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(Erewhon #1)

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  3,227 ratings  ·  294 reviews
In this novel, Butler satirically describes a utopian society, using the civilization of 'Erewhon' ('nowhere,' scrambled) to satirize beliefs popular in the England of his day. Butler wrote a sequel to the novel, Erewhon Revisited.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 13th 2000 (first published 1872)
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"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
Mar 02, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
MJ Nicholls
As an adventure narrative, Erewhon is a squib of the damp kind. As a satirical dystopia mocking the hypocrises of Victorian England, Erewhon is a squib of the damp kind. As a slice of narrative entertainment, Erewhon is a squib of the damp kind. As an exploration of a la mode science, encompassing automation, vegetarianism, education, breeding, and the criminal system, Erewhonis a squib of the damp kind. All round, in conclusion, you have to say, my fine haters and lovers, that Erewhon is a damp ...more
Douglas Summers-Stay
May 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 of these chapters-- machines evolving through natural and artificial selection into a kind of artificial life, reproducin ...more
Despite a truly impressive level of irony throughout, ‘Erewhon’ takes a lot more effort to read than I expected for such a short book. There are several reasons for this, the most important being the deeply annoying narrator. While he is almost certainly meant to be annoying, this fact in no way detracts from the overall annoyance. Seventy pages pass before he even gets to the mysterious lost civilisation of Erewhon, during which time the reader gets mighty tired of Victorian colonialist attitud ...more
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 04, 2010 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
Love of Hopeless Causes
Aug 20, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Does not respect the reader's time. Dude looks for better land. Now you can skip to Chapter Four. It's about the half-hour mark on audiobooks which contain the first two prefaces such as the Librivox recording. I'm abandoning it here, since I sense this will not rate more than a three star review, even if I complete it--since it's some chunky caramel essays wrapped in a thin layer of plot.
Dec 17, 2019 rated it liked it
After much polite side-stepping despite comically running into this book in several other works I read in this past year, I finally sat down and finished it. It's a relatively short novel and by no means a literary masterpiece; It's not difficult to get through in one or two sittings. I'm not sure if being aware of the context and implications that Fisher, Deleuze-Guattari, Latour and many more offer for this book is a good thing before going into it, but there was nothing I could do about that. ...more
Oct 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Tommy Carlson
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 21, 2007 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
Jul 25, 2015 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
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Dylan McIntosh
Jun 01, 2011 rated it liked it
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
James Tingle
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

(Note- I read the paperback edition and wrongly clicked on the kindle one.)
This is an interesting read and is certainly also quite an unusual one in many ways. It starts off as a gentle adventure, goes pretty philosophical for most of it, and ends in a light adventure style once again. I enjoyed the early parts of the book, which feel like they are easing you in, but you know that it's shortly going to get very different, and it certainly does...I would say it is a satirical, philosophical, fan
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Congratulations to me on having finished 601 out of the "1001 Books You Must Read..." (first edition).

Butler's "Erewhon" adds to the tradition of Utopian fiction and imaginary travel - Thomas More and "Gulliver's Travels" being the most obvious antecedents but Bulwer-Lytton's "The Coming Race" has just been published at the same time, and as both were initially anonymous, it was assumed they were by the same author. The trope of stumbling upon an unknown civilization during the exploration of un
Kim Wong
Dec 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 50-50-2014, fiction
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
Jul 29, 2011 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
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The awakened conscience of an individual will often lead him to do things in haste that he had better have left undone, but the conscience of a nation awakened by a respectable old gentleman who has an unseen power up his sleeve will pave hell with a vengeance."

What began as a series of satiric articles entitled "Darwin Among the Machines" under the pseudonym Cellarius in 1863 became the novel Erewhon at the behest of one of Bulter's friends. The result is an interesting mixture of travelogue a
David Bennatan
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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 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
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I’m not entirely sure how this ended up on my to-read list but it did. It’s a 19th century Victorian satire that was sometimes hard to follow due to my lack of full understanding of the Victorian era. What I liked least of all was that it wasn’t a novel or an essay but a strange mashing together of the two. I wanted to get through the essay parts quickly in order to get back to the more intriguing storyline, but when the book was concluded, I found that the story was really just a loose string o ...more
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a surprisingly difficult book to plow through. The satire of Victorian society mostly did not resonate with me, and there were long, dry and dense discourses on machines, the rights of animals, the rights of vegetables, etc. The thin veneer of adventure and "romance" didn't help a whole lot. I did find Kingley Amis' comments in the "afterword" to be most illuminating and clarifying.
Nov 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british, politics
Funny and biting satire that successfully lampoons much that is arbitrary about our own society as well as caricaturing ideas that identify beauty with good, criminality with illness, technology with evil. Successfully predicts the invention of autopilot too.
John Anthony
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
I hate giving up on a book but after reading half of this I can't take any more.

Fantasy is fine but this doesn't work for me. It reminds me of a Victorianised Gullivers Travels.

Perhaps it's very clever, funny stuff. If so, it's lost on me.
Steve Joyce
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Samuel Butler has proven to me that he can write.

There wasn’t really any time that I didn’t want to keep turning the pages of Erewhon. This as he transitioned from discovering a Lost World, to his satire on society (via a first glance Utopia / second glance Anti Utopia), to his personal dealings and ultimately to his risky (and at the time futuristic) balloon escape from this odd place.

Erewhon is possessed of High Concept.

Yet something gnawed at me while reading it. I couldn’t quite put my fing
Oscar van der Beek
An entertaining and thought-provoking satire, that at times waxes prophetic on our own time, Erewhon none-the-less suffers from a degree of tonal whiplash.
The first 50 pages read more like a classic New Zealand exploration yarn, describing the (thinly veiled) New Zealand wilderness that the protagonist traverses. While very potently written, the reader may be misled into thinking that the rest of the novel will continue on similar lines.
Once the writer finds himself in the country of Erewhon the
Pattranit Kongsaenkam
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dystopia, fantasy
a bit confusing but I like it
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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

Other books in the series

Erewhon (2 books)
  • Erewhon Revisited (Erewhon , #2)

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