Anthem

AnthemAnthem by Ayn Rand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One part 1984, one part Planet of the Apes, one part Farenheit 451. No surprise that those seminal works came after Ayn Rand’s Anthem, an Anglo nightmare that can already be seen in the university of your choice, and any number of bland cubicles a multinational corporation provides for your comfort. The likely reality is that the world will look more like Soylent Green than Oceania. But then, this may not be the world at all. However, if you do see it that way, you could assume that this book would be on the coffee table of our founding fathers, if they were around in body. Certainly, the spirit is alive in this book.

In a not so distant future world, a lowly street sweeper (so ordained to be by the powers that be), discovers that there is more to life that what has been hitherto taught by way of the accidental discovery of…light. The apoplectic consternation by the Council of Scholars at the news of this blasphemous discovery necessitates our heretofore naive hero to make a run for it to the woods, apparently an unmapped area of this future world where no one goes anyway. For Orwell, it was the prole zone where there were no cameras, for Chuck Heston, it was the forbidden zone.

If you have any sense of carved in stone reality, the ludicrous, traipsing through the forest, cooking up birds and goats, a skill that contradictorily every faceless number learns from institutions that they left behind will be an eye roller. From a practical matter, Rand has no idea, and her protaganists should have no idea of how to survive in the wild, given they were never allowed into such an environment. And if that weren’t enough, in a world where it is forbidden to show any signs of interest in the opposite sex, a guy alone in the woods just happens to run into the very girl he was paying attention to. How lucky can you be? Ah, but the story isn’t about Grizzly Adams in the mountains, it is about conformity, or is it about the folly of collectivism, or control through ignorance, gross overregulation, totalitarianism, or the natural tendency towards individualism and self worth? Maybe it’s about all those things; Rand will leave that up to you to decide.

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