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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone" and "I", a single "We" ..., Jan. 10 2007
By 
M. B. Alcat "Curiosity killed the cat, but sa... (Hanoi, Vietnam) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: We (Paperback)
Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) wrote "We" in 1920, in an URSS that was just beginning to show its true nature. He was able to observe at first hand the consequences of the expansion of the State and the Party, and the corresponding erosion of the value of the individual. The author called "We" his "most jesting and most serious work", and I think the reader will be able to appreciate both aspects of this peculiar book.

This novel takes place in the future, where the One State is ruled by the great Benefactor, and separated from the rest of the world by a Great Wall, that doesn't allow the outside world to "contaminate" it. The citizens of the One State aren't persons but merely numbers. They have almost no privacy, due to the fact that most things are made of a material similar to glass but much more resistant. In any case that isn't a problem, because as everybody does the same things at the same time, nobody has much to hide.

The One State begins to build a spaceship, the "Integral", that will be used to conquer other worlds and show them to be happy, in the way the citizens of the One State are happy. But how exactly are they happy?. Well, they have a rational happiness that can be mathematically proved. To mantain that happiness, they must always follow some rules. For example, there is no place for spontaneity in the One State. Imagination is considered a disease, and all art and poetry must be at the service of the State. The function of poetry is clear: "Today, poetry is no longer the idle, impudent whistling of a nightingale; poetry is civic service, poetry is useful".

As if that weren't enough, almost all activities are organized according to the Table of Hours: "Every morning, with six-wheeled precision, at the same hour and the same moment, we -millions of us- get up as one. At the same hour, in million-headed unison, we start work; and in million-headed unison we end it. And, fused into a single million-handed body, at the same second, designated by the Table, we lift our spoons to our mouths."

That main character in "We" is D-503, an important mathematician who is also a faithful follower of the great Benefactor, and a key participant in the building of the "Integral". He starts to write a journal, to allow other less fortunate societies to learn from the way things are done in the One State. This novel is that journal...

D-503 believes, at the beginning of this book, that the state of things in the One State is wonderful, and considers himself fortunate for being able to live in such enlightened times, where "'everyone' and 'I' are a single 'We'". But the unexpected happens when he starts to "fall in love" (an alien concept) with a number that has strange ideas, I-330. She makes D-503 start to question everything he had until then given for granted, and due to her he starts to develop a dangerous illness: a soul. As a consequence of that, D-503 cannot feel anymore as part of the whole, of "We", he cannot be merely a part of the whole...

D-503's inner turmoil is shown to us throughout the pages of his journal, and it is rather heartbreaking how much he suffers when he can't return to his previous state of certitude. If at the beginning of the story he was consistently logical, and used a lot of mathematical metaphores, as chapters go by the reader begins to notice a certain incoherence. That inconsistency probably has to do with the fact that D-503 no longer understands himself, because he has been deprived of certitudes that he considered essential in defining himself ("I have long ceased to understand who 'They' are, who are 'We' "). Before, he didn't exist as anything else that as a part of the State. After I-330's pernicious influence, he begins to suspect that things might not be so simple.

There are many themes present in "We", for example love, obsession, betrayal, freedom, the purpose of art and poetry, different kinds of revolutions, perfection, chaos... I haven't told you about many other interesting things I deem worth commenting about this book, but I think you will take greater advantage if you read "We" by yourself.

Zamyatin's book is a good science-fiction novel AND a dystopia. One of the many meaning of dystopia is a work that describes a state of things that is possible but not ideal. Its value lays, in my opinion, not in the likelihood that what it tells us will eventually happen, but rather in the fact that by deforming or satirizing reality it allows the reader to see it from another perspective. From my point of view, this novel is a classic, and has the distinct advantage of being both entertaining and easy to read. If you can, read it soon!!. I highly recommend it :)

Belen Alcat
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a Precusor!, Dec 6 2012
This review is from: We (Paperback)
'We' provided more than a critical look at how a 'new state' can go so badly. I read this novel about 40 years ago, then had the good fortune to read a compilation of George Orwell's lterary reviews. Orwell was more than influenced by 'We', he pretty much plagarized notions wholesale from the book. Orwell's book review of We came out before his '1984' was pubished (and this is not the only time Orwell was accused of plagarism). That said for the historical record, what is noteworthy about We is the hopeful grit the main characters have in the face of a state that espouses an ideal society while trying to grind its citizens into obediency. Think the McCarthy period in the USA, or the Mullahs of Iran, or the current debates in Egypt. If only for it's prescience about future struggles by citizens to force their states to live up to ideals, this is a very worth while novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, Dec 9 2013
By 
John T C (Raleigh, NC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
One thing I can say with certainty is that WE is a true classic and an extraordinary novel in many senses. It was the inspiration behind George Orwell's book 1984, and other subsequent books of the utopian/dystopian sub-genre, such as Union Moujik, Brave World. The age-old conflict between individual self and the collective being that man has grappled with in our efforts to become more human is treated beautifully in thus book. What is peculiar about it is that the author never allowed politics to dominate. Overall, the Utopian-Fantasy is a recommended read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars pleased, April 16 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: We (Paperback)
this book was purchased for a neighbor.
i recently bumped into him ans he expressed his satisfaction with the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The origin of modern dystopic novels...., June 22 2011
By 
Ronald W. Maron "pilgrim" (Nova Scotia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: We (Paperback)
After reading this excellent presentation from the '20s it is clear where authors such as Orwell, Skinner, Huxley and others obtained their dystopic ideas from. "We" set the standard very early for viewing the future potential of society based on the events that were happening within the author's present reality.

While "We" is a somewhat challenging read, the additional effort required will lead to a clear viewpoint of how Zamyatin viewed the possible future evolution of existing Russian rule. Written in First Person Singular the protagonist is a tunnel-visioned mathematician living in the blissful 'One State'. Because of this writing format some of the descriptions are somewhat difficult to comprehend either due to the incomplete internal sentences that persons naturally relate to themselves or his overly-structured view of the world around him in either purely mathematical terms or ones related to socially pre-defined 'happiness'. George Orwell in "1984" used a highly similar plotline and conclusion in his portrayal of Winston.

Being a true fan of dystopia, I highly recommend this text to all persons of like minds.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alive-Alive, July 12 2010
By 
Daffy Bibliophile (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: We (Paperback)
"It is an error to divide people into the living and the dead: there are people who are dead-alive, and people who are alive-alive. The dead-alive also write, walk, speak, act. But they make no mistakes; only machines make no mistakes, and they produce only dead things. The alive-alive are constantly in error, in search, in questions, in torment."

These words were written by the Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin in 1923. A couple of years earlier, he had written a novel entitled "We", one of the first dystopian novels in science fiction. The novel takes place hundreds of years in the future in a tightly controlled society call The One State. The central character in "We" is a man known as D-503, a mathematician who is helping to build a spaceship as directed by The Benefactor, the vague governing entity in this society. However, D-503 falls in love with a woman known as I-330 who is actually the member of a underground resistance movement.
I won't tell you the ending. No spoilers here! I will say that both George Orwell and Aldous Huxley owe Zamyatin a great debt. This novel is a delight for sci-fi fans and for fans of social satires.
Zamyatin wrote "We" as a satire on socialism, especially the harsh, totalitarian version practiced by the Bolsheviks. "We" was, as far as I know, the first novel to be banned by the new Soviet government, quite an honour!
Yevgeny Zamyatin and his wife were allowed to leave the Soviet Union in 1931 and they settled into exile in Paris. To my knowledge, he never wrote another novel. Yet he was, by his own definition, one of the "alive-alive" in an age of totalitarianism of both the Left and the Right, and for that he must be praised.
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We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (Paperback - July 11 2006)
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