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The Ninja Reader

High-brow or downright pretentious, good PNR or sparkly vampires, I don't care about the premise so long as it entertains me.

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Bullying: The Social Destruction of Self
Laura Martocci
We - Yevgeny Zamyatin, Clarence Brown 200 years after the last revolution, the planet is under the rule of OneState. Buildings are made of transparent glass, aeros float in the air, and people live by following a Table of Hours. D-503 is a mathematician, builder of the rocket INTEGRAL, which would soon take off and put the whole Solar System under the yoke of OneState. Things go awry, however, when he meets the beautiful I-330.I read somewhere that Orwell's original inspiration for 1984 came from We. Having now read the book, I can easily see the similarities - male, relatively middle-aged protagonist that was at first too cowardly to question the imposed totalitarian state, meets beautiful, daring, younger woman who pushes him towards rebellion. There is no safe room in all of the state, everyone is monitored, and everyone lives by following blindly. They're so similar, right down to the ending, that I wonder if Zamyatin ever considered suing for copyright infringement. Granted, the two novels aren't entirely similar. 1984's world is based closer to our reality than the one in We, employing a wide range of odd, brain-washed and perfectly terrifying characters, and thus it was easier to imagine. Also, Orwell's protagonist made a little more sense than D-503 - his personality is more inquisitive and he was more dubious of the reality presented to him than the rest of his co-patriots. We is... how shall I put it... more symbolic than realistic. Many different aspects of the book don't make sense (Petroleum based food? Glass rockets?) and D-503 is not so much a character as he is an idea. He doesn't have much personality to talk of - he's a mathematician, but he's very instinct driven, often remarking on his beastliness (as represented by his hairy hands). In that way, he's a bit of a paradox - he works with numbers and logic, but outside of the lab he only thinks with his dick (it's never explicitly said, but that's what it is. Sex is very metaphorical in this book, but at the time, I guess it was considered raunchy). But the heavy symbolism of the book isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it will probably really please those of you looking for a more thoughtful read. Themes like freedom and slavery, transparency and privacy, efficiency and humanity are all touched upon. Taylor, an economic theorist, is especially mentioned in reference to the table and the whole society in We is created around the idea that men, in their natural state, are greedy, lazy and evil, and only through scheduling and monitoring can he be happy and at peace. It was a very popular economic theory in the early 20th century, although it's shortcomings are obvious. So We is a good book, and a must read for anyone who wants to write in the dystopian genre. Out of all its brethren, it is the most idea-driven. However, plot-wise it's not that great, and its heavy symbolism didn't quite do it for me. It's quite a mood piece, so if you're in the mood at all for this, I'd recommend it, definitely.