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A Clockwork Orange Paperback – April 17, 1995
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“Looks like a nasty little shocker, but is really that rare thing in English letters: a philosophical novel.” (Time)
“I do not know of any other writer who has done as much with language as Mr. Burgess has done here ― the fact that this is also a very funny book may pass unnoticed.” (William S. Burroughs)
“A terrifying and marvelous book.” (Roald Dahl)
Top Customer Reviews
I may have started out reading A Clockwork Orange because my friend told me how good it was. And then I continued to read it because it was engaging, disturbing, and thought provoking. Even though the book was written over 30 years ago, I believe it is still as powerful today as it was back then; perhaps even more so. Alex, the protagonist, is almost innocently committing violent crimes with his friends; for he isn't -trying- to be bad, he just is. He likes violence, and that's the way he is.
When Alex's friends gang up on him and leave him to be arrested by the police, Alex is sentenced to 14 years in prison. But then the opportunity to change presents itself to Alex, and he can't help but take the offer. Without ruining the story as so many previous reviewers have already done, I can say that when everything is said and done, important questions arise: is being good truly good if it is not by choice? Is it good to be bad, if that is what one chooses?
The book first came out in the 60s, and the American version lacked the last and 21st chapter from the original story. When it was republished, the book had the 21st chapter. Depending on which copy you read, with the last chapter or without it, the book will have an entirely different feel to it. The old copy represents the horrible realization that bad minds are always bad; the newer version leaves the reader with hope. Hope for Alex, and hope for oneself. Change is possible, the book says, no matter what sort of person you are.
A Clockwork Orange is truly a great work, one that will appeal to people for different reasons; and affect them in completely different ways. But it will affect them.
The basic plot follows Alex and his gang of sadistic young punks as they run amok, beating, raping, and murdering with gleeful abandon in the London of the near-future. They then retire to a bar to drink drug-enhanced milk and plot their next crime. Eventually, Alex gets caught and is subjected to the will of the State. He's forcibly deprogrammed with the "Ludovico Technique" in which he's strapped to a chair, his eyelids held open by metal clamps, and forced to watch a long movie of non-stop murder, rape, torture, and other horrible violence until he gets physically ill at the mere thought of such acts. Then he is thrown back on the streets, a declawed kitten at the mercy of his former victims. The American re-edition is published with the controversial twenty-first chapter not included in Kubrick's film, plus an introduction by the author called "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."
Unfortunately, it's a sad reflection on society in that Alex was shunned because of his violence, and when caught, had violence inflicted on him in order to make him stop. This extremely graphic novel received mixed reactions, either hailed as genius or dismissed as violent pornography. I would recommend the movie as well; it's visually inventive and a must-see from one of the world's greatest directors.
What "protagonist" (or Your Humble Narrator, at any rate) Alex does in the first half of the novel will make you ill. But what the State does to him to "cure" him makes his nadsat gang violence seem almost . . . well, "innocent" isn't quite the right word, but the fact that I'm even thinking of that word is an indication of Anthony Burgess's power.
For Burgess, the important thing is moral choice, and the possibility of choice entails the possibility of evil. Once Alex has been "reformed" by the very latest techniques of behavioristic science, it's no longer even _possible_ for him to be moral -- and that's somehow more horrible than any of his own horrible acts.
But Burgess stops short of making volition an object of idolatry. In the first place, he doesn't make any argument that Alex's actions were somehow "good" merely because he had _chosen_ them; quite the contrary. In the second place, even though Alex bears the full blame for all his depraved actions, there are hints scattered throughout the book that if he weren't living in a "socialist paradise," he just wouldn't have been acting this way in the first place.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Such a pleasant experience to have read this marvelous piece of art! One of the elements that amazed me the most was the creation of Nadsat. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Juan Brenes
In this book about an out-of-control near-future, young Alex is a cynical and violent young man, living in England. Read morePublished 7 days ago by The Reviewer Formerly Known as Kurt Johnson
This is one of those times when you honestly don't know whether the book or the movie is better. The book was written by Burgess when he was very angry at the world and... Read morePublished 17 days ago by David Kempf
I love this book. It gives a realistic view of the future, and it's possible darker societal changes that can be seen today, roughly 50 years after the book was first published. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Mr. Kunz
It is a dark, interesting story, but may not be accessible to some due to content. There are a lot of Russian words in this book. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Izzy