Anthem

Ayn Rand
Anthem has long been hailed as one of Ayn Rand's classic novels, and a clear predecessor to her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In Anthem, Rand examines a frightening future in which individuals have no name, no independence, and no values. Equality 7-2521 lives in the dark ages of the future where all decisions are made by committee, all people live in collectives, and all traces of individualism have been wiped out. Despite such a restrictive environment, the spark of individual thought and freedom still burns in him--a passion which he has been taught to call sinful. In a purely egalitarian world, Equality 7-2521 dares to stand apart from the herd--to think and choose for himself, to discover electricity, and to love the woman of his choice. Now he has been marked for death for committing the ultimate sin. In a world where the great "we" reign supreme, he has rediscovered the lost and holy word--"I."

Reviews

Reviewed: 2018-12-26
That was quick. I know I've seen print versions of this book and it was not large but I read it in two hours. This is some kind of personal record.

Having recently reread Fahrenheit 451, I could not help but draw parallels. Both are set in a world where thinking for oneself is outlawed and punished by death. The technology represented is opposite in the books but amounts to the same thing. The inundation of empty media and adrenaline seeking in 451 has the same affect as the regimented lives in Anthem. Rand takes it a step further with the eradication of the concept of the individual.
If I had to pick one of these books to recommend, I'd point you to Fahrenheit 451. Anthem does not develop the characters as well and only hints at the terrible emptiness they feel inside. 451 illustrates it much better. Anthem is probably more realistic regarding the technological Dark Age that developed but 451 shows more thoroughly the insidious and seductive nature of the concept of "the greater good." Both are clear warnings against the idea of the needs of the many being more important than the rights of the few. They both also attempt to remind readers of the necessity of free thinking.
There are obvious parallels in The Lottery and The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, as well.
Reviewed: 2018-07-18
So powerful and truely thought-provoking. Reminds you to value your individualism.
Reviewed: 2017-08-29
Anthem has long been hailed as one of Ayn Rand's classic novels, and a clear predecessor to her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In Anthem, Rand examines a frightening future in which individuals have no name, no independence, and no values. Equality 7-2521 lives in the dark ages of the future where all decisions are made by committee, all people live in collectives, and all traces of individualism have been wiped out. Despite such a restrictive environment, the spark of individual thought and freedom still burns in him - a passion which he has been taught to call sinful. In a purely egalitarian world, Equality 7-2521 dares to stand apart from the herd- to think and choose for himself, to discover electricity, and to love the woman of his choice. Now he has been marked for death for committing the ultimate sin.
Reviewed: 2016-06-24
I should say right up front that I'm not at all familiar with Ayn Rand. I own a couple of her books, but I never read any of them until now. I never studied her in school and I'm not familiar with her philosophies, though I know that they are somewhat controversial and polarizing. And I am not a philosophical type person... so take this review with a grain of salt.

This is my first experience reading any of her work, and... I'm not really all that impressed. I got the lack of individuality theme right around paragraph two or so, when I realized that Equality 7-2521 wasn't literally referring to multiple people when he said "we" but just to himself. And so it wasn't that hard to predict where this was going. Maybe it's because I've read and seen quite a lot of dystopian themed work in my life, but this came across as very predictable to me. In fact, bits of it reminded me of Logan's Run and THX 1138, though I do realize that this was written well before both of those.

So, this society is based on The Borg the collective, and all existence is supposed to be to toil for the good of the whole. There's no explanation of how they got to this point and the population is very small, in the thousands, so I'm thinking that since there's mention of a great fire, there must have been a war or nuclear blast or something, and the survivors rebuilt society in the best way that they knew how... We need some people to clean up, we need some people to figure stuff out and help rebuild, we need some people to grow food, and some people to cook it, and some people to teach the next generation, and so on. But somewhere along the line, the people in power decided they liked it, and that limiting individual thought and convincing people that the whole is the only thing that matters, and any not following the rules would be whipped or killed, allowed them to keep it. Just your standard communist cult.

I don't necessarily think that socialism or collectivism is inherently bad. There are many communities that make it work, but when free will, knowledge, self, and choice are banned, and the collective replaces one's identity and purpose, that can be bad. This book illustrates this extreme form, and at the end once the main character discovers his sense of self, he claims that he will never again use the term "we". I guess I can understand wanting to break away from that concept completely and live truly freely and aware, but it struck me as just as ignorant, because how else will you refer to a group to which you belong by choice? The main character is not ALONE, he's just discovered he is an individual. There's a difference, and that difference matters, because "we" can be a good type of inclusive, and does not necessarily equate to a loss of self.

Rand seemed to have strong opinions on this, and that's cool... I just don't entirely buy into them.

Anyway, I liked that it was journal style, even though it was technically 1st person. It worked though in this case, because for him, there is no concept of a singular person existing just in their own head, so it's like he assumed from the very beginning that his writings would be read by someone else. I liked that he was also learning about himself as he wrote, so it was kind of like he was explaining things to himself and discovering his own thoughts at the same time. But, once he starts reading at the house, and discovers his sense of self, Rand goes a bit wild via this character. He definitely doesn't read like a 21 year old, and definitely not a 21 year old who has only had limited education and has been discouraged from thinking and questioning his whole life. His epiphany reads like a lifelong philosophy scholar coached him. It was a little overwrought at the end.

Still, I didn't HATE it, so I guess that is a plus. It's just one of those books that will eventually just fade to nothingness or blur together with every other dystopia I've read or will read. There's nothing really compelling here. It was just OK.
Reviewed: 2016-06-22
Anthem is an interesting dystopian novella in which the word 'I' (and individuality, by extension) does not exist. As most dystopian novels, it gets you thinking about the future of society and humankind. My first impression was that the book could have been made full-length, but in retrospect, Rand manages to say all she needs to in a short amount of space, which I guess enables it to pack a more powerful punch than if it had been drawn out.

I don't feel like I absorbed this book as much as I could have; maybe because I was reading it on my iPod and rushing a bit to get it finished that day. I look forward to re-reading it in the future so I can analyse it a bit better. If you like dystopian novels, you should definitely read this.
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@goofaloo began #anthem... on 2015-01-12
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@ginadavidson completed #anthem... on 2013-02-26
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@hstewart completed #anthem... on 2015-09-14
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@hstewart began #anthem... on 2014-09-14