Book Review: Anthem by Ayn Rand

Anthem by Ayn Rand
Anthem by Ayn Rand

Title: Anthem

Author: Ayn Rand

Genre: Classics, Philosophy, Dystopian Science Fiction,

Publisher: Plume

Published: Dec 1, 1999

Page Amount: 105 pages

Blurb from Goodreads: Anthem has long been hailed as one of Ayn Rand’s classic novels, and a clear predecessor to her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead andAtlas Shrugged. In Anthem, Rand examines a frightening future in which individuals have no name, no independence, and no values. Equality 7-2521 lives in the dark ages of the future where all decisions are made by committee, all people live in collectives, and all traces of individualism have been wiped out. Despite such a restrictive environment, the spark of individual thought and freedom still burns in him–a passion which he has been taught to call sinful. In a purely egalitarian world, Equality 7-2521 dares to stand apart from the herd–to think and choose for himself, to discover electricity, and to love the woman of his choice. Now he has been marked for death for committing the ultimate sin. In a world where the great “we” reign supreme, he has rediscovered the lost and holy word–“I.”

Why Read: Another Goodreads club pick, but convenient for me. I had been meaning to read an Ayn Rand for far longer than I’d like to admit. She’s the kind of author that I think readers either love or hate… though that is not my experience.

Review: There are many things to say about Anthem, not all of them kind. So much of the novel relies on how readers interpret her allegory for the intersection between individualism and collectivism. This was my first Ayn Rand book. It will not be my last. I’ve actually heard quite terrible things about her, and how people that read her stories come out of the book with their ears emitting steam. Not something I particularly wanted to happen to me. But on the contrary, I kind of enjoyed Anthem.

The main character, Equality 7-2521, was not really someone who was relatable – not because he did not exhibit human-like traits, but because the world Rand created is so separate, so far away from our world now. I found it difficult to imagine hiding something that would be beneficial to society or being forced to take a job based on a council’s choices and not my own.

But I’ve moved into discussing plot so soon. I found the allegory thought-provoking, which is all I suppose one can ask. It led me towards the question – must we choose between individualism and collectivism? Rand portrays collectivism as the villain, showing it’s flaws of Groupthink, a lack of a need to advance society and ignoring the uniqueness of each person. However, what Rand does not do is examine the problems of individualism and there are so many. Rand would have readers believe that all individualism is good, and that any form of collectivism is bad. I personally find that logic problematic, but that’s a philosophical debate for later.

Surprisingly I found the story about collectivist culture to be riveting, and it made me think a lot about what it means to be an individual, and how the word “we” and “I” should never mean the same thing, or rather the similar thing. Although I enjoyed the intellectual stimulation that Anthem offered, there were so many plot holes and unrelatable characters. Unfortunately, I feel a 3/5 expressed truly how I feel. I’m so Ayn Rand! Next time.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Review Coming Soon: The Fault In Our Stars

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