Monday, February 18, 2013

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Title:  Anthem
Author:  Ayn Rand
First Publication:  1938
Cover Artist:  Unknown


From Wikipedia:
Anthem is a dystopian fiction novella by Ayn Rand, written in 1937 and first published in 1938 in England. It takes place at some unspecified future date when mankind has entered another dark age characterized by irrationality, collectivism, and socialistic thinking and economics. Technological advancement is now carefully planned (when it is allowed to occur at all) and the concept of individuality has been eliminated (for example, the use of the word "I" is punishable by death).

Ayn Rand is an author I have heard of but never tried.  I looked at her more famous books such as "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" but decided to read this short science fiction novel first.

The dark age presented in this story appears to be based on Rand's personal life.  She grew up in Soviet Russia.  The survivors of the future disaster have their lives planned out by the rulers.  Individuality has been eliminated by many different techniques.  Your career is determined by society.  Songs are sung each night that praise the society and condemn the individual.  Even the language has been changed to eliminate all personal pronouns.

Like many science fiction novels, "Anthem" is the story of a revolt against the system.  The main character starts by performing little deeds and builds from there.  The discovery of a man hole cover and what it leads to is the turning point of the story.  Once he decides to hide his discovery, there is no going back.

In some respects I can see where this story might have influenced some of Harlan Ellison's works in the sixties.



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