundations of his world and yet people liked another book of his better in which he was just playing.

It is an interesting read, some of it prophetic. It is a satire, though not as well-written as Gulliver's Travels. However, it may be even more insightful than Jonathan Swift's famous work.

It is probably just to say that the Butlerian Jihad in Frank Herbert's Dune series is
Heidi Olivia
If you like utopia/dystopia novels, this is a great counterpoint to read as it was published way back in 1872 - some ideas are dated, yet some concepts of what would constitute a utopian/dystopian community are the same.
The story part of this book are a breeze to read; it's only the few chapters of 'translated' material and when the narrator tried his hand at philosophizing, aka becoming maudlin, that the reading gets a bit tough. Although there's these few that I like, one of which is: "Nevert
Agustín Fest
Hay muchas cosas de valor en este libro: los valores morales distintos... (las enfermedades como crimen, los arranques de maldad como enfermedad curable) y los capítulos que hablan de las máquinas, de la religión, de la no existencia y finalmente, de los oráculos que convencen de no comer ni carne, ni vegetales.

Tremendo libro.
For a book with such an acute identity crisis (am I a novel? a satire? a philosophical essay? I JUST CAN'T TELL) it had many strokes of pure genius.

Unfortunately I found it hard to get over said identity crisis (and the self-righteous narrator).

Good read, though, and worth going through it again in the future.

Chris Herdt
An important utopian/dystopian novel that, like Gulliver's Travels, critiques the author's contemporary society via a look at a topsy-turvy society, literally on the other side of the world in a New Zealand-ish geography. Features an excellent escape by hot air balloon.
Jul 28, 2007 Jenny rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gluttons for punishment
This was excruciatingly slow-moving and it was all I could do to finish this book. I think if Butler had actually written the book all at once, instead of as installments in his local newspaper in the 1870's it would have flowed better. Oy!
Although difficult to get through some parts, all in all a very good and interesting read. Would love to read it again at some point at my own pace and without reading a million other things at the same time.
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Goodreads Librari...: Please merge these two records 3 23 Jan 23, 2012 06:26PM  
  • News from Nowhere
  • The Coming Race
  • Marius the Epicurean
  • Born in Exile
  • Ormond
  • After London: or, Wild England
  • The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle
  • Castle Richmond
  • The Monastery
  • Some Experiences of an Irish R.M.
  • Hello Summer, Goodbye
  • Albigenses
  • Nightmare Abbey
  • Ascent
  • Pierre et Jean
  • Amelia
  • By the Open Sea
  • The Victorian Chaise Longue
[For the author of Hudibras, see .]

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, a
More about Samuel Butler...

Other Books in the Series

Erewhon (2 books)
  • Erewhon Revisited (Erewhon , #2)
The Way of All Flesh Erewhon Revisited (Erewhon , #2) The Iliad of Homer The Note Books of Samuel Butler Erewhon, Erewhon Revisited

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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.” 5 likes
“I remember one incident which bears upon this part of the treatise. The gentleman who gave it to me had asked to see my tobacco-pipe; he examined it carefully, and when he came to the little protuberance at the bottom of the bowl he seemed much delighted, and exclaimed that it must be rudimentary. I asked him what he meant.

"Sir," he answered, "this organ is identical with the rim at the bottom of a cup; it is but another form of the same function. Its purposes must have been to keep the heat of the pipe from marking the table upon which it rested. You would find, if you were to look up the history of tobacco-pipes, that in early specimens this protuberance was of a different shape to what it is now. It will have been broad at the bottom, and flat, so that while the pipe was being smoked the bowl might rest upon the table without marking it. Use and disuse must have come into play and reduced the function its present rudimentary condition. I should not be surprised, sir," he continued, "if, in the course of time, it were to become modified still farther, and to assume the form of an ornamental leaf or scroll, or even a butterfly, while in some cases, it will become extinct.”
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