Saturday, March 7, 2015

"Anthem" by Ayn Rand

Going in to read this novel I was more than a bit worried. Ayn Rand is someone I've only known from inane political tv correspondents constantly fighting over her 'message'. I hate politics, so I had a right to be concerned. Also, there are more than a few highly liked one star reviews on Goodreads for this book, leading me to believe I might be wasting my time by reading this little 100-page novella.

I was fully prepared for my brains to turn to mush while I was bored into some sort of comatose state of uncaring. I was surprised, then, when I was able to finish this while I had a headache in less time then it took me to watch a movie. Although many one-star reviews would convince you otherwise, the basic story of this novella isn't boring. The world it's set in is interesting. And for a book published in 1938, it's fairly progressive.

The Plot: (As Seen on Goodreads)
'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."'

At first, having not read the blurb, I thought I was reading some sort of weird book about conjoined twins. 'We' is used in the place of 'I' in this book, leading to some initial confusion of the reader who chooses to dive right in without fully reading the blurb first.

This novella has purposeful similarities to many Biblical stories, and also has an overbearingly preachy feeling to the last few pages. Despite the preachiness, the story itself is somewhat mythical (and even has references to Greek mythology) which I enjoyed. The world it is set in harkens back to the Dark Ages, even without Feudalism and a central figure who has most of the power (although there is a group of people who have the most power). The class system of Anthem didn't make much sense to me, but I doubt it was supposed to- each group has its purpose, and people are put in each group for no particular reason (other than obedience to the group cause, maybe).

Although it has aged fairly well, Anthem does have some issues with outdated thinking. For one, Golden One (a female character Equality 7-2521 fancies) is about the meekest most sheep-like heroine I have ever met. At one point, she says something that would later become a sugary-sweet sixties song and I gave my poor, aching head a slap for posterity. Ayn Rand is a woman, so I don't know why her heroine's portrayal is so terrible, but it is, and it was probably the biggest con of the book for me.

Anthem is a classic dystopian that survives most tests of the times but fails miserably at others. Despite its cons, the tale this novella tells is undoubtedly a classic, packing a large punch for such a little book. If you'd rather read a classic dystopia than watch The Hunger Games movie for the umpteenth time, consider this novella in its place.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent dystopian with a heavy handed ending.

Content: Ages 14+ for sexual references, vile dystopia, and violence.

Page Count: 105 pages


  1. Such an imaginative world! Awesome Review!

    1. Yep, I thought so too. Anthem often gets overlooked when there are other classics (1984, Brave New World) that are better known in sci-fi/dystopian.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Raffy!
      ~Litha Nelle


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