Monday, May 17, 2010

Dystopia Month!


Yes, this post is about shame.

Book shame. I'll admit it. There's some books I haven't read. Books I should've read. I know, I know. Slacker.

But I tell myself it's common! Everyone steals Cable, right? I mean, everyone has books missing on their Should've Read list, right? Right?

And the worst ones are the ones that really surprise you. People that know you and the kind of books you read, the kind of people who are always utterly flabbergasted when you admit, no, I haven't read X! Or Y either!

Book shame.

For me, the two worst are 1984 and A Brave New World. I have not read them.

I hang my head. Yes, I, who has escaped two literature degrees, who has 32 years of classics and sci-fi and fantasy... I have not read the two great dystopic novels. My name is Ink, and I am a slacker.

But this shall not last! This is Dystopia Month here on the blog! I'm gonna read 'em and blog about the experience, about the sudden release from Shame. Say three hail mary's and take a deep breath.

And the neat thing is there are actually three great dystopic novels of the 20th Century! Name the third and win a prize! (Okay, there is no prize. This blog is really a sort of mini-dystopia, the kind that gets your hopes up and then shatters them. Take that, free-thinking rebels!)

The third one, of couse, is the first of the three, Yevgeny Zamyatin's WE, written in 1921. Ursula K. Le Guin calls it "the best single work of science fiction yet written." So I'm gonna start with that one and then move on to Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World (published in 1932), and then finish with George Orwell's 1984 (published in 1949).

Should be fun, and if anyone wants to read along with me, feel free! Share in the dystopic angst!

But, before I do, a couple questions: If you've read any of these, what are your thoughts on them? And what are your own shameful omissions, the books that everyone who knows you is surprised you haven't read? Come on, confess, you know you'll feel better.


JustineDell said...

I haven't read a lot of books. Since I only became an avid reader less than a year ago (I wouldn't pick up a book to save my live before then) so....ahem...I have WAY too many books on my to be read list. I'll never get through them all before I die. LoL


Mesmerix said...

I've read Brave New World, but not the other two. It's a decent book, a surprisingly short/quick read, and thought provoking. I found Huxley's focus on sexuality to be a little strange and overdone. I think it's a measure of the times though, as in the 1930's it would have been incredibly taboo, whereas now the birth control angle, for example, is commonplace. You'll see what I mean when you read it.

1984 has been on my "Should've Read" list for awhile and I'll get around to it eventually. I'll be curious to hear your feedback on the books.

Ben Carroll said...

I've only read 1984, out of those. And that was so long ago I can't really bring a single thought on it to mind. Which probably means it should be on my 'Should Return To' list.

mzmackay said...

Shall I say my three Hail Mary's now?

I have read 1984. I believe I read it as an older teenager. I remember being struck about the mirror/screen in every home. At this point in my life, I can't help but think our computer screens have become that mirror/screen.

Good luck.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...


You just started reading fiction a little over a year ago? And you're already this good? Okay, I'm officially jealous. :)

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Thanks for chipping in with thoughts on the books, everyone. It makes me excited to read, and that's good. One of the problems with such books, I think, is that even though I want to read them I'm in the habit of ignoring them. There's a sort of inertia to them, from having passed over them so many times. So I thought Dystopia Month would help me put the pedal to the metal. Momentum!

And I'm loving WE so far, so that's really encouraging too.

Mira said...

Okay, this explains alot.

Your optimistic approach to life. Your easy-going demeanor. The fact that you're so nice.

You just hadn't read the basic primers on dystopia yet.

Thank goodness. I didn't want to mention it, but I've been worried about you. I'm relieved you'll be joining the rest of us cynical, tense, grumpy folks soon.

Don't fight it, Bryan. Once you realize there's no hope, you enter a peaceful, calm place. It's nice there.

Come. Join us.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...


Should I call you Big Sister...?

Mira said...


I would really, really, really, really like that.

Matthew Rush said...

I read Brave New World and 1984 in High School and LOVED them. However, that was a long time ago so I may have to read them again to catch up.

I have never heard of WE, but it sounds excellent so I will certainly have to check that out as well.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...


WE is originally written in Russian, so you have to get it in translation. Mine is by Natasha Randall and seems great. From what I've read so far, I'd really recommend it.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...



If you're my sister I'll have to give you rugburns or something, though.


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I've read both and am an official fangirl of Ursula, so yeah, you could say I'm versed in dystopias. However, they belong to the category of "stuff I read so long ago I barely remember I read them" so I should probably re-read. But my contemporary TBR list is so long, I can hardly imagine, yanno, reading for FUN (yes, dystopians are fun for me. Wierd. I know.)

I haven't heard of WE, though. Might have to break down and do that. Or just wait for your review! :)

Tahereh said...


we cant be friends until you read 1984 is ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT YUP.

Tahereh said...

oh, WE is also pretty awesome, but i think Orwell takes the cake.

Mira said...


I'm your Big Sister, so guess who will be giving the rug burns?

Well, not me. Not subtle enough. I'm more in favor of torturing you by telling you you're adopted.

Vicki said...

I finally read 1984 last summer, and really enjoyed it. It sucks you in, gets you hooked, then spits you out...but you still end up loving it for all its trouble. Haven't read the other two you mentioned, though.

On my bookshelf of Books I REALLY Need to Read are The Lord of the Rings books. I've read The Hobbit and Fellowship, but only got through the first half of Two Towers before I fell out. I dunno. Frodo, Sam, and Gollum never enticed me. I'll get to them eventually, I'm sure, but for now I'll stick with library books.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Lol, Susan. I think, um, the book will probably be a bit better than my review.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...


Soon! Soon, it shall be done, oh great and almost bestie of friends! I'm like a friend in waiting. And I look terrible in a dress, so I'll never overshadow you. I mean, what more could you want in an almost friend?

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...


Show me the paperwork.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...


Faramir and Shelob are in the Two Towers! The end of Two Towers is great, if you can get there. Good middle book ending. You know, if you like the Empire Strikes Back sort of middle ending. :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

BTW, I like that you have come out from behind the Snoopy. :)

And for those that like their dystopias in the YA flavor:

The League of Extraordinary Writers

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Yeah, now that I do my blogging and writing from home I actually have access to pictures! Only took me five months to remember. Snoopy and I had a good run. He's the best failed writer ever. :) Nobody got more kickass rejections than Snoopy.

But since I do actually have my own face I figured it was time to use it. :) said...

Skip them both if you've already read STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND.

Only kidding. :-)

My shame book is LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS.

I've opened that book two dozen times, read the beginning, jumped into various parts and read them, but I cannot beginning-to-end that book!

And then there's the stuff you re-read instead of reading something you haven't read yet. Does this happen to you?

I had to hide by beat-up pb copies of Itala Calvino and Barry Hannah, because I will so often set down a book I'm reading to get a short fix from my favs. And then... well, they're very very captivating. said...

CORRECTION: Typo. It's Italo Calvino, of course.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Oooh, I love Calvino. Though, srangely, my favourite book of his is his first, and it's the only one that's written in the realistic vein. I love his strangeness, too, but that first book is great.

I haven't read Stranger in a Strange Land, though! Shit. It'll have to go on my list.

Deb Salisbury said...

Oh, yes - read Stranger in a Strange Land! I must have read it 30 years ago (time for a reread!) but it was amazing.

I have read 1984 - I found it brilliant but depressing. I'm not fond of dystopia. I've avoided Brave New World, and hadn't heard of We.

I keep telling myself I should read Twilight so I'll know what the buzz is about, but I can't force myself to face the angst.

JustineDell said...

I liked the Snoppy pic. ;-) It's nice to see the real you too, though.


Mira said...


There is no paperwork. A man in a dark cloak brought you in the middle of the night, and made me promise not to tell. That's why mom and dad don't know you're adopted either.

Btw, as an aside, you may want to start reassuring each of your children that they are not adopted. Pre-emptive preparation.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Nah, the kids look too much like us. They might just wish they were adopted!

Mira said...

Oh stop that. You're a cutie.

I like the books teetering on the top of the closet in your new picture. Seems apt. :)