Tuesday March 10th, 2009

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin


Recommended by Ranylt in Ottawa, Canada.

Early twentieth-century writers did dystopian fiction best. Zamyatin’s 1921 novel is pure sci-fi with an anti-conformity message (the kind popularized in Logan’s Run and THX 1138). A thousand years in the future, Soviet power has collected earth’s population into One State. Humans are called “numbers” instead of “people,” worship the hive mind, and live in transparent houses in a glass city. When a mathematician falls in love, he begins to evolve from a component to a unit, and discovers that the State’s utilitarian formulas for happiness (via “unfreedom”) are flawed. The Modernist prose is breathtakingly curt, and the subversion is in-your-face; Zamyatin couldn’t get his novel published for decades and was expelled from the USSR.