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The novel, We presents the character of D-503, a mathematician and engineer living in a totalitarian society. Citizens live in literal glass-walled houses where every action can be seen by fellow citizens and officials. D-503’s job is working on a spaceship called The Integral, and he starts keeping a journal. This is where the reader joins his story, as we follow along his 40 entries which grow increasingly emotional and exploratory. He soon begins to question his role in society and finds himself falling in love along with the rebellious and revolutionary I-330.
Fans of Utopian or dystopian novels will appreciate this book which is claimed to have actually been the first major anti-Utopian fantasy and the work that directly influenced the well-known novels of Brave Brand-new World and 1984.
What I particularly liked about We was the way the world was presented, as journal entries from a person living in the society. D-503 does address his audience and goes out of his way to explain things to a person who might live in a different manner than the one he finds himself in, but for the most part, things aren’t over-explained. The world is just presented as he finds it, and the reader is left filling in the gaps.
There is nothing I didn’t like about this book. I found myself a little confused at times, but I think that was intentional on the writer’s part. As readers, we’re not given every single detail or explanation of events and actions, but as I said, I think that part is intentional. Instead, our focus is placed upon D-503 and his experiences, feelings and thoughts.
Whenever I complete a Utopian/dystopian novel, I just want to find more of them. I find them fascinating and I can’t get enough of them! We quickly joined my favorite utopian classics, like 1984 and Brave Brand-new World.
Yevgeny Zamyatin was influenced by the Cold War, Dostoyevski, and German expressionism, and was himself a revolutionary, being arrested and exiled a number of times for his revolutionary actions. He wrote We in 1921 and 1922, and was not published in the USSR until 1988.
I always recommend utopias and dystopias, as I find them to be fascinating works of fiction which often closely resemble the world we live in today. I find the comparisons and connections interesting and terrifying at times. While 1984 and Brave Brand-new World often take the spotlight when it comes to brilliant utopian works, We should definitely not be overlooked. Even if it wasn’t the “first,” it would certainly still shine as one of the brightest.