Source: Thought Audio
Length: 2 hr, 12 min
Reader: Michael Scott
The book: Set in the future following a catastrophic war, the society portrayed in Anthem is collectivism taken to the extreme. Individuality has been nearly wiped out. The first person singular is outlawed and forgotten, replacing "I" with "we". People do not not have names, but designations containing a societal quality combined with a number. Equality 7-2521 is a man who feels the pull of individualism and is punished for it. When in the course of his duties, he discovers an old tunnel from before the wars, he gains a chance to break free.
Rand's portray of this society has much in common with works produced during the rise of communism, such as George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldus Huxley's Brave New World. Unlike these other examples of the sub-genre, I found Rand's dystopia lacking in realism and therefore less compelling. Anthem's society is a city all on its own without any sense of a larger world other than an ill-defined wilderness. Surely other pockets of humanity would have survived even the most horrific war and become a rival society to out-compete the anti-technology society portrayed here.
The other main problem that I have with the book is that the danger it forecasts in collectivism is no longer the pressing spectre it was to Rand, who had lived in Stalinist Russia. In the present, we are more in danger of the opposite, a world of complete individuals with no sense of brotherhood or the collective good. Just as science in Anthem is impossible because no one can become any greater than others, science in a world where every technique or discovery is patented and jealously guarded is equally impossible. Likewise art is equally difficult when the artist or writer is not allowed to be different as when anything mildly derivative runs the danger of a copyright lawsuit. For this reason, I see Anthem not as a story for our time, but as a historical document of the fear that collective society once held.
The Reader: Scott has a deep, announcer-sounding voice that is very pleasant for listening. This stentorian voice, however, is one of the drawbacks as well. Scott speaks with such confidence and power that it is sometimes discordant with the position of the protagonist, who has been trained to see himself as just like everyone else. The steady patterns of his cadence and the radio-quality voice are great assets to make the words very understandable, so only true purists need worry about the incongruity of the voice. Some edits are audible through digital artifacts, but otherwise the audio is professionally produced with very little background noise.
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