1984 by George Orwell

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I am utterly horrified and in love with this book. What an incredibly creative and unique work of fiction with some crazy parallels to modern life. Let me begin by saying I’m not the biggest George Orwell fan in the world. One of my high school literature classes assigned Animal Farm, and it was, admittedly, not an experience I look back on with fondness. I quite literally hated that story. I still get chills in my very core thinking about it. (Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, bit I didn’t like it, okay?) Perhaps one day I’ll grow out of my Orwell-induced fear of pigs and communism, but that day is not today.

That being said, I have to say that 1984 surpassed all of my expectations by being enjoyable at all, and went beyond that by actually making fall in love with some of the characters and have some really in-depth thoughts on the world—both the fictional world in the story, and the real world in which I live.

I love a lot of books, but very few make me think about the world around me in such a profoundly new way. That is probably the main reason this book hit four-and-a-half stars for me. One element I found particularly disturbing was the way everyone was recorded, watched, and analyzed at any and every moment. For this reason, the main character, Winston, spends quite a bit of time doing his best to hide from cameras. When he is around them, he spends his time perfecting his expressions as to reveal nothing the government might find suspicious. Beyond the fact that it sounds like a generally horrifying situation, I realized that I would be completely doomed if someone were looking at my face 24/7, waiting for me to do something out of the ordinary.

I make strange faces all the time. I would be as good as dead in that world. In that respect, Winston is an incredibly impressive fellow, for sure.

As for the parallels I notice within modern society, the main one I pull from the story is the idea that society tells us certain thoughts are right and certain thoughts are wrong. Whether your ideas concern something serious or the fact that you do or don’t like a fictional relationship, people seem to find joy in collectivizing themselves against a common “enemy” that they deem as incorrect and, therefore, harmful—even if all that person did was, for example, say they like something that isn’t generally deemed popular. That was a mouthful, but hopefully you get my drift. I’m basically just saying that mob thought is definitely a thing in almost every facet of life, and that people love to hate others for the things they think.

Which is a super weird thought considering all of us have an unpopular opinion or two.

I digress.

Another part of the story I loved was the fact that I truly cared for the characters, even the main female character, who I was at first sure I would hate, and whose role won’t spoil for those of you who haven’t read 1984 yet. But you know when you read a book, and you can just feel that the author put no thought into a certain character and added them as an afterthought? Or when all the characters feel like they are there only to advance the plot, not to play their own unique role? I never felt that with these main characters. I can tell a lot of thought was put into them, shaping them into unique individuals I haven’t seem the likes of in anything else.

The reason I was so surprised with this was that I merely didn’t expect it, considering the publishing year. I often find that older books do use characters only to advance the plot, because that’s just how a lot of stories were written (and there’s nothing wrong with that, in the right story). That being said, 1984 was only stronger for it’s use of characters that matter to the reader, as well as its compelling plot.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a thought-provoking piece of fiction, or anyone looking for a change of pace from literally any modern books they’ve been reading. I cannot stress how incredible this story is.

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The only sensible way to start this review is to acknowledge that Children of Dune was a wild ride from start to finish. It is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read in the recent past.

At the very base level, there was a huge change in how much I cared about these characters in this book compared to its predecessors. While I loved Dune and Dune Messiah–I would not have kept reading the series if I didn’t–I certainly read those books more for the plot than the individual characters. With this third installation, however, there is just as much to love about the characters as about the story.

Perhaps what I liked most was that there were more understandable human thoughts within their heads. Even with characters like Leto, Jessica, and Alia, who are far from ordinary humans, I felt I could understand their motivations and what molded them into the individuals they were.

Yet another aspect of this book I love even more than those that came before it is the understandability factor. This is purely personal opinion and comprehension, but I found this book a whole lot easier to keep track of. I’m not quite sure what it was–since it took place in just as many different locations, with different people, as the others–but there was something about the writing within Children of Dune that made everyone and everything exceedingly easy to keep track of.

Admittedly, there were a couple chapters within the first Dune installation that had me at a bit of a loss as to what I was supposed to get out of them–their point. I never felt that once during this book. Everything served a purpose, and I feel I have a fair understanding of what purpose it all served.

I also found myself greatly enjoying the excerpts that begin each chapter. I’ve always thought the setup of Frank Herbert’s books is incredibly creative and makes the Dune stories stand out from the rest. But I developed a new appreciation for them with this book–especially with the name change at the end, though I won’t go further into detail lest you be reading this to decide whether or not the book is for you. I can tell you though, it came as a bit of a surprise!

Have you ever read or found yourself interested in the Dune series? Will you be watching the film this year?