Becky's Reviews > Anthem

Anthem by Ayn Rand
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Oct 19, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: dystopias, classics, science-fiction, 2015, ebook_kindle, politicalish, reviewed, romance-y
Read on December 05, 2015

I should say right up front that I'm not at all familiar with Ayn Rand. I own a couple of her books, but I never read any of them until now. I never studied her in school and I'm not familiar with her philosophies, though I know that they are somewhat controversial and polarizing. And I am not a philosophical type person... so take this review with a grain of salt.

This is my first experience reading any of her work, and... I'm not really all that impressed. I got the lack of individuality theme right around paragraph two or so, when I realized that Equality 7-2521 wasn't literally referring to multiple people when he said "we" but just to himself. And so it wasn't that hard to predict where this was going. Maybe it's because I've read and seen quite a lot of dystopian themed work in my life, but this came across as very predictable to me. In fact, bits of it reminded me of Logan's Run and THX 1138, though I do realize that this was written well before both of those.

So, this society is based on The Borg the collective, and all existence is supposed to be to toil for the good of the whole. There's no explanation of how they got to this point and the population is very small, in the thousands, so I'm thinking that since there's mention of a great fire, there must have been a war or nuclear blast or something, and the survivors rebuilt society in the best way that they knew how... We need some people to clean up, we need some people to figure stuff out and help rebuild, we need some people to grow food, and some people to cook it, and some people to teach the next generation, and so on. But somewhere along the line, the people in power decided they liked it, and that limiting individual thought and convincing people that the whole is the only thing that matters, and any not following the rules would be whipped or killed, allowed them to keep it. Just your standard communist cult.

I don't necessarily think that socialism or collectivism is inherently bad. There are many communities that make it work, but when free will, knowledge, self, and choice are banned, and the collective replaces one's identity and purpose, that can be bad. This book illustrates this extreme form, and at the end once the main character discovers his sense of self, he claims that he will never again use the term "we". I guess I can understand wanting to break away from that concept completely and live truly freely and aware, but it struck me as just as ignorant, because how else will you refer to a group to which you belong by choice? The main character is not ALONE, he's just discovered he is an individual. There's a difference, and that difference matters, because "we" can be a good type of inclusive, and does not necessarily equate to a loss of self.

Rand seemed to have strong opinions on this, and that's cool... I just don't entirely buy into them.

Anyway, I liked that it was journal style, even though it was technically 1st person. It worked though in this case, because for him, there is no concept of a singular person existing just in their own head, so it's like he assumed from the very beginning that his writings would be read by someone else. I liked that he was also learning about himself as he wrote, so it was kind of like he was explaining things to himself and discovering his own thoughts at the same time. But, once he starts reading at the house, and discovers his sense of self, Rand goes a bit wild via this character. He definitely doesn't read like a 21 year old, and definitely not a 21 year old who has only had limited education and has been discouraged from thinking and questioning his whole life. His epiphany reads like a lifelong philosophy scholar coached him. It was a little overwrought at the end.

Still, I didn't HATE it, so I guess that is a plus. It's just one of those books that will eventually just fade to nothingness or blur together with every other dystopia I've read or will read. There's nothing really compelling here. It was just OK.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim I think her books are best read around 20 years old when the fires of idealism burn bright & I didn't have enough life experience to make them slightly ridiculous. She makes some good points in most of her books, but - like every philosopher - beats them to death & takes them to extremes. Her short works are better & her vocabulary is amazing. She never uses a penny word where a $5 one will do & then often doesn't use the primary definition. She sends me to the dictionary more than any other author I know. Wearing, but occasionally fun.


message 2: by Charlie (new)

Charlie Collins Nice review and I agree with Jim. I have Atlas Shrugged on my shelf but the movie bored me so badly that I haven't been able to bring myself to read the book.


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