So many of the classic dystopian sf novels were so clearly influenced by a fear of a totalitarian, communist regime. Well, Zamyatin actually lived in one, and it shows. I don’t really know how I didn’t know about this book until so recently. I was in utter awe of it at the beginning, until I started to get impatient with the character I-330, and the protagonist’s relationship with her. The shadowy/secretive/manipulative femme fatale who seems to maybe be pulling far more strings than you first realize, who reels in the starry-eyed narrator who is just helpless, helpless in her wake… It was just so done, so overly familiar as to feel cheap. To be fair, this was written in 1921, so it almost certainly predates all those other novels who were directly or indirectly ripping We off. It’s not Zamyatin’s fault that I came to this book so late in the game.
Despite this familiar dynamic, there is much that is thrillingly unique about this book. In particular, I enjoyed D-503 (the protagonist)’s relationship to mathematics. Also, We focuses much less on the political structures and powers that be than on the emotional turmoil of coming to throw off one’s own beliefs and understand the world anew.
Glad I finally found and read this book!