What I’m about to do here is monstrously unfair. You may recall my post about Wool a couple weeks ago. Well, today I’m going to compare that book to Vladimir Nabokov’s Bend Sinister, a very unique kind of dystopian novel.
In his introduction to the latter, Nabokov makes quite clear that his novel should not be compared to other dystopian novels. He writes, “[A]utomatic comparisons between Bend Sinister and Kafka’s creations or Orwell’s clichés would go merely to prove that the automaton could not have read either the great German writer or the mediocre English one.”
Harsh criticism for the creator of 1984. And I can’t help but feel a little bad about myself after reading Nabokov’s book, since I had a really difficult time not drawing comparisons.
Enough. Let’s start with the real material:
In writing 1984, I’m certain Orwell intended to make a commentary on where society was headed. The same can most likely be said of Brave New World, among others. But we can hardly claim the same for Wool. I believe that Hugh Howey was focused more on the entertainment aspect of his novel than the social commentary aspect. He probably was also thinking of what would bring in the most cash. Unfortunately for him, Wool has failed to garner the same attention as The Hunger Games.
Anyway, in this sense I think Howey and Nabokov have something in common: neither meant to write a social commentary. Nabokov states himself, in his introduction to the novel, that the book is intended to demonstrate “the torture an intense tenderness is subjected to.” This makes sense in retrospect, when you consider the protagonist’s relationship with his wife and child.
Whether he wants it or not, though, comparisons of his work to other dystopian novels is going to keep cropping up. I’ll admit that Bend Sinister will be added to my “dystopia” bookshelf.
My new venture (aside from re-reading The Vampire Chronicles) is David Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature. That’s something to look forward to, right? Right??