Book Cover
Title Anthem
Series ---
Author Ayn Rand
Cover Art ---
Publisher New American Library - 1961
First Printing 1938
Category Dystopia
Warnings ---

Main Characters

Equality 7-2521, Liberty 5-3000

Main Elements Dystopia

The unforgivable sin.

He lived in the dark ages of the future. In a loveless world he dared to love the woman of his choice. In an age that had lost all trace of science and civilization he had the courage to seek after knowledge. But these were not the crimes for which he would be killed. He was marked for death because he had committed the unpardonable sin: He had stood forth from the mindless human herd. He was a man alone.

My brother had wanted to borrow Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and while clearing out some books we'd inherited I knew we had it somewhere. In the end, we didn't find it, but we did come across Anthem. As it was very short I thought I'd have a quick pass through it.

I enjoyed the first part, a good dystopian tale where men are to love each other equally and to put no other above themselves (makes one wonder how the Council of Elders works then, as they assign jobs to everyone, are they not higher than anyone else as they get to decide what one's life will be?). One is not to engage in independent thought, to not desire anything for oneself, only to desire what is good for society. In fact the word "I" is unknown to them, they know only "We".

Equality is a little different, though he isn't alone. He wants to know things, he likes science and understanding the world, and one day he stumbles across what looks to me like an old subway system. In this secret refuge he is able to explore his desires, disecting frogs. Eventually he finds a lightbulb, and manages to create a battery...and then the story stopped working for me. People don't just spontaneously figure out how to create a battery out of some junk they find lying around in an old subway tunnel!

Eventually he gets caught and runs into the woods...again, total lack of disbelief here. You saying some guy who knows nothing about wilderness survival can live for days even weeks in the woods? Oh right, he can pick up a rock and kill a bird on the first try. Wish it were that easy.

And then the rant at the end! If you thought they dystopic society had gone too far to the collecitivism side, well, I could just imagine the society the self-proclaimed "Prometheus" was going to create of absolute individualism. No more we think of our fellow man, we now think only of "I". Gah! Does that mean serial killers get equal rights? What right do we have to tell them they aren't allowed to fullfill their life's dream of torture and death? Considering in the intro Rand had critcized her critics for not thinking through collectivism to it's extremes (and there was some truth to what she said there) she herself fell into her own trap of not thinking things through either.

So if you like distopian stories, read the first 2/3rds or so, then rip out the rest starting from when he escaped into the forest. This isn't a novella, this is a pure and simple self-centered rant.

Posted: August 2012


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