Tag: Nineteen Eighty-Four

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Posted October 17, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia / 0 Comments

The Circle by Dave EggersTitle: The Circle (Goodreads)
Author: Dave Eggers
Published: Hamish Hamilton, 2013
Pages: 491
Genres: Dystopia
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

If Facebook and Google were to get married, The Circle would be their direct result of their procreation. The Circle takes the social aspects (and lack of privacy) of Facebook and combines it with the innovation of Google to create a dominant social media platform. Their success was a result of TruYou, a tool that requires people to use their real identity to sign up (including their social security number making it impossible for anyone outside of the US to sign up), many web based companies jumped on board with this innovation, wanting direct access to real data. The effect of TruYou saw the end of internet trolling, identity theft and so much more.

Mae Holland is a woman in her early 20’s that has just landed a job with the Circle thanks to her friend Annie. While she has to start in Customer Experience, a place well below her qualifications the idea of working at the Circle was enough for her. The offices (or campus) of the Circle mimic that of Google, and Mae founds that this is the place to work; everyone is friendly and she will be on the fast track to a promotion in no time. However the Circle; while it demands transparency (hiding nothing from the public) in everything they do, their attempt to close the circle (their mission statement) will result in complete control over everything. Secrets Are Lies, Privacy Is Theft.

Let’s face it, Dave Eggers’ The Circle is less of a social satire and more a horrifying prophecy of the direction social media is going. They days where people can be a curator of their lives online are fast ending and every part of our lives will be accessible. This may have some positive effects in life but when one company or person has too much power, human rights tend to take a back seat. Do people see this? Are they aware just how much of their information is being shared or sold? The Circle forces the readers to ask these questions and take a deeper look what is happening online.

The Circle serves more as a motif; even a homage to Dante if you will. Dave Eggers is the Virgil of this story and both Mae and the readers travel deeper into the circles of hell. Mae learns just much of a tyrant the Circle is, while the reader has a look at social media. While I see this as a homage to Inferno, this totalitarian nightmare is obviously influenced by Nineteen Eighty-Four (as most dystopian novel are) more than anything else. Eggers, like Orwell wants to look at society and see the direction we are heading.

The Circle is headed by the “Three Wise Men” each of them with their own ideas for the direction of the company. These three men seem to be modelled after real life innovators; Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Julian Assange. I’m not going to go into the effects three big personalities would have on a company, but I’m sure you can imagine. I’m not going to go too much further into the plot or themes but with a company slogan like “All that happens must be known”, I probably don’t need to spell it out.

This is my first Dave Eggers novel and I’ve often heard that this is one of his weaker novels, however I think this was a perfect place to start for me. I found this dystopian satire to be directly influenced by the works of Jonathan Swift and George Orwell. I have no idea what Eggers other novels are like but I’m convinced to read more; even if they are not social satires. I loved how he incorporated pop-culture into the novel but I worry that this will mean it won’t age well, so you might want to pick this one up soon.

I have been reading novels that critique society but the majority have been classics, so it is nice to step into a modern day setting and see how the age of high-tech innovation and technoconsumerism could be harmful. I see some mixed reactions to this novel and I can understand that, my only hope is that people are understanding satire and are not marking it down for that. Of course I am a big fan of satire and will always be preaching about its value within literature. I found The Circle to be a very impressive novel and it did a great job at critiquing society, I hope people will give it a chance but I suspect this book will be a popular pick. I would like to do this one as part of a book club.


Dystopian Fiction; A Brief History

Posted September 12, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia, Literature / 0 Comments

This post was originally a guest post that appeared on blahblahblahtoby; big thanks to Toby for allowing me to get involved in his Dystopian fortnight and for letting me share this post with my readers too.

Dystopian fiction has been around for a long time; interesting enough, it was an offshoot of utopian fiction which started growing in popularity in the 1900’s. I’m a little surprised that utopian fiction seemed to be the predominate genre but if you look at the history of dystopian literature you can see why. The spikes in popularity seems to have started from the lead up to the world war two and the cold war and then as a result of 9/11 and the war on terror. Escapist fiction; as a way to substitute the problems with the world with a more nightmarish world.

I thought it might be nice to have a quick look at the genre over time and highlight some essential reads (which stick out to me) for people that haven’t experienced all the joys of this genre. While there were dystopian novels before my first choice, I thought I would start with the one book that may be called the first purely dystopian novel.

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921)

A highly influential novel based on the authors experience of the two Russian revolutions (1905 and 1917) and the First World War.  While this book is considered to be an influence for Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) or even Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano (1952), it’s one book that is unfortunately often overlooked.

 
 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Huxley refers to this book a “negative utopia” and looks at the idea of the government making a world so perfect and controlled that it really has the opposite effect; or does it? Are you really unhappy if you don’t know you are unhappy?

 
 
 

 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)

No dystopian list would be complete without this novel; actually these three novels could make up the definitive influences of every dystopian novel to follow. Big Brother is watching.  Orwell writes a satirical novel of what he sees as the dangers of totalitarianism.

 
 
 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

It’s a pleasure to burn; this novel looks at book burning, mass media censorship and the importance of books. Fahrenheit 451 is set in an unspecified time in a hedonistic anti-intellectual America.

 
 
 
 

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957)

Set in the not too distant future this brick of a book has a look at the disappearance of innovators and industrialists and a collapsing economy. I’m not going to lie, I’ve not read this book but I couldn’t give a list of essential dystopian novels without this book.

 
 
 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)

In a culture of extreme youth rebellion and violence, how can the government gain back control? Mind control and the removal of free will seems like a good idea, right?

 
 
 
 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

In this dystopian novel Atwood takes a look at a totalitarian society and the issue of woman’s rights within it. While I thought this was more like a social critique than a novel, it is still an essential read.

 
 
 
 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)

Sheltered from the outside world these children were brought up to believe they are special and need to be protected, but they are only protected from the truth. This is more a book of love and friendship set in a dystopian environment.

 
 
 

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (2010)

Super Sad True Love Story is a novel set in a very near future—oh; let’s say next Tuesday—where the world is dominated by Media and Retail. The story is centred on a thirty nine year old Russian immigrant, Lenny, and what could likely be the world’s last diary. The object of his affection, Eunice,  has her side of the story told by a collection of e-mail correspondences on her “GlobalTeens” account.

If you look at this list you can see the changing of the dystopian genre; what started as satirical looks at the fears of the world gradually changed to lighter stories of love and friendships. This brings me to the rising popularity of Young Adult Dystopian fiction. This seems to deal less with the social aspects made famous in dystopian fiction and more about friendships and endless love triangles. The lack of freedom, obsessive governments or biological issues have been replaced with post-apocalyptic romances. Not that there is a problem with this new wave of dystopian fiction (I’ve read a few good ones), I just find that the books with more social aspects offer so much more than a good read.  What are your thoughts and what would you call essential dystopian reading?


We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Posted June 10, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Dystopia, Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

We by Yevgeny ZamyatinTitle: We (Goodreads)
Author: Yevgeny Zamyatin
Translator: Clarence Brown
Published: Penguin, 1921
Pages: 226
Genres: Classic, Dystopia, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Yevgeny Zamyatin wrote his seminal dystopian novel We (1921) based on his personal experiences during the two Russian revolutions (1905 and 1917) and the first World War. The book ended influencing dystopian authors like Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. This book not only influenced the dystopian genre but could also be the influence towards the post-apocalyptic genre as this was set in a world where all was wiped out but “0.2% of the earth’s population”.  The book is set in ‘One State’ which has been organised to be a workers’ paradise; everything has to work like clockwork and everything is based on logic and mathematics. This society is heavily surveillanced, has martial law and is heavily censored; a totalitarian world.

The protagonist, D-503, is an engineer who begins writing a journal (much like in 1984) to document Integral, the spaceship being built to invade other planets. D-503 is under constant surveillance by the Bureau of Guardians (the secret police) as is everyone else. He is assigned a lover O-90, but ends up having an uncontrollable attraction to I-330. This leads to nightmares and furthermore into what could be considered a mental illness. I-330 reveals to D-503 a world that was previously unknown to him. Will he hang onto hope or will reason get the better of him?

We was an impressive novel; not only with the themes that it explores but also with the technology and the simple fact that it was years and years ahead of its time. While some say We was released in 1920 and others 1921, there is no denying that, because of the subject matter, this was an impressive piece of literature. If it wasn’t for this book we may never of been able to enjoy Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) or even Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano (1952). By today’s standards this book would be overlooked but something innovative and so complex to be written so long ago makes this worth a read.


Please Ban My Book, I Want it to Become Popular (Banned Book Week)

Posted October 2, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Listology / 0 Comments

This week is Banned Book Week, where we celebrate our freedom to read whatever we want. Though books still get banned and censored by the government, I think now is the time to look at some of the best and worst books that have been banned or censored.

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was banned in the province of Hunan, China, beginning in 1931 for its portrayal of anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings
  • American Psycho has a sale and purchase restriction in the Australian State of Queensland. Sale is restricted to persons 18 years old or older in the other Australian states
  • Animal Farm banned in the former USSR and the author’s preface suppressed in nearly all of its editions during 1940 – 45
  • Brave New World was banned in Ireland in 1932 due to alleged references of sexual promiscuity
  • The Da Vinci Code was banned in Lebanon after Catholic leaders deemed it offensive to Christianity
  • The Diary of a Young Girl was also banned in Lebanon for “portraying Jews, Israel or Zionism favourably”
  • The Grapes of Wrath temporarily banned in many places in the US because it made the residents of this region look bad.
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover banned in the United States and the United Kingdom for violation of obscenity laws
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four was banned by the Soviet Union in 1950, as Stalin understood that it was a satire based on his leadership, and it was nearly banned by U.S.A and U.K in the early 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • Ulysses was banned in U.K during the 1930s and in Australia during the 1930s to the 1940s and challenged and temporarily banned in the U.S.A for its sexual content
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin was banned in the Southern United States during the Civil War due to its anti-slavery content.

Nowadays books are still getting challenged and banned. One book that is currently under fire is Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak which tells the story of a teenage girl who deals with depression after become a victim of rape. The author has said the following about censorship;

But censoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the darkness and makes them vulnerable. Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them.

Censorship and book banning seems to fling books into popularity more than some books deserve. For example Lady Chatterley’s Lover; if this book was never banned it would of just faded away into oblivion. Also there are many great books that have come under fire that really are spectacular books.

Also check out IO9’s 10 great science fiction novels that have been banned.


2009 Wrap Up

Posted December 31, 2009 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

I set myself the goal to read 12 books in the year, seemed like a perfect place to start. Especially for someone that is trying to convert into an avid reader. I achieved my goal, and I found some beautiful treasures. Also for those people that don’t count graphic novels, novellas or short stories in the 12, I did read 12 novels as well as a graphic novel, novella & short story.

You must be away that I never really was a reader in my childhood so this is probably as many books as I’ve read in my life previously. Biggest highlight of the year was Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, it is now my security blanket (so to speak); I carry it with me where ever I go, in one form or another. I also know own a beautiful leather-bound copy of the book as well as a paperback (for reading) copy of the book. It is now my measuring stick to every other book I read. In Non Fiction I can’t go past Hey! Nietzsche! Leave them kids alone!: The Romantic Movement, Rock & Roll, And The End Of Civilisation As We Know It, this has started a new found passion in all things Culture and Romantic which lead to this blog.

As for my life time reading goals by completing all the books on the 1001 books to read before you die & Modern Library 100 Best Novels list, I have now read 8 of the 1001 and 2 of the 100. Some extremely interesting books on these lists like; Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance With Death & Nineteen Eighty-Four. Out of all the books on the list of 1001 books to read before you die I was only disappointed in one (American Psycho) but that was possibly due to the fact that the movie is very similar and the book offered nothing new to the story. If I read the book before seeing the movie I’m sure I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Watchmen took a lot of effort to really get into, it was a great story I just felt I struggled at times. Another book that I struggled to get through was Dracula, the story was good but it seemed to drag on and on at times, it could have cut a few sections and still worked.