Anthem by Ayn Rand

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Rating: 2/5

Normally, I like Ayn Rand. This is not to say that I am an avid Ayn Rand follower, and I would certainly not call myself an Objectivist since there are some key things that I don’t agree with her on. However, there are areas in her philosophy where I see value.

I am a fan of Atlas Shrugged despite the long, drawn out speeches her characters make, which, let’s face it, tended to get tedious. Also, her characters where very one dimensional, but I don’t necessarily consider this a good argument against the book since in all reality the book is a piece of philosophy more than fiction designed specifically to get a philosophical point across, hence the dichotomies. These arguments also apply to Fountainhead (which I actually liked more).

Now, the only reason I say all that stuff is because people who actually give Ayn Rand’s work some credibility tend to have to defend themselves given the distorted view that some people have of her philosophy since really horrible people are very vocal about liking her without actually studying her philosophy, thus giving her a bad rep.

Anyway, back to the book in question. Anthem was highly disappointing to me. Basically, what Rand tried to do here was write a dystopia about a future world in which everyone becomes mindless robots who say “we” instead of “I” or “me” and only live to fit in. It’s an idea rather reminiscent of novels like “Brave New World” and “1984” but with no realistic value to it what so ever.

The part about dystopias that make them both entertaining and terrifying is that when you really delve into the novel you can see where these changes in society derived from. They have a historical background that is eerily similar to our world today. On top this, the social and technological changes and systems used to create this uber conformist society aren’t actually that far fetched. This is why Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake” was so popular. (Great read by the way). The majority of that book is plausible!

However, Anthem does not do this and by the end, in common Ayn Rand fashion, it gets a little preachy. I didn’t much care about the character, probably because he was boring and she doesn’t do a great job of writing about internal conflict. That’s too complex for her usual characters who are, for the most part, very sure of everything that they are doing. Having a character that doubts themselves at times was most likely a challenge. Granted, she wrote this before Shrugged and Fountainhead, but her brain still worked in that one dimensional way.

Overall, I gave this book a 2/5. She had a very interesting idea that just didn’t work out. Especially not in the dystopian format. I almost stopped reading it even though it was 100 pages long. Sorry Rand. This did not do it for me.

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