Review: 1984

War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.

1984 is quite a novel. In a nutshell, it’s the story of a dystopian society in which an overbearing totalitarian government controls just about everything by way of controlling the present, rewriting the past, and squelching any opposition.

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

In a nutshell, it’s a story in 3 parts.

In the first, we learn about the society in which our protagonist lives. In a few ways, it’s just close enough to reality to really sting. We’re nowhere near that level of government control, but the idea of what we read being manipulated to control the world are … creepily prescient.

In the second, our main character finds himself a co-conspirator, has lots of sex, and finds there there are in fact fellow revolutionaries*! This is probably the weakest section of the book, since we get a book within a book, detailing how the government took power and… it’s a really dry pointless read. That could totally be cut, in my opinion, withing changing anything.

In the third part, the government wins. Torture and re-education ensues and terrible things happen. It’s not your usual ending, but it fits.

Overall, it’s a fascinating read and I really do see why it’s on a lot of high school reading lists, although I probably wouldn’t make people read it (or most things) rather than letting them come to it on their own. It’s certainly a bit heavy handed at times and (as mentioned) you could cut large swathes, but I still found it worth the read.

Random bit I found interesting:

“How many fingers, Winston?”

“Four! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!”

“How many fingers, Winston?”

“Five! Five! Five!”

“No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?”

“Four! Five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!”

I watched Star Trek long before I read this book. Seeing this scene, almost certainly the inspiration for Chain of Command (from the Next Generation, season 6, episodes 10 and 11) was somewhat bizarre out of order. Fascinating though.