This is one of those books that I knew I'd put off reviewing. When a book is classic, or popular, or iconic.. you just know you'll never find anything original to say that hasn't already been said, or that'll do the book justice.We
is set in a future utopian paradise, The One State, ruled by their glorious Benefactor. Everyone is a number, not a person, the emphasis is on cohesion, not individuality. Happiness has been reduced to an equation, but as such it it is solved, plug in the numbers and all citizens can live happy, well regulated lives. All wake at the same time each day in their transparent houses, dress the same, chew their food 50 times, go to their assigned work, and on their assigned day they get to draw the shades for 1 hour exactly for conjugal relations with their registered partner (sexual requirments calculated for each number based on their hormonal readings of course).
D-503 is the 'author' of the novel. He is the architect of the Integral, the space ship which was commissioned to take the expansion of their One State into space. All numbers have been called upon to write poetry and prose to extol the virtues of the One State to any alien species. D-503 is no poet, but a mathemetician, so he chooses to write a sort of diary, a collection of his daily thoughts on the one state, explanations of things which he believes uncivilised readers may not have the benefit of... and then as it progresses and he meets the inexplicably fascinating and frustrating I-330, who is not like other numbers.. She angers D, but he obsesses over her. She takes him beyond the Green Wall to the ancient house, where artifacts exist from the uncivilised time before the One State, and things begin to change for D.. well. I'll try for no spoilers here :)
D-503 is a very interesting narrator to have. He begins so innocently content with everything, and despite being no poet, the way he writes certain things when he is truly exstatic is almost psychadelic in it's poetry. At times he is frustratingly unaware for a protagonist, never quite being in the right place at the right time, and always one step behind the plot, reading through his thoughts I felt just as confounded as he was by I-330, by the secrets at the ancient house, by the disease of having a soul.
I can see clearly how this was the inspiration for 1984, there are many parallels between the two. The utopian communist style government. Their insular society, that is unaware of anything of interest outside of their walls. Then there is the Great Benefactor, who for the most part of the book is never seen, but comes across like a mysterious G-d (but of course he has to be a real person, but we never really know anything about him).
The book left various things unexplained and open. I wanted to know more about what was beyond the wall, about how the One State came to be, about who the benefactor was, and most of all how we come to read D-330's diary after what unfolds in the book. But the open-ness sort of leaves room for hope and it's good to imagine the various options for myself, it's not so much disappointing as it is frustrating.
But it's definately a brilliant novel, definately worth 5 stars, possibly worth a favourite. If you love dystopian fiction, and love to have the fear of tyrannical governments struck into you, then read it!