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Our Anthem is silent

Updated on November 5, 2015
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In case you want to read the books mentioned here for yourself.

Would you kindly read this?

Anthem by Ayn Rand
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Like many kids growing up in the American south, I had politically conservative parents. The kind that more or less blindly follow the philosophy of the Republican party and see almost everything that the Democrats do as the second coming of Adolf Hitler, or the usual BS that you hear the talking head idiot gallery spouting off day after day. Anyway, Part of that rhetoric I've heard over and over again (particularly after President Obama was elected) is this: "Ayn Rand was a visionary that painted the future with startling clarity." Of course, they were talking about Rand's ridiculously long, so-called masterpiece Atlas Shrugged, a book that I have yet to read...and if Anthem is anything to go by, I will never want to.

Let me be blunt here: Ayn Rand is a TERRIBLE writer whose political ideas are the equivalent of a three year old not wanting to share their toys (there I said it). And Anthem is a terrible book that makes no bloody sense on a narrative or philosophical level. Why? Where do I begin? The book is set in an alternate future in where the human race has entered another dark age and has devolved into a society that is laughably communistic. How ridiculous is it? The concept of individualism doesn't exist anymore (the use of the words "I" and "Ego" is forbidden for example) and people are given numbers instead of names, and the evolution of technology is tightly controlled by the government. But one man rediscovers electricity and and the light bulb and is sentenced to be put to death. But he escapes into the wild-where apparently nobody goes because it's dark and scawry. And out in the wild he rediscovers individualism and...urgh, it gives me a headache just talking about it.

It's not so much that a setting and plot like this can't work, its just that Rand execution is terrible. Her vision of a communistic paradise is cliched and juvenile, and not even in an entertaining or thoughtful way. It doesn't even make sense. Like for example, the part when the main character brings his light bulb before his society's ruling council. He spends half the bloody book trying to make it work; all the while spouting off to his buddy that he's going to make the ruling council accept his new idea by convincing them how it will change the world. Even though he knows how tightly controlled technological evolution is, and how much the council hates surprises.

And then he's flabbergasted when their reaction is out right revulsion and they start calling for his execution. And then abruptly, right in the middle of scene (because apparently he didn't get their oh so subtle hints) the main character actually asks them about adopting his idea and gets a very detailed lecture about how their economic system works...uh what? First off, why would he even ask that after seeing their reaction? And why on God's Green Earth would they take the time to explain that to him, weren't they just calling for his death? And secondly, Unless you're North Korea, no real communist nation in their right mind would reject a brilliant idea or revolutionary method of doing things simply because it's not the way they've always done it. Heck, if anything, they would turn said idea or method into a propaganda gold mine. In other words: that's not communism, that's just plain idiocy. You think the Soviet Union dissolved remained technologically static? Of course not, America and the Soviets were neck and neck in terms of technological advancements for decades. No, it collapsed because, by the 1990's, it could no longer economically compete with the west (among other reasons too numerous to list here). And try as they might, individualism and innovation does not go away simply because the government is a totalitarian state. Human beings are a bit more complicated than that, something that the characters in Anthem utterly fail to realize.


Speaking of the main characters, I can't think of the last time characters from any story were more flat, and melodramatic. The main character's (identified as Equality 7-2521...really) development is centered around his rediscovery/recreation of the light bulb and how that drive to create leads him to the rediscovery of individualism. And then there is his arbitrary love interest(called 'Liberty 5-3000') whom he introduces to his new found individualism by...well, by having sex with her basically. Yeah. I really didn't see a point to this character at all. Rand basically relegates her to the status of background color. Heck, we only see her for a chapter or two in the middle, and then again near the end when she follows him into the wild, and that's IT. And isn't it weird that she can't rediscover individualism until after she sleeps with him? It's so misogynist that it's almost funny, in a very depressing sort of way.

Nothing really happens in the the final chapters of the book. Equality just sits there and lectures the reader about his epiphany on the importance of individualism and how the government is stifling the progress of society. And the only thing that comes close to closure in this car wreck is when he tells us of his the plan to send Liberty back to the city to bring out more people and how they will rebuild society as it was. He tells us about it...and then the book just kinda stops. Uh, yeah no, screw that. Although, even if the book were longer (I finished it in an afternoon) it wouldn't really matter. It would only be a longer lecture in narrative form. But either way, it's a boring, over-hyped, fear mongering, bottom of the barrel, trashy dime novel. End of story.

Oh,and yes, I am fully aware that the communist utopia was exaggerated on purpose in order to prove a point; namely the dangers of conformity and the cultural and economic stagnation that comes with it. I understand it, and I don't care. I am also aware that the characters are basically avatars that are meant to show the basic principles of Objectivism, Rand's views on sexuality and whatever else she wanted to sign off about. Sorry, not good enough.

I'm not saying that I wholly disagree with the broad strokes of Anthem's (and Objectivism as a whole I guess) message, but the way that message is being conveyed, by the very woman who invented it no less, is both intellectually insulting and has absolutely no idea how the human animal actually works. Not only that, but it also reinforces all the negative stereotypes of those who adhere to both the Right-Wing and/or Objectivist ideology, and the stereotypes of those who adhere to the ideology of the other side. However, even if you ignored the political and philosophical connotations and forced Anthem to stand on its own merits, it still falls flat on its face. And I'm not one of those people who gives something a pass based solely on its message. Hell, You could have the best message in the world and it wouldn't mean a goddamn thing if you can't convey that message in a way that makes people think. And Rand lacks both the skill and the imagination to do this, in my opinion.

Anyway, needless to say, this book sucks, stay far far far away. And if just have to read a dystopian fiction novel, then go pick up 1984 again, or Fahrenheit 451 or Brave New World. Hell, even Starship Troopers could satisfy your fix. You will be glad you did.

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    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      Hi Will,

      after reading your hub here, I've learned that I agree with you

      I think maybe the author's approach to the story is the reason why

      it maybe flat even though the overall plot was great.

      thanks for your review I will take this into consideration.

      Voted up.

    • Willsummerdreamer profile image
      Author

      Will English. 4 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

      (Late response is late, sorry). Glad that you liked the review torrilynn ^_^. And yeah Rands exacution is pretty much the reason the book fails miserably in my opinion. How her work became so influencial I don't know.

    • parkournut profile image

      parkournut 4 years ago

      I love how you are simultaneously able to disregard the subtleties of Rand's methods and call all political philosophies close-minded.

      Though, I do beg to differ on the point that "No real communist nation in their right mind would reject a brilliant idea or revolutionary method of doing things simply because it's not the way they've always done it. That's not communism, that's just plain idiocy."

      Now known to us is a revolutionary method of wealth creation called "markets." The Party in China rejected these during the Great Leap Forward and tens of millions of Chinese starved to death (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Leap_Forward#F... Some governments will refuse to allow people to pay for their own drugs that the government won't finance themselves, letting them die rather than create a "two-tiered" health care system (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2062737/Can... People can be so dedicated to their ideology that they will let many people die rather than admit their ideology's failure or give up their power.

      I haven't read "Anthem" but I have read "Atlas Shrugged". It is, as you say, way too long. And I majorly agree with you about Ayn Rand's fiction writing: her characters are one-dimensional, many elements in her story are implausible, and her use of sex in her stories is awkward. It was not pleasant to read.

      But as for the reason she became so influential, I think it has much more to do with her ideas than her stories. Young people are drawn to radical ideas and her ideas are just that. In popular media, it is quite rare for the entrepreneur or businessperson to be presented as a hero, especially when considering their contributions to our standard of living. Hearing a defense of markets is also seldom heard. These are the reasons, I think, she became popular, rather than for her literary prowess.

    • Willsummerdreamer profile image
      Author

      Will English. 4 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

      And what subtleties would those be excatly? To me, she's about as subtile as a cannon blast to the face. And you basicly just put forth the best examples of the kind of idiocy and close mindedness I was refering too. But I'm not going to start an argument with you.

      And my question of how she became so influentional was a rhetorical one.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

      What a great review. It also made me laugh. You are so honest and straight forward in your review. Can you believe I have never read an Ayn Rand novel? I have only heard raves about her novels so it was good for me to read this and get the flip side. Thank you so much for this review and sharing your knowledge of this.

    • Willsummerdreamer profile image
      Author

      Will English. 4 years ago from Marietta, Georgia.

      I can believe it, actually =). And yeah, rave reviews are all that Rand ever seems to get, and I think that that's just wrong. Its like reviewers are afraid to say anything against her or something. But anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the review =).

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