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The Wanting Seed

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  6,067 ratings  ·  360 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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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,067 ratings  ·  360 reviews

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Tom Lucas
May 16, 2012 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 26, 2013 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. ...more
Sep 13, 2007 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
Aug 13, 2008 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 linguistic 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.
Mars R
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: meh, library, dystopias
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
Sep 07, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: fiction, dystopia, 20-ce, uk
A dystopic satire set in a future in which an overbearing government tries to deal with horrendous population growth. The government obsesses about whether it can feed the vast population. As a means of doing so doctor's hasten the deaths of the sick whose corpses are turned into fertilizer. As until recently in China, fertile couples are allowed only one child. London has grown so wildly that it has reached its south and east-most shores. It can only grow north and west now. Soon it will swallo ...more
Oct 26, 2007 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. ...more
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 27, 2011 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
Apr 29, 2008 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
aPriL does feral sometimes
‘The Wanting Seed’ by Anthony Burgess is a disguised religious novel by an intellectual who may or may not still have been a Bible believer, but he most certainly retained gender prejudices and a blinkered social paradigm only someone raised in the Catholic Church would have. I think Burgess’s mind was trapped inside a Christian Catholic-themed box with a set number of rigid philosophies. Reading his novels is like living in a world with only two choices possible for every question of self, civi ...more
Jan 01, 2012 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
Sep 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Wanting Seed is a great read. Part societal study and certainly a criticism of British society. Anthony Burgess ask what happens to British society if the population overwhelms food supplies. This has been called a comedy, but I am not sure I agree. It is certainly satire, but not so sure it is funny. He certainly lampoons the upper crust and social climbers along with British stoicism, yet it is wrapped in tragedy.

The Wanting Seed watches the death of government, but not of a people and ho
tortoise dreams
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Upon (short) reflection, this story is more complex than it seemed on reading. The two main themes are a malthusian nightmare that leads to food shortages & odd societal responses, & the the strands of history that guide the apparently unguidable. Must note that The Wanting Seed is not for those who insist on political correctness in their books, who can't deal with the rough & tumble of the "real" world. This is not for those who insist that a writer from the early Sixties write as if he was wr ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Well .... I'll be Damned.
This was Disturbing, weird, darkly humorous and GOOD ! Hell !! people are getting canned and eaten cause it would be such a waste otherwise !!!!! who am I kidding I loved this shit XD
It's really entertaining. It's got that 1984 feel to it, with a bit more WTF factor.
The language in here is not so strange as much as it was sort of hard. I found myself reaching for the dictionary more than once.
I HATED the characters. Non of them deserved any kind of sympathy specially t
Kristen Pesta
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this. Video review to come!
James Henderson
Feb 23, 2013 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 his oeuvre. 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 p ...more
May 25, 2008 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
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Required reading in high school, however, I absolutely loved this novel. The Wanting Seed is THE reason I began reading books like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. I loved the setting of the novel, and how terrifyingly realistic it was.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone, and I would recommend Anthony Burgess' other works as well.
Jul 24, 2011 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
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 06, 2011 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
Jacob Anderson
Jul 20, 2014 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
Apr 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia
Cannibalism. Sexism. Homosexuality. Totalitarian regime. Religion. How is all this connected, you may ask? All these notions are combined in this novel by the famous author of A Clockwork Orange.

The Wanting Seed (1962) is a dystopian novel about an overpopulated world where a special organization is controlling child birth and does nothing to ensure that newborns stay alive. The story is told from two points of view:
- Tristram - a plodding but conscientious history teacher
- Beatrice-Joanna - hi
May 25, 2007 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
May 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
In many ways this is a companion piece to A Clockwork Orange but without the vitality. It can’t quite decide if it wants to be a comedy or a Swiftian satire. Consequently it fails at both.
Dec 31, 2012 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
Shayna L
Nov 16, 2011 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
Nov 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: favorites
mind you - & at once this sounds like the opening for Tin Drum - but i have just finished the book & it's fresh in my mind. there's been a slew of negative reviews ~ right here on Goodreads ~ saying this is dated & non-PC, & apparently not seen for the sci-fi satire it is.

2) II 'Mind You;' as i have a 99 IQ, Asperger's & may not have 'gotten' that it is *indeed* dated & hateful, but welcome to All Things British - even old Ireland isn't spared! but, yes: read: browse, if you enjoy brief, what-i
Gerald Emerald
Mar 15, 2011 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
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Dystopian Society: September Classic Read #1 1 17 Sep 02, 2017 06:49AM  

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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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 Eng

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