Book Review: Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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Published: 1962

Wow, I was certainly not expecting what I have received from this book at all. I was completed captivated by the writing style and plot of this novel and I couldn’t put it down once I picked it up. I think I got through it in about 48 hours – and that’s rounding up!

When I found out that Anthony Burgess, the author of this novel, was born in Manchester (England) and even went to Manchester University I was immediately praying that I would love this book and it probably biased me to liking it. Manchester has a special place in my heart, but don’t let my bias fool you, this book has been included on Time magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923, and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. So not to worry, it’s not just me.

I didn’t know much about the book itself, sort of half guessing it to be of dystopian nature which was an accurate assumption, but I don’t think I was ready for the black satirical humour that encompassed it along with all the other elements of this novel.

The book follows a teenager named Alex and his little gang of friends as they commit various crimes in near dystopian England. Alex is a barbarous and cruel anti-hero who is cleverly complimented with an affinity for classical music. Before we get into the classical music, I’d just like to address what I mean about Alex being a cruel teen. You can’t really phantom the sheer brutality that Alex and his gang of friends commit throughout the novel to innocent victims, starting with chapter 1. Within the first 12 pages of the novel, the gang spot an old man carrying books from the library which they attack as follows:

“’You naughty old veck, you,’ I said, and then we began to filly about with him. Pete held his rookers and Georgie sort of hooked his rot wide open for him and Dim yanked out his false zoobies, upper and lower. He threw these down on the pavement and then I treated them to the old boot-crush, though they were hard bastards like, being made of some new horrorshow plastic stuff.” (12)

There are further horrors that appear in that paragraph which I am going to omit for everyone’s safety and also because I don’t want to get reported for violent language via WordPress. Burgess doesn’t shy away from really depicting how addicted these boys are to committing violent acts, and after the attack on the old man Alex proceeds to drug and rape 2 younger girls later on in the book, and terrorize a young couple including raping and murdering their wife. Burgess does such an incredible job of telling the story of Alex and his gang, that I couldn’t turn away.

For a while after reading the book, I thought there was something seriously wrong with me – why did I love reading about all this violence, teenage angst and brutality?! What I realized is that, but by flipping each page, I was desperately hoping and praying that there is a happy ending and that something will happen that will make them realize that what these boys are doing is not okay. I think a part of me wanted to believe that this boy just had a rough start at life, and that he’s going to develop into a better human being after a eureka moment (I was so naïve and hopeful, it’s like I’ve never read a dystopian novel before!).

For a while I was buying that lie and the author even hinted that there might be a solution for Alex and his affinity to violence. When he gets jailed in Part 2 of the novel an opportunity presents itself to Alex, or more specifically an experiment. In order to have this sentenced terminated he would take part in an experiment that would make him averse to violence, and reform him. The experiment itself was pretty brutal, as Alex was injected with nausea-inducing drugs while watching graphically violent films, which eventually conditioned him to become severely ill at the mere thought of violence. Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of this experiment is that Alex is no longer able to enjoy his beloved classical music as before, because they played it as background music during his sessions. But it does appear to work:

“ ‘But,’ I said, ‘I don’t understand. I don’t understand about feeling sick like I did. I never used to feel sick before…’
‘What is happening to you now is what should happen to any normal healthy human organism contemplating the actions of the forces of evil, the workings of the principle of destruction. You are being made sane, you are being made healthy.’” (119)

Afterward, he’s released from jail but he struggles to fit into regular life. He’s lost the only love in the world, classical music, and due to his past his family and friends don’t fully trust him and abandon him. Despite having the right behavior, he’s an outcast with no purpose in life.

The moral questions that the novel raises are incredibly interesting – like the freedom to choose between good and evil. When Alex had the freedom to choose his own actions, it lead him to intervene and destroy the lives the innocent other people. Yet, I’m not convinced that it was morally right for the government to program and engineer a desired choice of behavior for Alex, by exposing him to their experiments, as that didn’t help him either.

I think that this book is amazingly simple, yet simultaneously complex. The novel is formed of three very obvious parts: the first is when we meet Alex and exposed to his criminal and hooligan behavior, part two is his being reformed by the government, and the third is when he has to live his new life as a non-violent man. There is a strange satisfaction behind having such a clear split of the book, and makes it really easy to go back and read through the parts or sections that were of interest to compare and contrast the main characters development (or perhaps lack there of!).

The book also has a layer of complexity, as the author created his own language that the characters use throughout the book. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a pain to get used to the Nadsat words for the first few chapters as was constantly flipping to the index to learn this new vocabulary. Having said this, there is a lot of repetition and after the initial steep learning curve, it does make the book feel more special. It also cool to learn that Burgess was a linguistic and that he was able to connect with that knowledge on a different level with the creation of the Russian influenced English language. You don’t get to see that very often!

If you can’t tell already, I am completely taken with this book and actually can’t wait to read it all again as I find the questions of morality and the psychological reflection and development of Alex extremely fascinating. With no hesitancy, I am happy to profess that this has now become one of my top 10 books of all time! So what are you waiting for, go out and read it!

Q: Have you come across a book that really resonated with you in the last 6 months? What was it, and what did you enjoy most about it?

 

Teaser Tuesday: Dec 25

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly book meme originally featured at Should Be Reading. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

First and foremost – hope that you are having a very Merry Christmas and got spoiled with lots of new books! Today’s Teaser Tuesday has nothing to do with Christmas at all, isn’t that a relief? I bet you are all Christmas-ed out by now! 😉

This book is actually on my list for once, since, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve liked straying from the list a little bit this year. This book was meant to have been read for September but hey-ho, just getting around to it now!

So far so AMAZING! Thoroughly repulsed and fascinated is where I am at with this novel. I already can’t wait to review it!

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” ‘Life is a very wonderful thing,’ said Dr. Branom in a very like holy goloss. ‘The prices of life, the make-up of the human organisms, who can really understand these miracles? Dr Brodsky is, of course, a remarkable man. What is happening to you now is what should happen to any normal healthy human organism contemplating the actions of the forces of evil, the workings of the principle of destruction. You are  being made sane, you are being made healthy.’ ” (119)

Book Review: The Death Cure by James Dashner

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Published: 2011

I had no idea what to expect from the series after I had read the second book, The Scorch Trials. There seemed to have been a pattern in the first two books, with them facing new and more gruelling challenges that WICKED, an organisation trying to find a cure for the Flare (a disease that has destroyed much of man-kind and threatens to completely annihilate the population), set out for them. I enjoyed the ride but I was a bit worried that the third book would be just as predictable. And I was left thinking, ‘will they finally find the cure that they have been looking for all along’?

James Dashner has left me pleasantly surprised, when I found out that the novel would not take the predicable pattern of the first two books. I won’t lie though, a lot more happens in a short amount of time and some of it’s pretty brutal (probably Thomas’ biggest tests). The book did feel a bit rushed to me. A lot does happen, and the series does come to a close at the end of this book but I think it would have been better if the series progressed at the pace it had in the first two books, maybe split the last book into two and give more detail.

In terms of plot, the story definitely changed. We are introduced to some new and important characters, but Dashner makes sure not to exclude the reader by also making characters the reader would already know play a significant role in the ending. As for the ending, I am not going to reveal it, but I was pleasantly surprised. After the whole ride I was pleased with how the series concluded.

The diction and prose mimics the previous two books. In my opinion, it’s not a Nobel Peace Prize for Literature contender, but it was a super easy and fun book to read on vacation. I don’t think Dashner brings about a new theme in the dystopian genre, but I can appreciate the ride that he took me on. If there is one other criticism that I have for this book is for the characters development of Thomas. I was a little disappointed in his lack of growth, I don’t consider him deciding between Theresa and Brenda as character growth. Also, I was a little bit disappointed with him the in café scene, when he stays behind despite his friends telling him to go, and then gets caught by the Red Guard. It not only seems insanely stupid but also completely out of his character. Overall, I must say I was quite pleased with how the series ended and enjoyed the book, although not as much as the previous two.

Did you finish the series? What were your thoughts on the ending of the book?

Teaser Tuesday: July 28

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly book meme originally featured at Should Be Reading. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

I’ve decided to just finish off the The Maze Runner series by plunging right into James Dashner’s last book, The Kill Order! I did feel there was a big shift with the third book and I am not sure if I am liking it that as much as the previous two books in the series. Something tells me this last one will be very similar to book three. Stay tuned for the review!

“It was faint but definitely there. The sound of a woman singing some type of chant, not as far off as he thought at first. Chills ran up his skin – it brought back the memory of Misty singing as she began to succumb to the illness.” (115)

What are you reading this Tuesday? Give me your thoughts and send over your links! 🙂

Book Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

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Published: 2011

So I am going absolutely gaga over this series and I am not going to lie, immediately after reading this book I had to physically pull myself from ordering the remaining books in the series from the Amazon page. Yes, I think the last time I got such a thrill from reading a book was from the thriller Gone Girl that I read last summer. It’s definitely a different type of thriller with Gone Girl, but both leave me hanging after every chapter and after the ride was done I was left astounded and a little empty. What was I going to do for the rest of my life without that book in my life?

So, just a quick like synopsis here, the Maze Runner survivors are back, this time facing even more gruelling and life-threatening tasks than the ones in the Maze. Similar to the first book, the scorch trials that they must endure not only tests their personal mental and physical strength but also tests their relationships. And let me tell you, there are going to be some shockers in there!

Maybe because the reader has the ability to see into Thomas’ thoughts, but I have to say I prefer his character in the book than in the film. He seemed very distant, unlikeable and acted too much like a stock hero character, but in the book I feel like we get a better sense of his personality and his objectives. I can also appreciate the fact that he’s not perfect.

I have to say that in the thriller/dystopian genre, I am not sure I have read something as thrilling. I much prefer this to the Hunger Games actually, and I can guarantee that once you start you will not be able to put it down until you have read the final word in the book.

Having said that, it’s no C.S Lewis or Tolstoy, meaning that although the diction encapsulates it’s readers it’s far from poetic or beautiful. There are no hidden metaphors or memorable/witty quotes that summarize some aspect of life. I definitely have to say that this book is a very entertaining and pleasant read, but I don’t think you will find any lingering after thoughts (aside from “wow, what a thrill” or “I need to know what happens”). I suppose that is why I give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Have you started the Maze Runner series? What are your thoughts so far?

Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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Published: 2010

I am ashamed to admit that I have initially watched the movie version of The Maze Runner, and only decided to read the book after really enjoying the movie. I don’t remember the last time I have done this actually; saw the movie first and then read the book. But, surprisingly, I still managed to really enjoy the book. So much so that I read it a in whirlwind, and couldn’t put it down.

One of the reasons why I was able to enjoy the book despite having watched the film, is that there were a lot of differences in the plot. From the very first chapter, you get the sense that this journey will be slightly different to the movie. I will just give you one example as I don’t want to give too much away. In the film, the characters remember their name “a few days after arriving” but in the book they know their name right away. It may appear as a slight difference, but when you add up all the small difference you do get a different story. The ending is the same, but the journey was much different. That is most likely why I still managed to enjoy it.

I must admit that the characters were a little bit ruined for me. Many of the characters were actually quite different to how the movie perceived them. Particularly Thomas, Alby, Gally and even Newt. The main Creator’s lady was supposed to have dark hair but in the movie she is blonde. Even the Grievers were described a bit different in the book too. Such small differences I know don’t really impact the plot, but they still bug me a little bit. Since I saw the movie first unfortunately, it was really difficult for me to override the character description in the book, as I found myself depending on the movie characters when imagining the book’s plot.

Otherwise, I am really struggling to find any fault with this book. I think the plot is well written, the characters are relatable and the mission that they are on slightly terrifying yet very intriguing.

Verdict: Definite must read for any post-apocalyptic or even dystopian enthusiasts. If you like the Hunger Games, I definitely recommend this book. I would even venture and say that this book is better than the Hunger Games!

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury

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Published: 1953

I am so embarrassed to confess that it has taken me 24 years to pick this book up and read it; why did I ever choose to stall?! After starting to read the lengthy The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, written in a heavy Victorian diction I needed a short and quick plotted read. This dystopian novel gave me so much more!

I can sit here and write out all the books that it bears resemblance to, 1984, We, A Brave New World, but I would much rather focus on it’s unique science fiction features. Based in the future, Montag is a fireman proud to be serving his country. He’s not a fireman who rescues people, but rather he is set out to set fire to books. You see, in the future books are viewed as evil and are outlawed. The also believe that “fire [is] best for everything” (151) that didn’t sit well with the carefully organized and controlled society.

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door” (77)

People spend all their time watching TV, and being surrounded by fictional characters who are used to provide human comfort. “The word intellectual, of course, became the swear word is deserved to be”(76). Instead, everyone is alike, and no one is superior to one another. What more does such an astutely constructed society need?

Montag meets Clarissa, a weird girl who makes him question his actions as a fireman and after this meeting “his routine has been disturbed” (44). He’s never the same. It sets him off to reconsider the way he has been living his life, but more importantly, it makes his think about the society he’s been a part of.

The reader follows Montag through his difficult journey of denial, paranoia and confusion. As he grows aware of the constructs of the society he’s been a part of, he’s convinced that he can sneak books in his house, try to change the minds of his fellow friends and neighbours and try to stand against  the practices. Along the way he meets some likeminded people, those that have grown aware of the severity of their constructed society.

Ray Bradbury believe that his “characters must plunge ahead of [him] to live the story”(223) and it’s quite unbelievable that he did not write Fahrenheit 451 but “it wrote [him]” (220). You truly get that sense when reading this book, that you are just following Montag along on this awakening journey.

Verdict: If not my favourite dystopian novel, then top 2 for sure! A must read!

Teaser Tuesday

green_line_faded_with_leaf_smallerI got this idea from the lovely and brilliant Yvo and I knew right away that I want to start doing this on a regular basis myself. It seems like a spectacular way to engage with the text that I am reading at the same time giving you a teaser of the book that I am reading. Maybe this will help you decide whether or not you want to add it to your TRL. Rules of Teaser Tuesdays are as follows:

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly book meme originally featured at Should Be Reading. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

The book that I am currently ripping through (bad pun sorry) is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. First off, what an amazing first name of the author. Sometimes I really think I was born in the wrong century. Written in 1931, and true to it’s dystopian nature, it takes place in the far off future where the government monitors every aspect from a human being’s life, literally from fertilization to adulthood, using questionable conditioning techniques to train it’s human population to obey and be part of the crowd. It is the human world as we know it perfected to the most scientific degree.

bravenewword“She looked at Bernard with an expression of rapture, but of rapture in which there was no trace of agitation or excitement—for to be excited is still to be unsatisfied. Hers was the calm ecstasy of achieved consummation, the peace, not of mere vacant satiety and nothingness, but of balanced life, of energies at rest and in equilibrium.” (74)

Are you a fan of dystopian novels?