In this dystopian novel, Hannah Payne lives in the State of Texas where the government monitors the movement of its citizens, and criminals are punish...moreIn this dystopian novel, Hannah Payne lives in the State of Texas where the government monitors the movement of its citizens, and criminals are punished by altering the color of their skin. Each class of criminal has a color matching their crime, and the Chromes are targets for aggression by hate groups and religious fanatics. Hannah was convicted of having an abortion, illegal in this futuristic world, and her skin color was turned red.
This is a reimagining of The Scarlet Letter where a religious young woman is seduced by her pastor in a time where there is little separation between church and state. The chromed Hannah is living in a very dangerous world which is determined to destroy her. Hannah must use all her inner strength in her attempt to get to a safer place.
This novel was a real pageturner. It was interesting to see Hannah progress from being a shy, sheltered young woman to a more independent, questioning person. Except for a scene with Simone, which seemed out of character with Hannah's emotions and desires in the rest of the book, the plot was well written.(less)
For no known reason, the rotation of the earth began to slow with both the days and nights becoming longer. Gravity became stronger, tides became more...moreFor no known reason, the rotation of the earth began to slow with both the days and nights becoming longer. Gravity became stronger, tides became more extreme, and maganetic fields were disturbed. The story is told through the eyes of a middle-schooler, Julia, who is also dealing with the normal pressures of growing up. In addition to its unusual, inventive premise, the book has wonderful characters that seem very real as they try to cope with the challenges. It takes a special resiliance to keep going when you don't know what the next day will bring. Described in the author's beautiful prose, the earth's creatures and plants are harmed by this new environment,reminding us to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the world we live in. I was a little surprised that there was not more looting and fighting as the crisis went on, especially to obtain food. This story was a quick page-turner that I will be recommending to my friends.(less)
"Community, Identity, Stability"--the World State's motto.
In the satire Brave New World, we read about the utopian/dystopian society of the World Stat...more"Community, Identity, Stability"--the World State's motto.
In the satire Brave New World, we read about the utopian/dystopian society of the World State. Their calendar starts in the year that Henry Ford rolled out the first Model T on the assembly line, and the book is set in 632 A.F.(after Ford). Mass consumerism is encouraged. Nothing is repaired, just replaced, so there is near universal employment.
Children are created in the Central London Hatcheries and Conditioning Center in jars on an assembly line where the proper nutrients are infused at the appropriate times. Multiples with the same genetic attributes are created so there will be the optimum number of people with a specific intelligence to match with specific jobs. The children are conditioned with positive and negative reinforcement, as well as hypnophaedia (listening to recorded messages while sleeping) so they will be content with their place in society.
Religion is replaced by community singery meetings. People do not spend time alone, but have strictly scheduled social activities. Physical satisfaction comes from promiscuous recreational sex where "everyone belongs to everyone else." People are never unhappy because they can just pop a drug "soma", a hallucinogen that is hangover-free.
Bernard and Lenina go on a holiday at a fenced reservation where the descendants of the Anasazi live in New Mexico. They get exposed to a primitive society, and Bernard questions the modern society he lives in. Bernard returns with John (the Savage) and his mother, a woman from the World State who was lost in the reservation years ago while on a trip. John is excited to go to the "brave new world", but cannot adjust once he spends time in the World State. The book deals with the contrasts between primitive society and the modern World State, the role of the individual, and the advantages and disadvantages of feeling strong emotions.
Written in 1932, at a time when assembly line production was being promoted and science was making many advances, the book is an interesting look at where society could be heading. It shows how technology could be used to control society, and the dangers of an overly powerful government. The book illustrates the conflict between the interests of society and of the individual. There's a lot of food for thought in this utopian/dystopian story.(less)
George Orwell saw the oppression of colonialism when he lived in India, and the horror of the Spanish Civil War. Then he...more "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU"
George Orwell saw the oppression of colonialism when he lived in India, and the horror of the Spanish Civil War. Then he witnessed the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin. This inspired him to write Nineteen Eighty-Four about a totalitarian state that uses surveillance, mind control, perpetual war, rationing, persecution of independent thinking, and changes in the records of the past to control the people under its power.
Written in 1948, Orwell's vision of the future in 1984 is an Oceanic police state called Ingsoc which is ruled by Big Brother and the Inner Party. The Outer Party carries out tasks involving propaganda, revising history, creating the language of Newspeak which removes words associated with rebellion and the past, organizing Hate Week, and constant surveillance. The proles are the lowest class who are kept undernourished, uneducated, and do the menial jobs.
Winston Smith, an Outer Party member, works in the Ministry of Truth where his job is to revise history. If the past looks like a time of misery and trouble, then the present time under the Party's control looks like an improvement. When Winston rewrites the past to make the Party always look good, he also totally eliminates troublesome people from the records as if they had never been born (unpersons). If the Party tells the people the revised past over and over again through propaganda, it eventually seems like the truth. A party slogan is, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
A forbidden love relationship develops between Winston and Julia. Julia rebels against the Party for sexual pleasure. Winston is an intellectual, and believes in the freedom of the individual. His thoughts give the reader insight into how the Party establishes control over society. But their rebellions against the Party come with a high personal cost when they are captured by the Thought Police.
Orwell created a disturbing vision of the future, and many of his ideas have been seen in governments both before and after the book was published. He was also concerned about how technology would be used in surveillance of individuals. Orwell was brilliant in analyzing the many ways that the state can manipulate individuals and take away their freedoms. ___________________________________________
I visited the Peabody-Essex Museum in Massachusetts a few years ago. They have a Chinese house from the Mao regime in China. There was a loudspeaker at the house which blared propaganda all day long, and the villagers were not allowed to turn it off. It reminded me of the constant propaganda coming from the telescreens in this book.
Published in 1962, "A Clockwork Orange" is set in the near future England at a time when teenage gangs roamed the streets committing senseless acts of...morePublished in 1962, "A Clockwork Orange" is set in the near future England at a time when teenage gangs roamed the streets committing senseless acts of violence. The teenagers speak in an argot called Nadsat, which is mainly English with some Russian words, Cockney rhyming slang, and Romany, as well as some invented words. If your edition of the book does not contain an appendix with a Nadsat dictionary, print up a copy at wiktionary. The author, Anthony Burgess, was a linguist, and he increases the use of Nadsat as the violence increases.
The book starts with Alex and his droogs (friends) spending a drug-fueled night beating and robbing people. They end up at a home where they beat the husband and gang-rape his wife. Alex reads a paragraph about free choice from the book entitled "A Clockwork Orange" that the husband is writing before destroying the book.
Later in the book, Alex is imprisoned and is chosen for the experimental Ludovico's Technique, a form of psychological conditioning (somewhat based on B F Skinner's work). It modifies his behavior so that even thinking about violence makes him nauseous and sick. This also results in Alex having no way to defend himself.
The book asks the question of whether man is naturally violent and evil (original sin). Is it better to choose evil with free will, rather than be good with no freedom of choice? Alex is no longer acting freely as a human being, but is acting as a mechanical thing. How far should the state go in suppressing an individual for the benefit of the state or community?
I won't go into the plot details and spoil the book. "A Clockwork Orange" is a book filled with horrific violence, but it has a clever dystopian plot and the fascinating Nadsat language. Anthony Burgess wrote twenty-one chapters in the original book published in England, with some sense of redemption but no true remorse, in the last chapter when Alex matures and becomes an adult. The last chapter was left out of the American books until recently, and was also omitted in Stanley Kubrick's dark film in 1971. So it's interesting to read an edition with all twenty-one chapters to see which ending seems more realistic.(less)
"All Animals Are Equal But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others."
This is a chilling look at the creation of a totalitarian state, and the role of p...more"All Animals Are Equal But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others."
This is a chilling look at the creation of a totalitarian state, and the role of propaganda in establishing a state. Parallels can be seen between the major players in the Russian Revolution and the characters in the story. (Farmer Jones=Tsar Nicholas, Old Major=Marx, Napoleon=Stalin, Snowball=Trotsky, Squealer=Government Propaganda, Dogs=KGB)(less)
William Golding's experiences in the Royal Navy during World War II were significant in developing his bleak view of the basic nature of humanity. In...moreWilliam Golding's experiences in the Royal Navy during World War II were significant in developing his bleak view of the basic nature of humanity. In the allegorical Lord of the Flies, a plane carrying mostly upper class British boys crashes on a deserted island, and no adults survive. At first, it looks like an idyllic place to have fun away from adult control. The boys elect charismatic Ralph as their leader, and he tries to organize them in building shelters, gathering fruit and water, and keeping a fire lit as a rescue signal so they can return to civilization. The power-hungry Jack organizes a group to hunt the pigs on the island, which quickly gains savage, tribal overtones with face paint and violence. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, so I won't go into details of the plot.
The books show the conflict between civilization and savagry, between good and evil. There is a spectrum of human behavior on the island as the boys respond to their freedom away from civilization. Ralph has a strong conscience and tries to do what is right for the group. Simon is innately good and civilized. Piggie is intelligent, but is not a leader, and is a target for bullies because of his weight, his poor eyesight, and his asthma. Jack is hungry for power, has a violent nature, and manipulates the younger boys using fear of an imaginary Beast. (This type of manipulation has been used by many political and religious organizations.) Roger is the most violent and enjoys torturing others (a future Hitler or Stalin.) The boys on the island become more and more savage. Civilization is lost and replaced by primitive brutality.
There are many ways of looking at this book. It can be seen as a political statement about the brutality of a dictator taking over a society. Another view is religious with man's loss of innocence, and our innate evil destroying the Garden of Eden. The book can also be seen from a Freudian view with the struggle between the Id (primal instincts and desires), the Ego (conscious rational mind), and the Superego (conscience and morality.) But in all these views, the book is examining the basic nature of human behavior. In Chapter 8, the Lord of the Flies (the sow's head) tells Simon in a vision that the Beast exists within the boys. "Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!....You knew, didn't you? I'm part of you? Close, close, close! I'm the reason why it's no go? Why things are what they are?"
It's ironic that the boys are trying to get rescued by the Navy to get back to civilization. But the Navy is involved in the savage behavior of war, using guns and bombs instead of sharpened sticks. This is a dark, pessimistic book with lots of action, and a good vehicle for discussions. It continues to be very popular in classrooms. (less)