Book Review: We

We is a classic, essentially being the founding father of dystopia and directly inspiring some of the most famous books of the genre. Yevgeny Zamyatin’s masterpiece is definitely thought-provoking, and I can clearly see why it has wide appeal. However, I found the book hard to read, in the same way that I found 1984 hard to read. I just wasn’t a fan of the way it was written I think.

The novel is set in ‘OneState’, many years in the future. OneState controls every aspect of its citizens, or Number’s, lives. Everything is meticulously times, creativity is stifled and science reigns supreme. Yet beneath this perfect exterior, discontent has begun to foment.

The best part of the book is definitely the themes within it. It explores love, logic, beauty, creativity, the nature of the human soul and mind, the meaning of life and more. This exploration is one of the fullest I’ve experienced in a long time, and left me feeling like I have only scratched the surface of what’s on offer.

The imagery was also excellent. Its vividity made conjuring mental images easy, and the nature of some of the figurative language fit perfectly into the world that had been created. These descriptions helped to make the book more interesting, although they also made the flow worse. The descriptions also helped me to identify with the main character, D-503, since they were told from his perspective as the novel is in first person.

However, I didn’t like D-503 very much. It was clear that he was a character in turmoil, but I found him to be quite whiny. Yet it seemed clear to me that he had a distinct personality, and was well written. The same cannot be said for the rest of the characters. Most felt more like placeholders to embody certain themes than autonomous agents. I found it hard to connect with them, as we often knew very little about there motivations or feelings.

Some classics I’ve read in the past are still very readable despite their age. I did not find We fell into this category. I didn’t find that the plot or the language gripped me, and kept me hooked, but I can’t say why. Overall, the book felt like it should be really good, but it just didn’t do it for me. Therefore, I’ll give it 5 out of 7, although I wouldn’t personally recommend the book to someone looking to get into dystopia.

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