If you haven’t read/heard of this I’d recommend skipping the rest of this post until you have (stop reading now !) – because I’ve been debating whether I didn’t slightly spoil this novel for myself by reading on the cover how much of a fan George Orwell was – which made me unconsciously draw parallels with 1984 for the first few chapters. Yevgeny Zamyatin actually wrote this some 20 odd years before 1984 (was written – not the year) – and reading it I could see how it has filtered through into every other dystopian novel since (directly or indirectly). I think it must be a terrible ignorance on my part that meant I’d never even heard of this before – it was completely by chance I picked it up but I can’t believe I haven’t encountered it before.
We is set in a dystopian future, a thousand years after the two hundred year war, in which almost all of the population was killed. Those that remain (well, their ancestors) live in a highly regulated, intensely monitored society, organised so as to remove emotion or imagination. The narrator (D-503) is one of the One State’s loyal subjects, a mathematician and designer of “The Integral” (I couldn’t figure out what this was supposed to be for a good chunk of the book) – a major spaceship they’re building, who begins his ‘journal’ to chart the build up and launch of the ship, however his entries actually chart his own subversion as his sudden infatuation for I-330 has him beginning to dream (a sign of madness) and sneaking around – first to the “Ancient House” (a house not made of glass like the rest of the buildings in the One State), then beyond the Green Wall into a forest with humans who live outside of the control of the Benefactor. This is why I think I may have spoilt it for myself by reading Orwell’s name on the cover – because the plot is incredibly similar to 1984, although the dystopia is slightly different (half 1984 half Brave New World).
Again, I don’t know whether it’s not complete ignorance on my part but I don’t know how this book isn’t more well known or talked about – 1984/Brave New World references frequently seem to crop up but (maybe because I wasn’t aware of them) not so much We. If you’re a fan of the former two novels (and there are a few more that see reminiscent of this but the names aren’t coming to me right now) or even if you’re not, I’d definitely recommend this.