Monday, December 21, 2015

A Clockwork Orange

by Anthony Burgess

Summary from GoodReads

A vicious fifteen-year-old "droog" is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick's magnificent film of the same title.

In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to "redeem" him—the novel asks, "At what cost?"

This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked".

Thoughts on the Book

I've been wanting to read this one for a while.  I've heard nothing but good/crazy things about the movie, and I have a firm policy of book before movie, since 99.99999998% of the time the book is far better.  My friend recently read it, which rekindled my desire to read it, so he lent it to me and I immediately dove in not knowing what to expect from it at all other than amazingness.  Well, and a warning that the beginning is rough to get through due to the slang.

My Review

This book is about a teenager, Alex, who lives in a dismal future world where he is a victim of society.

The beginning was difficult to get through, both the slang and the subject matter.  Alex is painted right away as a character that you cannot like.  He thrills in beating up old men and gang raping women, not to mention mugging everyone in between.  That is all the first third of the book.  Once you finally get through that he's in prison and then being brainwashed, then the final third of the book is him struggling against his instincts and the effects of being brainwashed as well as getting his comeuppance, which does not teach him a single thing.  The last chapter, which was removed from the original US printing redeemed the entire story for me.  This last part was also left out of the movie.

There were no characters that I enjoyed reading about, Alex was awful, as were his droogs.  The only one that was even remotely okay was Pete, only because he mostly hung back in the first third of the book and when he made his reappearance in the last chapter he was extremely likeable.  Of the other two Georgie was awful, and got what he deserved, and Dim was the absolute worst and unfortunately the last we see of him he's happy as can be fully abusing his power.  As for other characters, when F. Alexander returned I thought he would be the one character I could like, but sadly he was quickly revealed to be an awful person, but he at least had cause for it.  His friends however were even worse.

The story is very bleak, especially without the last chapter which offers a glimmer of hope for the future.  This book isn't the greatest of stories, it's more of a anecdote of the time in which it was written.  For me A Clockwork Orange is another one of those books that people love and clamor about that I just don't get, like A Catcher in the Rye.  Granted, I did like this one far better than the latter.

Overall I give this a 7/10.  It was a good story, and as I've said the last chapter is why, I can't fathom why the New York publishers didn't want to print it, the rest of the world did!  Now I have to watch the movie, maybe then I'll understand some of the hype around it...

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