Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell,  Simon Prebble "Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing."

Winston Smith lives in 1984--he thinks. He's actually not sure what year it is, as the Ministry of Truth, the agency he works for as a minor member of the Party, keeps muddying up the records. The past is malleable, the nation is always at war, words are disappearing from the vernacular, everyone is monitored through telecasters, bad thoughts are a crime, and Big Brother is always watching...

How have I not read this classic dystopian novel until now? I've poured through Brave New World, started but never finished We, watched THX-1138 and Brazil, and recently finished The Handmaid's Tale, but somehow 1984 has avoided being in my to-read library. Until I finally got my hands on an audiobook version.

This book is eye-opening, a bleak picture of the future, a scary nightmarish world where nothing you do is ever private--and in this age of the internet, doesn't that seem even more likely than ever? Throughout the entire book, I couldn't help that feeling that someone was looking over my shoulder, that any moment someone was going to spot me.

The characters aren't particularly brilliant, but they function for the exact purpose that Orwell created them: to explore and poke at this world. Winston Smith comes across as your typical 50's sci-fi hero: he is smarter than many of his peers, aware of his surroundings, and discontent. However, he is also incredibly paranoid and a somewhat weak-willed pathetic man (you see this ESPECIALLY at the ending). What I disliked most about him was how he related to Julia. He tended to treat her like she was a sex toy: a person he had sex with regularly but who had limited intelligence and had to be patiently told each detail that the hero can, of course, immediately understand. While this is not as prominent and annoying as, say, Ringworld, it was still present enough that it grated on my nerves.

The only other prominent characters are Julia and O'Brien. Julia, as I mentioned above, tended to feel like only a sex bunny; however, she does in a way, incite Winston to embark on a journey that will change his life and is in control of her own world. For that reason, I do have more respect for her than many other females in books of this era. O'Brien is Winston's coworker and possible fellow dissenter. He's an incredibly complex character, mostly seen from Winston's (clouded and highly paranoid) perception.

But what makes this novel isn't its characters, as I said above. It's the story, it's the world, it's the warning about what could happen if nothing happens. And this is what impressed me most. This world is startlingly real. The possibility of a diminishing language is many words am I currently using in this review would be banished by New Speak (kudos to Orwell for all his work on this language, btw)? How is that similar to the text speak that is occurring right now?

What about the idea that your television could be recording you, sending your image to some guy, in some cubicle who is making sure you aren't doing anything wrong? That your neighbors could be spying on you, ready to report you at the drop of your hat? That wars are being faked (okay, so many people believe that is already happening...)? That the past can be changed with a pop into MS Word and Photoshop? How about the thought that your entire day is planned out for you, so that you have no alone time for your own thoughts? That writing in a book (or a review...) could be cause for arrest? If that sort of future doesn't scare you, you are much stronger than I am!

I really have only two "criticisms" about this book. The first is the characters/way that women are treated. The characters are fairly bland/stereotypical of the time. Women, similarly, end up on the short end. They are often described as easily led by the Party's ideals and wholeheartedly embracing them. And most of the women we see are sex bunnies or naggy wives.

The other criticism is the long sections delving into Goldstein's book. In my opinion, Orwell did a fine job describing this world, so that I really didn't need the Book to explain how this society worked further. The torture scene also somewhat dragged (though this is somewhat more understandable).

If you consider yourself a fan of dystopian novels, this needs to be at the top of your reading list. It is a brilliant study of the future, eerie and intimidating.