1984 book review // Blogging competiton

For the blogging/book review competition

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1. 1984 Book Review

When you hear the words “dystopian novel”, what’s the first book that comes to mind? 1984 by George Orwell is probably the most recognised and renowned dystopia, and for good reason. If you haven’t read it yet, stop reading this review, drop whatever else you’re doing and GO READ IT NOW.

Read it? Good, now we can discuss how awesome it is. 1984 is easily one of my favourite books and Orwell is a bloody genius.

This is the first piece of fictional writing I’ve read that has actually scared me. I’ve always appreciated good penmanship, but it’s never properly stuck with me because I know it’s not real. Whenever a story would go down a route I didn’t like, I could always close the book, return to reality and never think about it ever again. But I can’t do that with 1984 because even though it was written in 1948, it’s so eerily similar to some aspects of what the world is like today that you’d think Orwell was a time traveller or something. Sure, we don’t have telescreens or Thought Police, but we also don’t have much more privacy than the people of Airstrip One. Even if our government isn’t as overt about it as the Inner Party, great advances have been made in surveillance and they are watching us. Big Brother is watching. Remember the News of the World phone hacking scandal? How about the Edward Snowden NSA leaks across the pond a few year ago? Have you ever heard the quote “1984 was meant as a warning, not instruction guide”?

I’d learned about the Cold War and communism and the USSR at school, but I was never able to fully empathise. Of course I understood the scale of the atrocities committed by these kinds of dictatorship regimes, but being the first world, middle class, privileged person that I am, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the concept of being completely at the mercy of a cruel, totalitarian government. Every authoritarian regime I know of has taken place in a country thousands of miles from me or before I was born, and since I’ve been fortunate enough to have only experienced a democratic rule, I’ve adopted somewhat of a “it’s not my problem, it’ll never happen to me” attitude. However, experiencing it through Orwell’s words and Winston’s viewpoint really opened my eyes to just how utterly awful life would be under a tyrannical one-party rule. This was (and in some countries unfortunately still is) the reality for millions of people, and reading this book has exponentially increased my sympathy for those who have to live under oppressive regimes and my anger and hatred towards oppressors.

But it’s not just me 1984 has had a profound effect on. The novel has a massive cultural impact on the world. The popular reality show “Big Brother” is named after the omniscient, omnipresent figurehead of the Inner Party. The BBC comedy show “Room 101” is named after the named after the novel’s abominable torture chamber. There are many TV shows, movies, books, videos, music and lots more media inspired by or loosely based on 1984 but if I were to write about them all, I would be writing this review forever.

1984 is my definition of a literary masterpiece. It frightens and amazes me how talented Orwell is as an author and satirist, and I could only dream of being half as good a writer as him. Even though he wrote the book 68 years ago, it’s extremely relevant and rightfully regarded as a classic in the present day, and I believe it will remain so for the considerable future. This novel is truly timeless.

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