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Looking Backward

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  4,638 ratings  ·  577 reviews
Set in Boston on December 26, 2000, but written before the turn of the nineteenth century, this classic Utopian novel is more significant and relevant than ever with its reappearance this millennium. Addressing moral and material concerns of late nineteenth century industrial America through romantic narrative, Bellamy suggests a fictionalized society in which war, poverty ...more
Paperback, 220 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Applewood Books (first published 1888)
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Average rating 3.27  · 
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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
Debbie Zapata
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jon(athan) 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.
Nov 21, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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
Apr 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dean Summers
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 12, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Sep 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I recently read Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backwards. The novel’s main character is someone from the year 1887, who awakens in in the year 2000 and tries to make sense of what he finds. He marvels at how, in the twenty-first century, all varieties of music are available at a touch of a button. The credit card has replaced money. Shopping requires only choosing what one likes before it is automatically delivered, often the same day. The novel provides a rich description of life at the dawn of the t ...more
This might be the dumbest book I’ve ever read. I respect and understand what Bellamy was trying to do, but for mercy of the reader, don’t try to deliver something like this in a fictional setting if you’re not going to bother making your characters anything more than endlessly chattering names without agency or thought or reflection or personality, who only recite the philosophy of the writer. And don't make it fiction if you don’t have a plot or a story or action or development of some basic a ...more
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
With books one can never go wrong. Whether one is reading or writing, his views will always remain true on paper. Of course one will receive criticisms from various quarters. That alone does not make the writer's view wrong. On the other hand, a person who insists on passing his ideas orally has no audience. All people can do is listen and if they do not agree with what the speaker says they shut it out. 'Looking Backward' was written by Edward Bellamy in the nineteenth century. In it he express ...more
"Thou shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold"
I guess first of all I have to say that when I read someone's book I feel as though I am having the most intimate conversation with that person. I know them and sometime I feel like we are close friends, as in this case. Bellamy is tight in his execution of applying what the socialist ideals could produce in a future society. Since he is such a good writer, I am simply going to list all my favorite quotes and how I see them.
" Even if he felt he
Susan Marie
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Looking Backward" is a fantastic work of utopian literature. Bellamy's purpose was to educate the 19th century audience about the pitfalls of current social and economic systems in place. Bellamy uses a fictional 20th century audience to present his work not as a book of fiction, but as a map, a historical document, so people are able to improve society. Coming from a Nationalistic point of view bordering on Communism, Bellamy manages to present clear cut Utopian themes that will blow your mind ...more
Sansriti Tripathi
fascinating premise, incredibly boring in its execution.
Feb 16, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Could a socialist utopia be less appealing? Get your News from Nowhere instead.
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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 was more of a political tract t
“Human history, like all great movements, was cyclical, and returned to the point of beginning. The idea of indefinite progress in a right line was a chimera of the imagination, with no analogue in nature. The parabola of a comet was perhaps a yet better illustration of the career of humanity. Tending upward and sunward from the aphelion of barbarism, the race attained the perihelion of civilization only to plunge downward once more to its nether goal in the regions of chaos.” 19 likes
“Is a man satisfied, merely because he is perfumed himself, to mingle with a malodorous crowd?” 10 likes
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