Saturday, January 28, 2012

Finished With Anthem Now

Earlier this week, I finished reading Anthem by Ayn Rand. It isn't quite as exciting as Ender's Game. However, I have been reading a lot of exciting, fast-paced books lately, so it was kind of nice to pick up Anthem and slow the pace down a little bit.

One of the things that makes Anthem interesting is that the society the characters live in has no individuality. They live in a collective and are supposed to work like a hive. Just take a look at this list of names:
  • Union 5-3992 
  • International 4-8818 
  • Fraternity 2-5503 
  • Solidarity 9-6347 
  • Collective 0-0009 
  • International 1-5537 
  • Harmony 9-2642 
  • Fraternity 9-3452 
  • Democracy 4-6998 
  • Unanimity 7-3304 
  • Solidarity 8-1164 
  • Similarity 5-0306 
  • Unanimity 2-9913 
There's nothing at all special about them. A name consists of a word that deals with collectivism of some sort followed by a set of numbers. Their names are all more or less the same.
Also, it's indicated that all aspects of the characters' lives have become institutionalized. The Council of Vocations decides everyone's career. One goes to the Palace of Corrective Detention to receive punishment if they have done any wrong. Our main character, Equality 7-2521, belongs to the Home of the Street Sweepers because that's his job, and that's where he lives. The World Council decides the rules of the world. Infants are brought to the Home of Infants rather than being raised by their families. The Home of the Students houses those who receive their education. An older person (anyone over the age of 40) goes to the Home of the Useless to wait and die. There's even an institution for farmers called the Home of the Peasants, which is where the main character's love interest, Liberty 5-3000, lives.

There are two eras mentioned in this book besides the setting. The first is the Unmentionable Times. In those times they had skyscrapers and "wagons which moved without horses." However, those were evil times. And thus happened the Great Rebirth, "when men saw the Great Truth which is this: that all men are one and that there is no will save the will of all men together." The story takes place long after that.

There are also some things that the main character fears, that many others would probably fear as well. Firstly, there is the Transgression of Preference, where it is illegal to prefer anything. No one can prefer to enjoy any work or study or even person more than any other. Another fear is that of the Uncharted Forest. People just don't go out there, and those that ever did never came back. These are just things humans shouldn't fear, but because of the society they live in, they now fear them.

I really liked the way Rand wrote the story. Since the society had outlawed individuality, the word "I" is forbidden. Thus, when speaking, everybody, including the main character, speak in the plural instead of singular of all forms. "We" instead of "I." "They" instead of "he" or "she." And I'm sure it would be something more like "y'all" instead of "you," except that doesn't quite exist in the English language, so it was "you" in the story.

But yeah, go ahead and pick this book up. It's even in the public domain. That means it's available over at Project Gutenberg for free, and there's also a free audiobook available from LibriVox. Follow some of the links at the bottom and I'll talk to you all some other time!

Anthem at Project Gutenberg

Anthem at Librivox

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