Book Review: Anthem
Author: Ayn Rand
Genre: Sci-fi; Dystopian
Year Published: 1938
Date finished: April 2, 2022
This book was recommended to me by my 15-year-old daughter. She knows I enjoy dystopian stories and knew I would like this one, and she was right.
This book was published in 1938 and takes place in a far future after a war that destroyed everything. In this world, everyone is part of the collective doing their part to maintain a steady life, not growth, just life. The story is about a character named Equality 7-2521 who’s brighter than the average person and very curious about the world he was brough up in. His curiosity leads him to find electricity, which he thinks will give him praise when he introduces it to the Leaders and Scholars. That isn’t what happens though. Instead, he’s tortured, and eventually leaves the collective society and finds truth.
This is one amazing book. It’s a very short read but I got so much more out of it than a lot of the extremely long books out there. No time was wasted on info dumps and unnecessary back stories. It’s very straightforward and to-the-point. I loved Equality 7-2521’s determination and excitement. I was heartbroken when he was tortured for simply introducing electricity. Had the leaders told him from the get-go that electricity once existed and that they didn’t want to use it, and explained why, he wouldn’t have been so excited about it. How would he have known that they already knew if they never told him they knew? That’s really not the main point of the book though. That’s one situation that stood out to me. It’s about being a part of the collective and not having the ability to be an individual. This book is written in first person plural (we) and eventually becomes first person singular (I). It was so incredibly well done that you could feel the power of “I” in the last few pages. Who knew a single word, a single letter, could be so powerful?
My favorite line from the book was when the girl said:
“We are one…alone…and only…and we love you who are one…alone…and only.”
Since individualism didn’t exist in that society, there was no way to say “I” or “me,” and that was the only way she was able to say she loved him.
Who should read this book: Anyone into post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and totalitarian sci-fi such as 1984, Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.