The Book: 1984 by George Orwell. Originally published in 1949, the edition read was published by Signet after 1962.
The Setting: Earth, London. 1984.
The Story: A man living in a totalitarian society doesn’t conform to the ideal. This leads to a desire for history, love, and privacy. It ends badly for him.
The Science: The world of 1984 is a world in which most science has retrogressed, except those which can be applied to war, torture, and spying. The telescreen, a television like screen which can simultaneously transmit and receive, is ubiquitous and feared by Winston, the main character. Such a device is certainly possible today. In fact, laptops with webcams can be used as such by unsavory individuals. And surveillance cameras are pervasive in much of the modern world – often even in public spaces. While the resolution of such devices is probably not high enough to capture a comparable level of detail to what those in the book could capture, it’s still very much a part of this modern world.
The scientific angle in the final third of the book has to do with torture, brainwashing, and the ability of the brain to control itself. Sadly, this has all been done in the real world. And I imagine it’s all a great deal easier when the brain in question has a compelling desire to be controlled.
The Reaction: 1984 is a good book. It’s a classic cautionary tale of a possible world to be, one which seems almost as possible today as it did in 1949. But not only that, it’s great writing, good characters, and just damned compelling. If you haven’t read it, you probably should. I hadn’t read it in probably a decade and I was struck by the fact that I still liked it and found it important and relevant.
The Cover: The cover is fine. It conveys information. In this corner, it’s George “1984” Orwell! But the Schoolhouse Rock font is perhaps a bit too friendly for such a story.
Next Up: “Those Men from Mars” by Robert Spencer Carr. I like that title!