16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A Surprisingly Good Book,
This review is from: Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (Mass Market Paperback)
I really wasn't expecting much out of this book. I'm not a socialist or a communist, so I figured I'd be sneering at much of what Bellamy had to say. Imagine my surprise when I found myself genuinely attracted to the book. Bellamy wrote a socialist tract in the form of a novel. He gets his points across and weaves in a romance tale along the way. I should say that the ending was no surprise to me, as I kind of figured out what was going to happen along the way.
The book begins with our hero, Julian West, who is a quite successful gent in 1888 Boston. West is quite the dandy, and is engaged to be married to a lovely young lady. West has trouble sleeping, so he regularly employs the services of a "mesmerizer" to help him sleep. The problem with this is that someone must be around to wake him up or the mesmerizing process might cause a long slumber. You can guess what happens. West is discovered in 2000 in a world that is a far cry from the world of the late 19th century. The world has changed in a radical way, and the family that finds West, the Leetes, want to know all about his old world.
The new world is a socialist/communist utopia in which the old problems of unemployment, war, inequality and the like have been solved forever. The rest of the book is a discussion between West and Dr. Leete about the new world and how it contrasts to the old world. In this one has to be fairly impressed with Bellamy's predictions. Bellamy predicted credit cards and even interactive music that can be piped into a person's room.
A romance between West and Dr. Leete's daughter Edith eventually blooms, but I won't spoil the surprise this entails. The romance theme was put in to make the socialist text more palatable for the 19th century reader. It could conceivably do the same for the modern reader, although if you're reading this book you are probably reading it for its political value.
I certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in utopian works, or 19th century political views. What is really neat is while you read this book you can easily find yourself believing that this could work, until you remember something that Bellamy never knew about. The utter failure of the Soviet Union, and Communism in general. Give it a shot.