Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Title: Never Let Me Go71rpwxqqd3l
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: Dystopian
Pages: 288
Category: 43. Read a book where the main character goes on a journey
Format: Paper

Date Started: June 29th 2017
Date Finished: July 5th 2017

It’s possible I would’ve have picked this up if it weren’t for this challenge. Okay, I wouldn’t have. But like so many other books that I’ve picked up because of this challenge, I actually ended up liking it.

The book switches between the past and the present intertwined. The past explores Cathy’s experiences at a boarding school which seems to be located somewhere in the British countryside. The present explores Cathy’s job as a carer where she occasionally comes into contact with people she went to school with.

Right off the bat though, the boarding school seems a little weird and not quite right. First off each student cultivates their own collections which they are able to purchase from sales at the school that happen quarterly. They don’t use money though, they use tokens which they receive in exchange for their art with better art getting more tokens. In turn, the art is sold at the quarterly sales in addition to items brought in from outside the school like clothes.

There’s also this constant mention of donations which is threaded through both the past and present stories, though it’s easy to make guesses what this means since Cathy is a carer for those who have made donations. She travels between care facilities working with her clients. Of course, after she’s finished been a carer she will make her own donations.

This book has the same feel as the Handmaid’s Tale for me, even though this society is a little more rooted in our current reality than the Handmaid’s Tale is. But, I think it’s safe to say that if you were a fan of the Handmaid’s Tale then you should give this a try.

Rating: 3/5 stars

1984 – George Orwell

Title: 1984poster_1984_lrg
Author: George Orwell
Genre: Dystopian
Pages: 267
Category: 41. Read a book that has been on your to read list for more than a year
Format: Paper

Date Started: January 30th 2017
Date Finished: February 5th 2017

In all honesty, I started reading this one a really long time ago, straight out of high school and trying to read the classics. I made it 30 pages in (maybe) before giving up on it. The writing style wasn’t for me, the story was boring and nothing was really happening. In the back of my mind I’ve always intended to go back to it and now seemed like the perfect time.

You may or may not have noticed that lately 1984 has made it into the news and back onto bestseller lists (part of what prompted me to pick it back up). In the wake of Trump’s inauguration people have turned to 1984 to make sense of the world. Indeed it’s not hard to find an article that compares the current state of affairs in America with Orwell’s classic. But is that actually an accurate depiction of the book?

I would argue, no, it’s not. While there’s certainly some similarities there are also fundamental differences. While it’s true that we’ve seen the truth twisted slightly by Trump we have yet to see the past erased, and there are still those who feel free to speak out against what they see, one would not have dared to do such a thing in Orwell’s world, even in the privacy of their own home.

1984 paints a much bleaker picture of life than what many of us could imagine, a world where food is bland and scarce, work hours are long, you are watched constantly, everybody wears the same clothes and goes to the same community events after work and believes the same propaganda because there is no other alternative. History books and newspapers are revised with the latest version of the truth so that the all knowing, all seeing Big Brother is always correct. People are erased from history if they step out of line. There is a lottery but never a winner, only small prizes to appease to poorest citizens. Your own children would happily turn you into the Thought Police. Love is not allowed, sex is for procreation only and not to be enjoyed.

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past. – George Orwell

Perhaps this picture of life is even bleaker than Orwell imagined it to be in a world that has changed since the writing of the book. Today it is creativity and individualism that the world values, slogans like ‘be yourself’ are everywhere, this was slightly less of a focus in the post World Ward II society.

Ultimately, I think the connections between Trump and 1984 have been greatly overstated but if you haven’t read it already then 1984 is still definitely worth a read. It’s a little slow to get going which appears to be a deliberate choice by Orwell to truly immerse you in the world he created. The prose is not what I would usually enjoy and the plot somewhat bland if you’ve grown up reading the likes of JK Rowling and Michael Crichton, but Orwell’s world is both terrifying and immersive enough to make up for it.

Rating: 3.5/5