Book 50 in Cannonball Read 2
We is a dystopian novel, widely considered to be a precursor to George Orwell’s 1984. It is written in the form of records chronicling the progress of D-503 from enthusiastic support of OneState, a fascist regime, to a man in love despite the prohibition on such emotional attachments, to an advocate for rebellion, and lastly to a sort of lobotomized supporter of the regime once again. The comparison to 1984 is not particularly apt, as the only elements the two novels share are fascist regimes, male main characters, and women that they fall in love with while rebelling against the fascist regime. Where 1984 is both nuanced and fully-formed, placing the reader inside the protaganist’s mental state, We is sort of, well, half-assed. D-503 is never a full character, and sure, that could be partly due to the fact that he is just a cog in a big machine, but it’s also because Zamyatin doesn’t know how to show - only how to tell.
One of the best parts of reading dystopian novels is the details provided about the society depicted. Zamyatin provides scant details, opting instead to feature D-503’s flowery descriptions of his surroundings.
The book also features ellipses all the time (this could be the translation, or the original text itself). Let’s do a little experiment. I am going to turn to any random page and count the ellipses.
Page 82: 5 ellipses. Example: “I knew I was imagining all this, that everything was the way it was before, but still, it was clear. . .”
Page 149: 9 ellipses. Example: “I couldn’t move . . . because I wasn’t standing on a surface.”
Page 42: only 3 ellipses.
Page 169: 6 ellipses.
Ellipses are the stupidest punctuation imaginable.
We is not so terrible and ridiculous as Brave New World, but it does not approach the brilliance in characterization, plot, or dystopian dread that Orwell created in 1984. It provides little useful political critique other than ‘fascism is bad.’