Anthem

[openbook booknumber=”0452281253″]

[rating:1/5]

I tried my best, but there was so much of this book that I had problems with, and it was such a short book with so little plot it was very hard not to spoil it, so… spoiler ahoy in this review!

Anthem is a novel about a man named Equality 7-2521. Much in the style of other horrific Utopian novels he is one of many is a futuristic society, where everything is utterly controlled from education, to vocation, to sex, to death and (like Brave New World, 1984 and The Giver) the main character is seeking to throw off this yoke and go back to how things were before, though he hasn’t realized it yet.

For the first ten chapters he speaks in the style of Gollum, of Lord of the Rings. When he speaks of himself he says “we” and “us” for the collective is what is important, while individualism in any form breaks divine law. Everything is done for the betterment of all, for the will of many is greater than the will of the individual. The many’s needs are greater as well and therefore the individual must sacrifice himself for the many.

Equality 7-2521 is given a position as street sweeper and in his work finds two things that are his undoing: a beautiful woman, and an old underground sewer left over from the times before. He sneaks off there and writes his own private thoughts and does his own private research. But, the scientific discoveries he make are nothing next to the truth that he uncovers there.

Anthem is supposed to be a novel exemplifying Ayn Rand’s philosophy about individualism and collectivism and the pros and cons thereof. I have to say some of what she believes I don’t really agree with and actually reading the foreword (a fault of mine) kinda prejudiced me against her before I even got to the story.


Our name is Equality 7-2521, as it is written on the iron bracelet which all men wear on their left wrists with their names upon it. We are twenty-one years old. We are six feet tall, and this is a burden, for there are not many men who are six feet tall. Ever have the Teachers and the Leaders pointed to us and frowned and said: “There is evil in your bones, Equality 7-2521, for your body has grown beyond the bodies of your brothers.” But we cannot change our bones nor our body.

In the foreword she says that anyone that does not acknowledge (as she does) the future that we are inevitably headed down are neither blind nor ignorant but rather weak and are maliciously choosing for us to face and experience such a future as she outlines in the book. If that is the case why write this book at all? Isn’t this book meant to educate people on the matter? If they are already set in their ways and are already weak and spiteful how is a story further educating them on a manner that you say they are already fully aware of going to change anything at all? Furthermore, how can anyone support individualism and yet at the same time say, “but you have to agree with me and what I say, or else the betterment of mankind will suffer”? Isn’t that exactly the premise of the book that you have written against collectivism? How can you use the ideals of collectivism to fight against it?

And, we haven’t even gotten to the book itself yet. Normally I enjoy a well written Utopian novel about the evils of controlling thoughts and ideas and so forth for the betterment of all. I can see the evil in that. And, that includes the guilt tripping in your foreword, Miss Rand. But, this book just seemed a bit too much. Equality, as I’ll call him for short, was throughout an incredibly self centered and proud character. I guess that goes along with the individualism theme but he seems to go over the top with it. There were several scenes where his pride, arrogance and blind self-centeredness got him into a great deal of trouble that a bit of logic and thinking things through might have kept him out of. Then again he was pretty naive about the world, and had to undergo a huge paradigm shift throughout the novel. This only made his pompousness at times all the more aggravating. And, the final line of the novel was just too much. At a moment when I should be in awe of philosophical wonder I found myself laughing at all the hyperbole and sheer arrogance of it.

Also, for a novel celebrating the individuality of man kind and how man must do things for himself and it be his choice alone, I thought it was very annoying when he treated “his woman” (Liberty 5-3000) as a being that had no choice. He chose where they would go and where they would stay, he chose her name and he chose what they were to do with the rest of their time on earth. She just kind of sat back and looked pretty, like so much window dressing.

Finally, the blurb in the first pages contained a huge spoiler in my edition of the book. Luckily I didn’t read it until I was half way through and had already suspected what was spoiled, but still. Also, I was very surprised that the beginning of this novel was so like 1984. Especially since 1984 came out eleven years after this novel did. Yikes.

Anyway, I didn’t enjoy this book at all just because it was all so unbelievable. Yes, I agree that socialism et al is bad (though perhaps not for the reasons outlined in the book, at least not entirely). I agree that people should have the freedom to choose whether to help their fellow man or not. But, using this novel as an argument for either of those two beliefs is laughable. My first one star.

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