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Looking Backward: 2000-1887

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  5,038 ratings  ·  631 reviews
Edward Bellamy's classic look at the future has been translated into over twenty languages and is the most widely read novel of its time. A young Boston gentleman is mysteriously transported from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century -- from a world of war and want to one of peace and plenty. This brilliant vision became the blueprint of utopia that stimulated some of ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 1st 2000 by Signet Classics (first published 1888)
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In Bellamy’s Boston in the year 2000, many things have changed from how they were in 1887, and the consensus among the book’s characters is that they have changed for the better. I do not imagine many people would argue the merits of the eradication of poverty and war. But when one looks more closely at gender roles, “utopia” becomes a bit more blurry.

The fact that women have jobs outside the home is exciting and progressive. However, they are still treated as quite secondary to men. Being “infe
Jonathan-David Jackson
As a novel, this book isn't much. That isn't a mark against it, though - the story serves as a light frame to build an explanation of socialism around, and it does that very well.

Looking Backward is the best and clearest way I have ever seen socialism presented (although that is not hard, since I have never seen socialism presented in any light other than a negative one), and in almost every way it seems better than capitalism.

It raises questions in me that I have never had occasion to consider
Debbie Zapata
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gutenberg
This was another Literary Birthday challenge title, and the last one I will be able to complete for March. Edward Bellamy was born on March 26, 1850. This book was published in 1888 and according to the GR author bio was third in popularity behind Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ.

Bellamy takes the Rip Van Winkle idea and cranks it up a few notches. Our hero Julian goes to sleep in Boston one night in 1887 and wakes up in a most unusual place: Boston in the year 2000. The main
Nov 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
As a historic work, this isn't without interest. As a piece of art, it reads more like a lecture from someone who can't stop pontificating. Edward Bellamy was trying to craft ideas for the perfect society, but it is hard to stomach in a post-Freud, post World War-I and -II and post-Soviet Union world. I'll take an anti-utopian novel like 1984 any day.
Jon Nakapalau
A book that has been stranded on the "island of forgotten classics" for far too long. Foreshadowing many of the technological advancements we take for granted this is a look back that will also provide a vantage point for looking forward as we are all caught in the ebb and flow of technoethics and technoetics.
Apr 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Teen and older
This is a great book about a man from 1887 who finds himself in the year 2000. It was actually written in 1887 and the author, Edward Bellamy actually predicts some things such as radio and credit cards. In the year 2000 he finds that all social class differences have been erased and there is a Utopian society. I thought his view of what the year 2000 would be like was fascinating and some of his ideas of how to implement a Utopian society were thought provoking. This is one of my favorite books ...more
Proto-scifi utopian snoozefest Looking Backward was a blockbuster hit in 1887 - according to Wikipedia "the third-largest bestseller of its time, after Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur." This is mystifying because it's basically a boring socialist tract. (For context: I am a socialist. It is frustrating to me that most socialist books suck.)
Does it then really seem to you that human nature is insensible to any motives save fear of want and love of luxury, that you should expect security and equalit
Czarny Pies
Sep 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested American Intellectual History
Recommended to Czarny by: It was required reading for an undergraduate course that I took.
One reads this clunky, sci-fi novel about the socialist paradise that America would supposedly become by the year 2000 so as to retain one important idea. Socialism had many forms before the creation of the 2nd and then the 3rd international.

Americans were open to the Socialism up until the 1950s when the Russians made it quite clear that they considered America to be their number one enemy. In the late nineteenth century, there was no visceral hatred towards socialists who were considered be to
J. Dunn
Man, what a crappy socialist utopia. Americans would figure out how to make a socialist utopia as saccharine and colorless and authoritarian as possible, wouldn't we?

So, I read this out of historical interest, because it was a landmark work in American leftism, sold millions of copies in the 1890's, etc. I kinda wanted to know what got early American leftists excited. Evidently, it was very-thinly-novelized half-informed hectoring about proto-Marxist political economy. He sketched just barely en
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
in the year 2000, humanity will enjoy harmony, happiness and worldwide peace in a universal socialist utopia, and this is how we will fall in love:

"In her face, pity contended in a sort of divine spite against the obstacles which reduced it to impotence. Womanly compassion surely never wore a guise more lovely. Such beauty and such goodness quite melted me, and it seemed that the only fitting response... was just to tell her the truth.... I had no fear that she would be angry. She was too pitifu
Oct 13, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started off hopeful, but ended leaving me wanting more.

This is the story of Julian West, a man from the year 1887 who falls into a trance and wakes up in the year 2000. It basically provides an outline for the makings of a perfect society, which, in the novel, is exactly what is created in the year 2000. Dr. Leete is basically the spokesperson for this new society, which by the way is a very radical version of Socialism. Leete explains to Julian the industrial workforce, and all of the inner-wor
When the popular bookshelves are filled with dystopias as far as the eye can see, sometimes it's nice to try the opposite perspective. And though most utopian works tend to age badly, Bellamy's actually seems to get better with age, because it was both incredibly far-sighted for its time and best of all, still feels like it might just be achievable.

The frame story is mostly for show: our protagonist goes to sleep in 1887 and wakes up in the year 2000 to a completely-changed world. The Industrial
Boy, Bellamy was idealistic.

Of course, I have the advantage of truly "Looking Backward": the year 2000, in which this book takes place, was eighteen years ago. Bellamy's 1887 predictions, therefore, seem utterly implausible and laughably optimistic, although I also offer my opinion that his blueprint for utopia is also horrendously unattractive and restricting.

Even though I have the privilege of living in his future, I don't think a lot of my issues with the book depend on my "futuristic" knowl
Nov 30, 2007 rated it liked it
Forget Nostradamus--Bellamy predicted shopping malls, credit cards and cars in his fictitious time-traveling story written in 1887 and looking forward to the year 2000 ("In the Year the Year Two-ThousAAAAANNNNDDDD!")

While some of his more optimistic and Utopian fantasies aren't realized by modern society and Bellamy's writing drags a bit in places, it's fun and carefree without the bitter aftertaste of 1984 or Brave New World looming over like storm clouds.
Sep 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Mi gramigo* jamesboogie’s review here really captures what I found in Looking Backwards. Well, I did it on audio, so it wasn’t hard, and the narrator made the pontification smooth and educational.
I’d add a couple quick notes:
- Does anybody else think the main character is a weirdo? He sleeps in hidden vault he had built where he is visited evenings by a “mesmerist” so he can sleep. He’s an oblivious one-percenter who keeps a box of gold buried in his bedroom, and he falls in love a week after l
Dean Summers
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi, ideas
Edward Bellamy is a distant relative of a friend of mine. Until my friend sent me a link to a Wikipedia article about Uncle Ed, I’d never heard of him. But I thought I’d take a look at one of his books, which I was to learn was one of the most popular, most influential books of late Nineteenth and early Twentieth-Century America. Indeed, all over America it spawned Bellamy clubs devoted to promoting Edward Bellamy’s social theories.

Looking Backward was written in 1887. By the magic of imaginatio
Really fascinating.
There were some things that I wish we had (like the protection from rain and the work-system) and some things that seemed less desirable, some things that Bellamy got kind of right and some that were really off. While I loved all this information about this possible, what now would be alternative present, this book is basically just info dump and there is very very little story to it, what can make the book feel longer than it is.
Still, for a book that is solely about explorin
Edward Bellamy's socialist utopian novel Looking Backward tells the story of a Boston man who is placed in a mesmeric trance in 1887 and awakens in the year 2000. While he was entranced, the United States and much of the world has undergone major transformations, chiefly in economic and social organization. Most of the book is exposition, as the protagonist, Julian West, learns about the new, improved Boston from his rescuer, Dr. Leete. The Boston of the future is a utopia of organization, equal ...more
Jan 03, 2015 rated it liked it
I started reading Edward Bellamy's classic utopian novel Looking Backward on a three-hour train ride back home. It was night, dark outside, and my eyes flitted from the screen of my e-reader to the dark void outside and back. I like to peer out at the towns the train passes so furtively, reduced by speed, distance and time of day to a few lights strewn across the landscape. When I sit in a train and look outside, I cannot help but turn into the stereotypical dreamy passenger. The reflective surf ...more
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
In college, I took a class on Political Literature--a class designed to expose political and historical thoughts and feelings through literature. This would have been an excellent addition to such a class's curriculum, as I feel it is more political commentary disguised as fiction than it is fiction about politics.

Looking Backward is the story of a man who goes to sleep in 1887 Boston, and wakes up in 2000 Boston. (It is fiction, remember so this kind of jump can happen.) He awakens and learns o
Ericka Clouther
This is not really a book of fiction, as there’s no plot to speak of except showing the protagonist around the future. It’s really just Bellamy’s well-intentioned hope for a future utopia. It’s actually a lot like the StarTrek vision without any technology whatsoever. Of course, unlike Bellamy, we have the benefit of understanding the failure of the centralized Russian economy. We also have the benefit of knowing about the internet in general and specifically. And while Bellamy’s idea ...more
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kobo-on-palm-pre
Looking Backward, while written over 120 years ago, is about what the author envisioned the 21st century could have been like if the USA had embraced Socialist principles. Very popular when it was written (right up there with Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben Hur), it is about a young 19th century upper class white man's surprising re-introduction to society when he wakes up from a 113 year nap at the dawn of the 21st century. Similar to Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" and Woody Allen's Sleeper in ...more
Mary JL
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: those interested in very early sf
Shelves: fiction-classics
I listed this under fiction. It is also considered by some 'science fiction" but actually, there is very little of interest to the sf fan here.

Basically, after 113 years sleeping, our hero wakes up in a future Boston, and the books lectures at length on Bellamy's idea of social and political utopia.

I read it becase of its historical listing as an early attempt at science fiction, and found it very slow moving indeed. Quite dated; quite shallow and lots of economic and political chit chat with ve
Lisa Vegan
May 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sci-fi fans, and others
I read this book many years ago, and what I remember most about it, and one thing I loved about it, was how it made me think about what was most worthwhile in life and what was not. I found the book thought provoking, and it was fun to read also.
Aug 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Julian West was an insomniac. Unable to sleep, he used his wealth to construct a fabulous sound-proof light-proof underground bedroom that only his servant Sawyer knew about. He hired an animal mangetist to put him to sleep with the understanding that he would be awakened by Sawyer in the morning. Unfortunately his house burned down in the middle of the night. No one awakened him. He was safe in the room that no one knew about but was presumed dead. One-hundred and thirteen years later, a man do ...more
Julian West falls into a hypnosis-induced sleep in 1887 and wakes up in the same place (Boston, MA), but in the year 2000. Living in the home now is Dr. Leete and his wife, and their lovely daughter, Edith. As Julian tries to accept his new reality, the Leetes offer their assistance by explaining the changes which have occurred since Julian first went to sleep in the late nineteenth century. The result is a utopian novel written in 1888, well ahead of its time. Bellamy suggests a socialist socie ...more
Jose Moa
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: utopic
This book of 1887 by Edward Bellamy is the other socialist utophy together with News from Nowhere by Morris written in 1990 as a reaction to the book of Bellamy.

There are differences with the book of Morris in the sense that of the Bellamy is more statalist and centralist oriented and the Morris book is more on the side of anarchism,on the other side in the Morris book there is a concern for the stetic,environement ,a love for the nature that there is not in the book of Bellamy and in this the r
Sep 09, 2014 rated it liked it
One may easily, and with just reason, I think, quickly "slough off" Looking Backward as a rather mediocre, banal utopian novel employing a rather kitschy love story. Further, I find that Looking Backward does not satisfy me as a piece of political theory; indeed, Bellamy writes with far too many presumptions and hand-waves in order for Looking Backward to qualify as such. However, I still find Looking Backward a worthwhile read. First of all, and the weaker reason, I think, Looking Backward sold ...more
Feb 28, 2012 rated it liked it
I read this for a class, and while I enjoyed it in that context, I wouldn't recommend it for pleasure reading. It was written in the late 1800s and very popular in its time, but it feels dated now. Really intended as a utopian political piece, Bellamy added a romance to appeal to a wider audience (it felt creepy to me). The main political part of the novel is not as dated--in that Bellamy addresses many issues we are still facing in society today. Bellamy gained many followers after the publicat ...more
That was really quite good, close to giving it 4 stars. I mean it's still just a utopian plan, there is a frame of story and frankly a little more than i felt was necessary but the main parts are just a description of a future socialist utopia. Nothing too groundbreaking or that i havn't read before but delivered with some style.

There's a really good metaphor at the start and many interesting ideas throughout. I'm not sure why this above other utopias causes such reactions as it apparently did,
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SciFiBN: February 2020: Looking Backwards by Edward Bellamy 1 1 Oct 12, 2019 02:41AM  
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Edward Bellamy was an acclaimed American author and Christian socialist.

His novel Looking Backward is a widely regarded work of socialist Utopian fiction and was referenced in many Marxist publications of the time.

When it was first published in 1888, its success was behind that of only Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

It inspired a less successful sequel entitled Equality that

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