Review: 1984 by George Orwell

Winston Smith is trapped in a totalitarian world from which there is no escape. Big Brother, the leader of Oceania, is on every telescreen – and telescreens are two-way devices, through which the State monitors every one of its citizens. The State routinely changes history to fit its own convenience – Winston is one of the rewriters – and is implementing a new language called Newspeak, in which political deviance is simply inexpressible. Not even rebellious thoughts are tolerated. Against this backdrop, Winston attempts to revolt. He writes seditious thoughts in an illegal diary, has an affair with a woman despite the urgings of the Anti-Sex League, and attempts to join an underground rebellion. Alas, the State has anticipated everything, and Winston is brainwashed back into perfect conformity – to our horror.

1984 by George Orwell. Originally published in 1948. Audiobook, published in 2002 by Books on Tape, is narrated by Richard Matthews. Run time is 11 hours and 22 mins.

This isn’t something I would normally pick to read. Not saying it’s bad, it’s just not my type. Everyone knows the idea behind the plot, even if they’ve never read 1984. Government’s a bitch on a power trip, basically. And you have no freedom, even if they say you do. The reason I finally sat down and read this is because the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge had this prompt on it: A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom. I could think of nothing better then the infamous Big Brother and the thought police of 1984.

I ended up enjoying this more then I thought I would. Lots of great ethics and philosophical questions you can ponder on for a long time. You can’t help but think of your own countries government, or even certain mega corporations *cough* WWE, Disney *cough* that behave in a very 1984ish way. Lots of great fuel for conspiracy theories. That part of this book was very fun, and felt like it moved along fast.

Something that drove me nuts, though, is that there is a LOT of repetition going on in this book. I don’t know if that was supposed to be intentional social commentary or if the author was getting paid by the word count, or what… but sometimes we heard the same info dumps multiple times, in the exact same ways. If it was intentional or not, it just made me think FILLER! I figure the point of all the reparation is for (Oceania) brow beating the main character into submission- repeat it enough times and he’s not going to know up from down anymore without them telling him. The way it was done though, I don’t know… it felt a little bit boring, maybe, because it was almost the exact same wording every time…?

Sometimes I felt like the book was a little bit too vague with trying to make you read between the lines with all the doublespeak. I mean, that WAS the whole point of doublespeak. Nothing is a reliable source. And I get the author is trying to make you question LITERALLY everything and everyone. So, yes, I get it… that is the point. I am just not a huge fan of stories that are ultra ambiguous like this. You don’t have to spoon feed me every answer, but I would like to feel some sort of ground under my feet! The author nailed it though. So gold star him on that one.

The narrator was just kind of there. Matthews didn’t do a bad performance, but it didn’t really blow me away either. He got the job done. People sounded different enough that it wasn’t confusing, but not so different that it made you sit up and really take notice of the voice actor.

I get why this is a classic. The ideas and questions 1984 bring up stay with you for a long time. It is definitely timeless and entertaining. I just wish it didn’t feel so slowed down by so much of the same repetition. For me, that killed a lot of the tension and suspense that had been building up through a majority of the book.

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