This past weekend I finally read George Orwell's distopian novel 1984. The book transfixed, horrified, and fascinated me. On some occasions, it was so violent that it made me cringe. On other occasions, it was so depressing that I had to put it down, stare out of the window, and contemplate whether there was any possible hope for the human race.
The book is about Winston Smith, a man who lives in a totalitarian country called Oceania. Everything about Winston's life is regulated and watched by Big Brother, the Party. This is a world where the past, the present, and the future is controlled by the government. Those who resist Big Brother in action or thought ("thoughtcrime") will be vaporized - not just dead, but erased from every scrap of history.
The Party demands the loyalty of every member. It is not enough to obey Big Brother, you must love him with all of your heart. If you don't, the Thought Police will find you.
"Whatever the party holds to be truth is truth. It is impossible to see reality except through the eyes if the Party."
1984 is engaging, insightful, profound, and terribly depressing. The world that Orwell warned us about didn't come to pass in 1984 (maybe because of the book...), but it still carries a relevant warning in 2012. This is an adult book that everyone needs to read.
I have to stress the adult part. This is a heavy book. The typical conservative reaction to all entertainment is, "I don't care about how violent it is as long as there's no sex." Well, there's sex in this book. (And violence and torture--which is fine for conservative audiences.)
Aside: as a huge fan of the band Muse, I now understand their album, The Resistance, much better. I knew that there were 1984 references in the song "Resistance," but now that I've read the book, I can see strong connections to "Undisclosed Desires" and "United States of Eurasia." (Eurasia is one of the three countries in the book.) There may be other references to 1984 in the album, and my ear will be tuned for them at the next listen (i.e., right now).
I leave you with a quote from the Party:
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”