We Review: The Original Dystopia

Before classics of dystopian fiction like “Neuromancer,” “Brave New World,” and “1984” there was “We.” Written by Yevgeny Zamyatin, and inspired by his time in Communist Russia, the book was banned in Zamyatin’s native homeland for its on the nose mockery of the Communist Party’s “scientific” approach to governing and life in general. The book itself earned Zamyatin exile from his native country and a place among the early Soviet political dissidents.

“We” centers around the interactions between the primary protagonist D-503 and his atypical opposite number I-330. D-503 is a loyal citizen of the One State and the chief engineer of the “Integral” a spaceship that the government plans to use in order to spread its “scientific governing” approach to alien planets, by force if necessary. On the other hand, I-330 is a rebel against the system as she partakes of both alcohol and tobacco and fails to follow the assigned social protocols. Her behavior leads D-550 to be both befuddled and intrigued, in spite of his originally straight-laced perfect citizen mindset. I-330 draws D-550 deeper into the machinations of a group of like-minded rebels, eager to cast off the yoke of the seemingly omniscient One State.

Written in the form of a journal kept by D-550, “We’”s influence on dystopian fiction is readily apparent. Indeed, it could be warranted that the OG dystopian novel remains among the best. The writing is taut, with the characterization of D-550 and I-330, as well as the subsequent fall of the former working with the dark depiction of the One State government to create a terrifyingly logical future world. The lives of the citizens are literally clockwork, as they all behave by an exact and unified schedule. Sex, sleep, eating, work, personal time, everything in society is broken down to a mathematical algorithm of efficiency and efficacy. 

The trapping of early fiction writing style becomes readily apparent, as the book’s prose can be described as being a bit stiff at times. Despite this, for anybody who has read the dark works of Orwell, Huxley, Gibson and others, take a trip back in time to one of the first. Pay respects to the past. Long Live the One State!

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