Long before Katniss became a household name, I was passionately poring over dystopian fiction — it’s been around a long time, after all…long enough that a pioneer in the sub-genre painted a future assigned to a date that is almost three decades passed. Sadly (and I wanted to be pleased by it, I did), I was disappointed when I finally read this George Orwell “classic.”
1984 is the wartime novel which spawned the overused coinage, “Big Brother,” and so unsurprisingly, much of the text centres on surveillance, mass manipulation and mind games. The narrative follows the protagonist’s journey — from participating in writing and re-writing propaganda for distribution to his pursuit of writing his own history very differently from what has been prescribed.
While I respect Orwell’s foresight, imagery, and poignant analogies, I never looked forward to reading more of this book. That was a bad sign. Respecting an author but not enjoying their work. I found what was initially mysterious and mildly suspenseful became slow and tiresome.
It didn’t help that I found so many of the key tenets of the attempted utopia so flawed (I am not convinced that abstinence and submissiveness are so intrinsically connected, quite the opposite, actually), and consequently felt the crux of the character’s development and greater story would serve better as moot for a debate I was negating than a theme in speculative fiction.
In many other author dystopias, I can see how facets of our current society, if allowed to thrive, could persuade us to initially welcome what would become an oppressive nightmare — I’ve always been drawn to dystopia because I felt it presented the more plausible science fiction; the probable skeletons of future closets. 1984 had the potential to do this (the inception of “Big Brother” is utter brilliance), but it failed to strike the chord I am so fond of in this sub-genre — that moment that I shudder and think one of the following: “I can see how this would seem appealing,” (Matched, Uglies, and The Giver) OR “I can imagine us ending up this way” (Fahrenheit 451, The Children of Men, Left Behind, The House of the Scorpion and Delirium) OR “This is so darn entertaining I will suspend my disbelief,” (The Hunger Games, The Host, Pure and Divergent); 1984 didn’t quite achieve any of these for me.
If you are fond of dypstopia, this book is a worthy exploration — if only to acquaint yourself with a common source for so many other works.
2.5 / 5