731 of 828 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2004
Eric Arthur Blair was an important English writer that you probably already know by the pseudonym of George Orwell. He wrote quite a few books, but many believe that his more influential ones were "Animal farm" (1944) and "1984" (1948).In those two books he conveyed, metaphorically and not always obviously, what Soviet Russia meant to him.
I would like to make some comments about the second book, "1984". That book was written near his death, when he was suffering from tuberculosis, what might have had a lot to do with the gloominess that is one of the essential characteristics of "1984". The story is set in London, in a nightmarish 1984 that for Orwell might well have been a possibility, writting as he was many years before that date. Or maybe, he was just trying to warn his contemporaries of the dangers of not opposing the Soviet threat, a threat that involved a new way of life that was in conflict with all that the English held dear.
Orwell tried to depict a totalitarian state, where the truth didn't exist as such, but was merely what the "Big Brother" said it was. Freedom was only total obedience to the Party, and love an alien concept, unless it was love for the Party. The story is told from the point of view of Winston Smith, a functionary of the Ministry of Truth whose work involved the "correction" of all records each time the "Big Brother" decided that the truth had changed. The Party slogan said that "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past", and they applied it constantly by "bringing up to date" the past so as to make it coincide with whatever the Party wanted.
From Winston Smith's point of view, many things that scare us are normal. For example, the omnipresence of the "Big Brother", always watching you, and the "Thought Police" that punishes treacherous thoughts against the Party. The reader feels the inevitability of doom that pervades the book many times, in phrases like "Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you".
Little by little, Winston begins to realize that things are not right, and that they should change. We accompany him in his attempt at subversion, and are unwilling witnesses of what that attempt brings about. This book is marked by hopelessness, but at the same time it is the kind of distressing book we all NEED to read...
Why do we need to read "1984"?. In my opinion, basically for two reasons. To start with, Orwell made in this book many observations that are no more merely fiction, but already things that manage to reduce our freedom. Secondly, and closelly linked to my first reason, this is a book that only gets better with the passing of time, as you can read in it more and more implications. One of Orwell's main reasons for writting this "negative utopia" might have been to warn his readers against communism, but many years after his death and the fall of communism, we can also interpret it as a caution against the excessive power of mass media, or the immoderate power of any government (even those who don't defend communism).
Technological innovation should be at the service of men, and allow them to live better lives, but it can be used against them. I guess that is one of Orwell's lessons, probably the most important one. All in all, I think you can benefit from reading this book. Because of that, I highly recommend it to you :)
225 of 254 people found the following review helpful
George Orwell's classic was incredibly visionary. It is hardly fathomable that this book was written in 1948. Things that we take for granted today - cameras everywhere we go, phones being tapped, bodies being scanned for weapons remotely - all of these things were described in graphic detail in Orwell's book.
Now that we have the Internet and people spying on other people w/ webcams and people purposely setting up their own webcams to let others "anonymously" watch them, you can see how this culture can develop into the Orwellian future described in "1984."
If you've heard such phrases as "Big Brother," "Newspeak," and "thought crime" and wondered where these phrases came from, they came from this incredible, vivid and disturbing book.
Winston Smith, the main character of the book is a vibrant, thinking man hiding within the plain mindless behavior he has to go through each day to not be considered a thought criminal. Everything is politically correct, children defy their parents (and are encouraged by the government to do so) and everyone pays constant allegiance to "Big Brother" - the government that watches everyone and knows what everyone is doing at all times - watching you shower, watching you having sex, watching you eat, watching you go to the bathroom and ultimately watching you die.
This is a must-read for everyone.
238 of 270 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 1998
George Orwell's final novel, 1984, was written amidst the anti-communist hysteria of the cold war. But unlike Orwell's other famous political satire, Animal Farm, this novel is filled with bleak cynicism and grim pessimism about the human race. When it was written, 1984 stood as a warning against the dangerous probabilities of communism. And now today, after communism has crumbled with the Berlin Wall; 1984 has come back to tell us a tale of mass media, data mining, and their harrowing consequences.
It's 1984 in London, a city in the new überstate of Oceania, which contains what was once England, Western Europe and North America. Our hero, Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth altering documents that contradict current government statements and opinions. Winston begins to remember the past that he has worked so hard to destroy, and turns against The Party. Even Winston's quiet, practically undetectable form of anarchism is dangerous in a world filled with thought police and the omnipresent two-way telescreen. He fears his inevitable capture and punishment, but feels no compulsion to change his ways.
Winston's dismal observations about human nature are accompanied by the hope that good will triumph over evil; a hope that Orwell does not appear to share. The people of Oceania are in the process of stripping down the English language to its bones. Creating Newspeak, which Orwell uses only for examples and ideas which exist only in the novel. The integration of Newspeak into the conversation of the book. One of the new words created is doublethink, the act of believing that two conflicting realities exist. Such as when Winston sees a photograph of a non-person, but must reason that that person does not, nor ever has, existed.
The inspiration for Winston's work ,may have come from Russia. Where Stalin's right-hand man, Trotzky was erased from all tangible records after his dissention from the party. And the fear of telescreens harks back to the days when Stasi bugs were hooked to every bedpost, phone line and light bulb in Eastern Europe.
His reference to Hitler Youth, the Junior Spies, which trains children to keep an eye out for thought criminals- even if they are their parents; provides evidence for Orwell's continuing presence in pop culture. "Where men can't walk, or freely talk, And sons turn their fathers in." is a line from U2's 1993 song titled "The Wanderer".
Orwell assumes that we will pick up on these political allusions. But the average grade 11 student will probably only have a vague understanding of these due to lack of knowledge. It is even less likely that they will pick up on the universality of these happenings, like the fact that people still "disappear" without a trace every day in Latin America.
Overall, however, the book could not have been better written. Orwell has created characters and events that are scarily realistic. Winston's narration brings the reader inside his head, and sympathetic with the cause of the would-be-rebels. There are no clear answers in the book, and it's often the reader who has to decide what to believe. But despite a slightly unresolved plot, the book serves its purpose. Orwell wrote this book to raise questions; and the sort of questions he raised have no easy answer. This aspect can make the novel somewhat of a disappointment for someone in search of a light read. But anyone prepared to not just read, but think about a novel, will get a lot out of 1984.
1984, is not a novel for the faint of heart, it is a gruesome, saddening portrait of humanity, with it's pitfalls garishly highlighted. Its historic importance has never been underestimated; and it's reemergence as a political warning for the 21st century makes it deserving of a second look. Winston's world of paranoia and inconsistent realities is an eloquently worded account of a future we thought we buried in our past; but in truth may be waiting just around the corner.
336 of 384 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2004
"Animal Farm" by George Orwell was never required reading for me when I was in school, so it took me some time to finally get around to reading it. I found it to be a complete and enjoyable read that had me hooked from the very first sentence. It is an excellent exercise in symbolism and creative imagination. While the book may be a very short read, it brings a whole lot to the table by giving you an interesting take on how history can be reenacted in the most imaginative ways.
The animals on Mr. Jones' farm have had enough of what they deem to be slavery. They're tired of being ordered around by humans while they see no benefits in their daily work. This is all sparked by a dream that the boar, Major, had about a unique place where animals called the shots and never had to be ordered around by humans ever again. He tells them a revolution is very much needed. When Major dies, the animals act quickly and are able to overthrow the alcoholic farmer and his thugs from his very own farm. The pigs are in charge now, as they claim that they are much smarter than the others and know how to lead. What seems to be paradise quickly transforms into another form of slavery altogether enforced by propaganda and threats from the pigs. And yet, the animals do not know any better, as they are deceived by the new system that gives them the illusion that they are better off than they were with Mr. Jones calling the shots.
The book is greatly inspired by real events that went down during the era of communism in Russia, using animals as the actual people. While it helps to know about that time period, the book is written so well that it is easily understood even if you only know a little about what happened during that time. The use of animals was a very creative way to tell this story, as it gives you a big incentive to actually care for these characters. Had this just been about real people, then it would've just sounded like anything you could find in your history books. Orwell finds a much more interesting way of tackling the topic. He gives life to every one of his characters and they all elicit some kind of a feeling from you. There are times when the book is funny, and then there are times when it is just downright chilling (the last chapter will stay in your head for more than a few hours).
George Orwell's "Animal Farm" is a genuine masterpiece that quickly hooks the reader from the very beginning. It's an extremely easy read as well as an enjoyable one--not enjoyable in the sense that this is a "happy tale," but enjoyable in the sense that you really feel like you're reading something great. If you haven't had the chance to check it out, make sure you add this to your reading list. It is something that should be read by everyone at least once in their life, even if they don't end up enjoying it as much as others. I loved every single word that was written in the extremely creative read. This is an important classic in literature that shouldn't be missed for any reason. -Michael Crane
201 of 228 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2001
Artemis Fowl is a twelve-year-old boy who just happens to be both a genius and a criminal mastermind. In a desperate attempt to restore his family's fortune, Artemis comes up with a plan to steal gold from the fairies. Along with his trusty butler sidekick "Butler", he travels to Vietnam on a quest to find a volume of fairy commandments. Once this is achieved and the book deciphered, the next logical step would be to kidnap a fairy and wait for the ransom money to arrive. However, when Artemis kidnaps Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon, it seems he's made a mistake. Because these aren't the cute little elves of bedtime stories. These fairies are armed, dangerous and ready to fight. And they will stop at nothing to get Holly back.
The book has often been claimed to be the "next Harry Potter", but while it shares the same fantastically imaginative storyline and colourful descriptions, this is far darker and more humorous than JK Rowling's books. The main characters are all unique and loveable, particularly Holly, Foaly and Root. Even the anti-hero, Artemis Fowl himself is strangely appealing, despite his more dubious characteristics. As the book goes on, you begin to see that he does indeed possess a conscience, he is just careful never to let it get in the way of his evil schemes.
Artemis Fowl is full of humour and action. The author has produced an imaginative, fast-paced adventure, which combines magic and technology. The style of narrative is fairly informal, making it easier and more enjoyable to read. Although the first chapter is quite slow, the action soon speeds up and never stops. The story was absorbing, exciting and I read it straight through in a couple of hours without stopping. Where the "Goblet of Fire" was quite frightening, Artemis Fowl is full of humour and the typical fairy magic is replaced with action and wit.
I think that this book would be less appealing to younger children in the way that Harry Potter managed to be, but older kids, teenagers and adults alike should enjoy the mix of fantasy, humour and adventure. Overall: five stars, and I will definitely be reading it again. This is no copy of Harry Potter; Artemis Fowl is a completely original work but is still deserving of all the hype. I am sure I will be buying any future books in the series.
173 of 196 people found the following review helpful
After reading this book in one sitting, I think I've finally discovered my true reading level. I may not be that young, but as I've been told repeatedly that I've yet to grow up, I think I can easily qualify as a "young" adult reader.
This is a book that I had a lot of fun reading. I even busted the code (believe me - not a hard task) and started deciphering the code at the bottom of each page. I'm sitting here with a soft pencil, decoding like a cub scout with a secret decoder ring.
Eoin Colfer is a genius, with a vivid imagination and a wonderfully wicked sense of humor. He has produced a well thought out novel, nicely bound and presented, somehow combining a brilliant 12 year old millionaire criminal mastermind, a loyal butler named Butler who just happens to be a killing machine, a dwarf with a mighty forceful tunneling action, a techie wise-cracking centaur who can give Ian Fleming's "Q" a run for his money, a tough military-type girl scout fairy and her old fashioned boss, a havoc wrecking troll, and a support cast of dozens.
It's got magic, intrigue, deception, kidnapping, blackmail, computers, weapons, code-breaking, violence, and projectile flatulence and can't be faulted for the sheer brilliance of the scheming.
As soon as I finish my decoding, I'm off to book 2, "The Arctic Incident". Your kids will love this one, and so will you.
Amanda Richards October 3, 2004
147 of 166 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2004
"Animal farm" is to this day one of the best attempts to criticize a totalitarian regime through the means that literature provides: the power of words. George Orwell (1903- 1950) wanted to help others to realize things that for him were evident, and attempted to do so by writing a fable that can easily be read as a satire of the Russian Revolution. Orwell said in an article that "Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. It is simply a question of which side one takes and what approach one follows".
Orwell also pointed out that "Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole". He succeded beyond his wildest expectations, even though at first nobody wanted to publish this work because it was too controversial.
The plot of this book is relatively easy to grasp, and I think that is probably one of the reasons why it is so popular. Some animals decide to take over the conduction of a farm, because they believe there is too much injustice, and that they would improve the situation if they had the power to do so. They make a revolution, and end up evicting Mr. Jones, the owner of the farm. From that moment onwards, the farm is called "Animal farm"...
The animals establish seven "commandments", that they are supposed to obey at all moments in the new "Animal farm": 1- Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy, 2 - Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend, 3- No animal shall wear clothes, 4 - No animal shall sleep in a bed , 5 -No animal shall drink alcohol, 6 - No animal shall kill another animal , 7- All animals are created equal. At the same time, all commandments can be comprised in a maxim: "Four legs good, two legs bad".
Everything seems all right for sometime, and all the animals work together for the success of the revolution, obeying the commandments and striving for a new order of things. However, after a while the pigs begin to think that being part of the animal revolution is not enough: they want to dominate it. After that first realization things take a quick turn for the worse, and we cease to be in the presence of a "wannabe utopical society", having instead to be unwilling witnesses to the birth of a new totalitarian society.
At that moment, the pigs even change some of the commandments. For example, the fourth commandment turns into "No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets", and the sixth commandment says "No animal shall kill another animal without cause". Now, the commandments can be reduced to "Four legs good, two legs better". Finally, all the commandments will be replaced with one: "All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others".
All in all, I consider "Animal farm" extremely interesting, even though it is somewhat sad and pessimistic. The language is clear, and you won't find yourself wondering what the author meant by a phrase, or needing to read a paragraph again. From my point of view, that makes the reading process even more enjoyable.
Despite that, I believe that this book will be considerably more appreciated by those with some basic knowledge regarding the Russian Revolution. Only then will the reader be able to take full advantage of what this short fable can offer him, due to the fact that he will realize without too much effort that some of the fictional characters in "Animal Farm" were inspired by historical characters. For example, Napoleon (one of the pigs) was quite possibly inspired by Stalin, and Snowball (another pig) by Trosky. When you read this book, try to find the characters that represent the proletariat, the Communist Party, the intellectuals, etc... :)
On the whole, I regard this book as one of those you just need to read, but that fortunately you can also enjoy. The messages implicit in "Animal farm" are many, and the questions it makes you pose yourself are even more. But then, what better than a book that makes you THINK ?.
111 of 125 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 1999
A quite excellent book and the best political satire I have ever read. Can only be fully appreciated if the reader is familliar with the history of the Russian Revolution. For those who aren't, here is a list of who, or what, I thought the various animals and events represented.
Jones:= The Aristocracy. The Old Major:= Lenin. Napoleon:= Stalin. Snowball:= Trotsky. Squealer:= Beria?. Boxer:= The male Peasants. Dolly:= The female Peasants. The Pigs:= The Communist Party. The Dogs:= The NKVD. The Sheep:= The Army. The Raven:= The Clergy. The Donkey:= The Intellectuals, maybe the Jews. The Windmill:= Stalin's 5 year plans. Frederick`s Farm:= Germany. Pilkington Farm:= The West. The Counterfeit Money:= The Molotov-Rippentrop Pact.
Hope this is useful.
118 of 134 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2005
If it were not for the occasional appearance of Mulch Diggums, the dwarf with f*rts so explosive they can propel him safely from an underwater submarine all the way up to the surface of the ocean, the adult reader would find this the equal of any thriller written for adult eyes.
In the present volume, the evil child genius Artemis Fowl has forgotten all about his friends the fairies, and is occupied stealing a famous painting from a bank vault in true Mission-Impossible style. His triumph is interrupted by his archenemy pixie Opal Koboi, who has a plot (perhaps this won't surprise you) to destroy the world. Without giving away any of the rapid-fire plot developments, let's just say that Artemis, accompanied by Holly Short the intrepid LEPrechaun, Foaly the tech-wizard centaur, Artemis' bodyguard Butler, and the strangely compelling Mulch, fouls her plans (ok, sorry).
The intriguing list of gadgets and devices author Eoin Colfer employs to move the plot forward includes: cloning, creatures who shed their entire skin and use it later as a disguise in a prison break, retinal imaging, 100 million tons of molten iron, heat-seeking missiles, spacesuits with helmets that carry biometric information back to the center of the earth, handguns that bond with their owners, etc.
The ending promises a change for Holly, but a future with lots of Mulch and Artemis in it - and possibly some romance in later volumes.
The excitement, pace, and humor would be precisely like the best PG-13 thriller you will see at the movie theatre this summer, were it not for the fact that many of the characters are fairies, pixies, trolls, and dwarfs. And just like those movies, a few parents will wish there were less, well, military hardware in this series. A few of the more humorless moms will wish there were fewer f*rts. If those things don't bother you, you should not let the kids keep it to themselves; it's a great fun read for all ages.
70 of 78 people found the following review helpful
Undoubtedly this will be constantly compared to Harry Potter, but for crying out loud, just because a book might become as highly-liked as HP doesn't mean that the plot has to amble along the same lines. Irish author Eoin Colfer makes an amazing debut in the US with this book.
Artemis Fowl is an astonishing criminal mastermind (he's also twelve), the end of a line of criminals, who now plans to rob the fairies/elves of their gold. The way that he plans to do so is kidnapping of an elf and subsequent ransom. Enter Captain Holly Short, a member of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaisance--a cute touch that had me laughing out loud) and elvish Commander Root. And Holly is just perfect for the scheme.
Though there are folklore, fairies and fantasy, this is no ancient-themed tale -- but wholly of the 21st century, with a bit of high-tech stuff thrown in. Forget the usual wands, cauldrons and spells: There's a magical Book, but also powerful computers and a digital camera (dare you to find one of those in other modern juvenile fantasies...)
The characters -- especially peppery Holly and intelligent, wily Artemis -- are full of pizzazz and sparkle. The appearances of the otherworldly characters -- done to death in conventional fantasy -- were tempered by the 21st century nature of the setting, and the natures of their jobs and interactions. All are given a slightly twisted, smiling slant.
The pace is high-speed, with few lags in the plotline. Occasionally I lost track of what was going on, but a backtrack of a few pages fixed that. The writing style is a little too stark and undescriptive for my personal taste, but I suppose it would not be high-speed if there were a great deal of description.
Will Harry Potter fans like this? I truly cannot tell, they might not like the vast differences between the two -- but fans of quirky, imaginative fantasy will love it for sure.