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review 2018-06-03 10:43
Short but perfectly formed. Highly recommended.
Literature® - Guillermo Stitch

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this novella, which I freely chose to review.

It is difficult to describe the reading experience of Literature. I have read reviews comparing it to noir novels (absolutely, especially the voice of the characters and some of the situations), to Fahrenheit 451 (inevitable due to the plot, where fiction has been banned and nobody can possess or read books) and 1984 (although we don’t get a lot of detail of the way the world is being run, the sense of claustrophobia and continuous surveillance, and the way terrorism is defined are definitely there), and even Blade Runner (perhaps, although Literature is far less detailed and much more humorous). I did think about all of those while I read it, is true, although it is a pretty different experience to all of them.

Billy Stringer is a mixture of the reluctant hero and the looser/anti-hero type. The novella shares only one day of his life, but, what a day! Let’s say it starts badly (things hadn’t been going right for Billy for a while at the point when we meet him) and it goes downhill from there. The story is told in the third-person but solely from Billy’s point of view, and we are thrown right in. There is no world-building or background information. We just share in Billy’s experiences from the start, and although he evidently knows the era better than we do, he is far from an expert when it comes to the actual topic he is supposed to cover for his newspaper that day. He is a sports journalist covering an important item of news about a technological/transportation innovation.  We share in his confusion and easily identify with him. Apart from the action, he is involved in, which increases exponentially as the day moves on, there are also flashbacks of his past. There is his failed love story, his friendship with his girlfriend’s brother, and his love for books.

The story is set in a future that sounds technologically quite different to our present, but not so ideologically different (and that is what makes it poignant and scary, as well as funny). People smoke, but you can get different versions of something equivalent to cigarettes, but they are all registered (it seems everything is registered). And you can drink alcohol as well (and Billy does, as it pertains to a hero in a noir novel). Transportation has become fundamental and it has developed its own fascinating-sounding technology (the descriptions of both, the vehicles and the process are riveting). It has to be fed by stories, by fiction, although literature itself has been banned. We get to know how this works and, let me tell you that it’s quite beautiful.

The book is short and I don’t want to spoil the story for readers, but I can tell you the writing is excellent and it is exquisitely edited. Despite its brevity, I could not help but share a couple of snippets.

“You like her?” he said. He was looking at the knife like a person might look at an especially favored kitten. “Been with me a long time,” he said. “She’s an old lady now. But she’s still sharp.” He looked up at Billy. “I keep her that way.”

In a day very generously populated with problems, Jane’s kid brother was Billy’s newest.

I loved the ending of the book. It is perhaps not standard noir, but nothing is standard in this book.

I recommend it to anybody interested in discovering a new and talented writer, with a love for language and for stories that are challenging, playful, and fascinating. A treat.

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review 2018-03-23 00:00
1984
1984 - George Orwell ...more relevant than ever! Everyone should read this at least once in their lives! It should also be mandatorily read in school (this counts for Austria, as I don't think students have to read this here).
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review 2018-02-14 11:09
1984
1984 Nineteen Eighty-Four (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell (2004-01-29) - George Orwell

I think almost everything has already been said and written about 1984, so I will just add some thoughts of my own.

The concept of 1984 is so interesting and at the same time terrifying that it really intrigued me, especially in the way things have turned out. When I first read it I was around 18 and I was starting this Dystopian period where 1984 just couldn't be left out. I'd been more hesitant before then, because the story is well known and I don't always tend to like the school-recommended classics, but after graduating I felt safe to try.

I would certainly recommend it. Even if you wouldn't read it for its own impact, if you enjoyed any of the modern dystopian novels, reading 1984 is a must.

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text 2017-12-24 11:27
1984 by George Orwell
1984 - George Orwell

'1984' was located in London.A place where it was always poor and filthy,not enough resources to eat and survive . There was not even enough clothes to wear and there was wars going on .The place was always controlled and there was little freedom.The reason I chose this book is because I like to read non fictional books . I recommend this book to other people who like non fictional and classic books.

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review 2017-10-25 14:08
Nineteen Eighty-Bore
Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell

1984 is probably THE book when it comes to dystopian fiction, it is a canonical or if you like „classic“ novel, but now I wonder if it really deserves this status.
My dystopian October readings included Evgenij Zamjatins We, which was actually the blueprint for 1984 (believe it or not, but since Orwell knew Russian very well, he was quite familiar with Zamjatins writing), so I was quite eager to read both novels and now I just don’t understand how Orwell didn’t come up with something better.

 

I was honestly bored throughout most of the time and this has nothing to do with a lack of action in a traditional sense or the average plot, but first and foremost with the characters (1), the structure (2) and the length (3).

 

1. Good characters make good texts in my opinion. To really engage while reading, I have to feel something for at least one of the characters. This can be a liking for someone, love, dislike or even hate – but in 1984 I did not really like nor dislike anyone – I am simply completely indifferent to all of them. Where is the charisma, the uniqueness, the personality? One might argue that in the 1984-kind of future these traits are not allowed to exist, therefore no one possesses them, but then I say that this is what makes us human. I understand, that the average citizen of Oceania doesn’t have any personality, but what about Winston and Julia? I cannot remember ever having a protagonist who was such a flat, non-developing character.

 

2. If the characters are bad, sometimes the writing style or the structure of a novel can help to counterbalance the deficit. But not in this case. One cannot even see the plot for all the repetitions. So many unnecessary repetitions. The past is constantly altered and people killed by the Party have never even existed. Point made. It is a good point. But point understood the first time. There is no need to come back to this in every other chapter.


Also, Orwell obviously went through a great deal inventing Newspeak. Then why isn’t Newspeak incorporated more? I mean, seriously, compared to Burgess’s Nadsat, which is quite unintelligible at first, Newspeak is not hard to grasp.

 

3. The sheer length of 1984! This ties in with point 2 about the repetitions – You could cut out so much and it wouldn’t affect the story at all. When I was probably half through I started thinking, that maybe 1984 would work really well as a short story. And I don’t say this in regard to the shortened attention span of us modern people, but because our social, cultural and literary Erwartungshorizont has been pushed forward so much since 1949 that a modern reader is no longer challenged by this.

 

All in all, I had high expectations for 1984 and maybe that was the problem.

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