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The Wanting Seed

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,616 Ratings  ·  237 Reviews
Tristram Foxe and his wife, Beatrice-Joanna, live in their skyscraper world where official family limitation glorifies homosexuality. Eventually, their world is transformed into a chaos of cannibalistic dining-clubs, fantastic fertility rituals, and wars without anger. It is a novel both extravagantly funny and grimly serious.
Paperback, Norton Paperback Fiction, 288 pages
Published December 17th 1996 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1962)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 13, 2007 Ian rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of 1984, anyone scared of overpopulation, those who distrust the government.
Anthony Burgess is probably best known (at least among Americans) for his novel A Clockwork Orange. Like A Clockwork Orange, The Wanting Seed takes place in a near future society that is in the first stages of decline.

This book is hilarious and contains such things as reprocessing dead humans, promoting homosexual behavior as a way of population control, famine, and fake wars for the benefit of humanity as a whole. These things may not sound funny, but Burgess's language skills shine here, and
Tom Lucas
Jul 03, 2012 Tom Lucas rated it it was amazing
For the most part I like people, even though many of them suck. I am also convinced that the world grows a bit more stupid every day and that we slowly move away from any kind of social evolution. Sure, there's plenty of technological innovation, and dentistry is a far better experience today, but people don't seem to be improving.

We still love screwing each other over, arguing about false issues, and murdering each other. Infrastructures are straining under corruption, graft, and greed. Congres
Mar 22, 2014 Niki rated it did not like it
Shelves: english
I honestly can't tell if this is a rubbish sci-fi novel or brilliant Vogon poetry.
Margo R
Aug 02, 2013 Margo R rated it it was ok
Shelves: library, dystopias, meh
If you enjoy lackluster writing, prejudices from 30 years ago, unrelatable characters, and inexplicable plot twists, then this is the novel for you! If these things annoy you as much as they annoy me, then this is probably not worth reading.

Honestly, the most amusing part of the novel was completely unintentional, because things we take for granted in modern society (Biracial people! Gays! Non-conformity to gender norms! VEGETARIANS!) are the crux of what makes this future world a dystopia. It r
Nov 16, 2012 Eraserhead rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Hilarious and energetic. Comes at you like a psychedelic rock song. I found the story pretty clever but really loved Burgess' sense of apocalypse, as if he transcribed images from Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. I loved Tristram's trek thru degenerating England, the slow sprawl of history, moving from extreme police states on opposite poles of the structure.

Yes, the love story was clumsy, but t served the purpose of showing this world's dichotomy and hypocrisy, his wife leav
Apr 21, 2016 Scott rated it liked it
Shelves: keepers
If you like unbelievable use of Vocabulary you will like Anthony Burgess. And Burgess' novel The Wanting Seed will not let you down in that fashion. Overall the novel is dealing with population control in a futuristic dystopian society. More acute themes deal with desires, sexual, for life, and love. And how one can never give up trying to pursue what they believe in... especially love. The wanting seed is pretty epic as it follows the life of the main character Tristram. The journey reminded me ...more
Ben Sawyer
Jan 09, 2016 Ben Sawyer rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, dystopian
What a peculiar novel - Anthony Burgess certainly has a marvellously wicked mind to come up with premises such as this and that in A Clockwork Orange. It tells the story of how society crumbles around the main characters, Tristam Foxe and Beatrice-Joanna, as overpopulation drives it into anarchical behaviour, cannibalism and chaotic orgies in revolt of the Malthusian world and the government's strict anti-natal policies.
I originally wanted to read this book after seeing it referenced in a revie
Feb 23, 2013 James rated it really liked it
Last month I reread Anthony Burgess's most famous novel, A Clockwork Orange. In it I found new insights into Burgess's creative thought, encouraging me to read more of hisoeuvre. I followed up on that idea with The Wanting Seed, which he wrote immediately following Clockwork. This dystopian novel demonstrates one of his persistent themes, the conflict between 'Augustinian' authoritarianism and 'neo-Pelagian' liberalism. The novel is set in a future similar to A Clockwork Orange, where Burgess pr ...more
Oct 07, 2008 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a sucker for a good 1984-esque book. Also, I adore Burgess and all his linguistics talents. I loved his idea of cyclical history, one that is at least somewhat comforting in the midst of current economic crises. This is a must-read for any Burgess fan.
Tyler Jones
Nov 27, 2014 Tyler Jones rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
Back in the early sixties Anthony Burgess wrote two books of speculative fiction. Both dealt how society would be structured when the increase in population and the decrease in resources had brought us to the breaking point. One of these two books, A Clockwork Orange became one of the most popular books of its time. And rightly so. The other The Wanting Seed has faded into obscurity - again also rightly so in my opinion.

Unlike her brother Orange, Miss Seed tries too hard to please. She tries to
Aug 12, 2011 April rated it did not like it
It came off as too sexist and homophobic for me to enjoy it at all.
Feb 16, 2011 T4ncr3d1 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, inglesi
"Così va il mondo, non puoi far altro che accettarlo: gloglottii coitali e abbandono alla promiscuità, masticazione di tessuti corporei e militaresco inquadramento."

Il problema dei romanzi a tesi, è che se la tesi non ti convince proprio, beh, non puoi nemmeno consolarti con un bel romanzo. E' questo il caso di Il seme inquieto: un romanzo che, lo dico adesso e lo ribadirò più e più volte, fosse solo per dare la misura del mio sgomento, non sembra affatto scritto dalla stessa mano che ha concepi
Oct 28, 2013 Mark rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 31, 2011 Al rated it really liked it
the book was very well written, much like 1984, Fahrenheit and a brave new world at times. it took these novels a bit further though by explaining a bit of history. the main character a history teacher Tristan Foxe explains that there country goes though cycle phases. starting in a society where people believe that everyone is good and punishments are lite because they think people will learn. then the government gets fed up with how people can't be all good and more policing is needed. essentia ...more
Feb 19, 2011 Julie rated it it was ok
I read this about a week or two ago, but it's already fading in my memory.

I guess the basic premise is that the world is overpopulated, so you're limited to how many children you can have. But polite, genteel people don't have any.

Which has a knockoff effect of, if you're gay (particularly male and gay) you advance more quickly in your career, and things like that. So there's a real advantage to pretending to be gay. And the culture has adopted gay dress and mannerisms. And that is really the mo
Mar 16, 2013 Angela rated it liked it
For a while there, I really wasn't sure where this book was going, or why it was worth my time to read it. But, I stayed the course, and I have to admit, I had a hard time putting it down in the final few chapters as the book reached its climax and attempted resolution. The final chapter was pure elegance, and while I don't don't feel it resolved the plot well enough for my taste, I appreciated the power of Burgess' prose.

The problem with reading this book today is quarter-fold. First of all, B
Jacob Anderson
Aug 19, 2014 Jacob Anderson rated it did not like it
It's a good thing I chose to read A Clockwork Orange (my favorite novel) first. Had The Wanting Seed been my introduction to Burgess's work, I'd never feel inclined to approach any of his writing again. It's boring, unfocused, silly, unrealistic, cliched, homophobic, racist and misogynistic. In regard to those latter few complaints, it's true that an author is a product of his or her time period. Great literature may contain offensive themes. This is not great literature, though. The characters ...more
Dec 10, 2012 Mel rated it really liked it
I have to say the original "dystopia" sounded totally Utopian to me. In the world, homosexuality was encouraged, breeding was discouraged, race was something that was ignored and everyone had enough to eat, there was no war, no military, no religion, there was a liberal government that seemed half way between communism and anarchy. Of course the homophobic main characters didn't get a lot of sympathy from me, but I loved the setting. Of course things didn't stay that way as society was changing, ...more
Shayna L
Nov 16, 2011 Shayna L rated it liked it
This is very much a future dystopia novel. It takes place in what was once the UK and follows the lives of a married couple, Tristram and Beatrice-Joanna. They are heterosexual couple living in a world where homosexuality and castration are heavily encouraged in order to curb the out of control world population. Breeding is shunned, a social faux pas. As poor crops and government law begin to come down on the people, they change to answer in strange and frightening ways.
It's an interesting take
Apr 29, 2008 J rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
Orwell meet Burgess, Burgess meet Orwell. Do I say it? The Wanting Seed is an Orwellian imagining of a future wherein the earth is so taxed by overpopulation that homosexuality is encouraged and is necessary to achieve promotion in society. Food is rationed, families may have only one child, if any, media is controlled. All of this negation of fecundity is creating a backlash - crops are failing, animals are dying. Soon jackbooted thugs are patrolling the streets. People are drafted into a milit ...more
Jun 09, 2008 Jillian rated it it was amazing
Burgess has created a dystopia in which it's a sin to have sisters, a crime to have children, and a large ancestry can cost you your job. The story opens with Beatrice-Joanna Foxe receiving her "consolation" gift following the death of her infant son. She seeks solace in her brother-in-law Derek Foxe, whose career has grown thanks to his willingness to act gay. As spies and Beatrice-Joanna's husband learn of Derek's indiscretion, she is forced to head off to the Northern Provinces, where totalit ...more
Hannah Powell
Feb 03, 2015 Hannah Powell rated it really liked it
Amazing book; thought provoking and disturbing (obviously, Anthony Burgess). However, it demonized the hell out of homosexuality and spit a mad ton of heteronormative nonsense. So... recommended with a disclaimer.
Gerald Emerald
Mar 15, 2011 Gerald Emerald rated it it was ok
Mildly offensive (homophobic) with an air of hysteria. The lament for traditional gender roles leaves me particularly cold.

The style is visual and emotional and enriches the text to the extent that the author's failure to anticipate technological advances (a general feature of quality dystopian fiction) in, for example, controlling reproduction and surveillance, is mostly unnoticed.

The novel is clearly demarcated into three parts (the urban, rural and military experiences of the protagonist) whi
Jul 29, 2011 Nicole added it
This book offers a great story and a less discreet parody of society. It is highly critical of government interference, and more importantly those people who rise in government. It is a lighter Brave New World. On the face, it is a malthusian comedy as the back cover will suggest, but really it's that circle of societal affects that becomes apparent in dystopian novels. Our hero is unhappy but achieves in the society, and on some level whether an epiphany or something bad happens, he demonstrate ...more
Mar 10, 2013 Shruts rated it really liked it
After seeing and reading A Clockwork Orange over 40 years ago, I burned through, and loved, every one of Anthony Burgess's novels that I could get my hands on. His use of satire on timely topical themes really connected. Civil Violence. The Cold War. Overpopulation. Government as Big Brother.

I devoured this novel then, and grabbed it at B&N when I spied it by chance last week.

In the rear view mirror, this novel truly does stand the test of time, largely because the central theme of governm
Feb 23, 2016 Jen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite, must-read
This book is made for people who like weird comedies. This author wrote A Clockwork Orange, so be prepared for a foray into strangetown. I think this book is a very interesting look at today's society. The futuristic society in the novel is a complete 180 of what we have right now and it really puts priorities into perspective. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading about love, loss, government corruption, starvation, and cannibalism. All told in an upbeat and cheerful manner.

This book i
Sep 24, 2015 Shari rated it really liked it
Burgess, the master of post-apocalyptic fiction, man at the edge of sanity, and managing to do it with exquisite irony and bald satire -- sort of an "I dare you to disagree with the possibilities here" feel to it. For one who was an adolescent during the Cold War of the '50's when the threats of supreme annihilation were the order of the day; a time that was overcast with the greyness of a dolorous and unpredictable future, this book managed to raise all those fearful and tentative feelings of w ...more
Jun 17, 2007 Blanca rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of dsytopian fiction
Shelves: fiction
Reminiscent of Children of Men, this novel takes place in the not-so-distant future and the messy man/woman relationship necessary to procreate has been eradicated.

The last couple left in love is in hiding because one is a high-ranking officer who should be above an emotional relationship with a woman. And she's married to his brother.

I was surprised I had never heard of this book before. Burgess is a treasure beyond Clockwork Orange.
Oct 27, 2007 Terri rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
I love this book. I haven't read Clockwork Orange, but I have read many of Anthony Burgess' other books and this is by far my favorite. The story is set in an extremely overpopulated future. Fascinating plot, intriguing ideas, plenty of social commentary and Burgess' signature use of made up words. Starts a little slow (as most of his books do) but once you get into it you won't be able to put it down. Definitely leaves you thinking when you finish it.
Oct 10, 2015 Rob rated it really liked it
I love Burgess, and so keep that in mind. This is a wonderful dystopian satire, Swiftian in its acidity and riotous in its humor. In the near future there are no wars and the government decides all. Birth control is in, fertility is out. Burgess makes fun of bureaucratic advancement, the class system, the war of the sexes among other things. Elsewhere it has been written that he has a 50's sensibility about homosexuality in this book. I believe that is making the cardinal mistake of attributing ...more
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Anthony Burgess was a British novelist, critic and composer. He was also a librettist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, travel writer, broadcaster, translator, linguist and educationalist. Born in Manchester, he lived for long periods in Southeast Asia, the USA and Mediterranean Europe as well as in England. His fiction includes the Malayan trilogy (The Long Day Wanes) on the dying days o ...more
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