A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork OrangeTitle: A Clockwork Orange

Author: Anthony Burgess

Publication Date: 1962

Review Score: 7/10

For most people, A Clockwork Orange brings to mind a Stanley Kubrick film rather than an Anthony Burgess book and everyone seems to know about the infamous rape scene which saw the movie banned and achieve cult status at the same time.

The actual story of A Clockwork Orange is actually much deeper than this one horrific scene, although it is hard to think of anything else. The story follows 15 year old Alex and his 3 droogs as they rob, fight and even murder for fun.

They have no cares, they own the night and no one can stop them. That is, until the state steps in to “reform” Alex, using an unconventional technique that takes away his choice to be good and instead forces him to be the “ideal” member of the state.

Even by today’s standards, A Clockwork Orange is very controversial, graphic and downright sickening at times, but with the underlying commentary on socialism, troubled youth and the state it is not just a gore fest but rather a highly political novel that uses violence to emphasise its point.

What’s more, by using the young hoodlum Alex as the narrator of the book and a strange slang that is half cockney, half Russian, Burgess creates a truly unique text and dialogue that is rather addictive.

Altogether, A Clockwork Orange is highly entertaining, brilliantly written and very clever. However, I do have one criticism (and it’s a bit of a big one).

During the novel we are taken to the extremes of both crime and punishment, with both seeming horrific and unjust, but then all of a sudden it ends rather “nicely”. Not only does this not really fit in with the rest of the novel, it seems rather morally wrong, as if everything that’s happened is just suddenly absolved by someone from nowhere and all the rape, murder and crime is just forgiven.

A couple of chapters before the end there is a brilliant moment when all this torture of good and evil comes to a head which would be a perfect time to end a brilliant novel! But instead we are left with this flat, middle of the road end as if it was all just a strange, crazy dream.

I don’t want to take away from what is a fantastic book, but I did feel a little let down by the ending.

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The Long Walk – Stephen King

The Long WalkTitle: The Long Walk

Author: Stephen King (Richard Bachman)

Publication Date: 1979

Review Score: 7.5/10

Set in an alternative dystopian present, The Long Walk is a grueling annual walking contest in which 100 boys compete to win anything their heart desires…but there can be only one winner. The rules are simple, just keep walking at a pace of 4 miles an hour, don’t interfere with your fellow walkers, no outside help and don’t try and leave the walk. Slow down too much or break a rule, you get a warning, three warning are you buy your ticket.

So the question is, how far would you walk to stay alive?

One of the four books published by Stephen King under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, it plays with similar ideas to one of the others, The Running Man, in that it takes reality game shows to a point where death is not just possible but it seen as the highest level of entertainment.

I think what’s so captivating about this idea is that it doesn’t feel as if it’s a million miles away from what is actually possible in modern society. No we don’t have people dying on TV, but give people the chance to win money and they will put themselves through hell. It makes you wonder, if this was real would there be 100 people out there willing to participate?

The story itself centers around a Walker named Garraty, who entered the competition against the wishes of his mother and girlfriend. He is joined by a group of characters who all appear to be on the walk for different reasons, and although some soon become close companions, it’s hard to remain friends when you’re all needing the other’s around you die.

I must say this was a truly gripping book, I struggled to put it down and blitzed through it much quicker than normal. The idea behind it is brilliant and as always with King the way he unravels the story keeps you on the edge of your seat. All the way through I was thinking that this was definitely going to be my first 10/10 on The Book Reviewer but then I hit the last 2 pages.

I don’t want to give anything away about the end, as I would recommend this book to anyone, but similarly to the the TV show Lost, it’s all about the journey, the end falls flat, is too abrupt and doesn’t do justice to the amazing story that precedes it.

I would definitely read it again, just for the journey, as that alone is fantastic but I won’t soon forget the disappointment I was left with at the end.

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The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

Title: The Day of the Triffids

Author: John Wyndham

Publication Date: 1951

Review Score: 8/10

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is a 1950s Sci-Fi novel in which the human race is brought to its knees and the brink of extension.

In typical end of the world fashion, the story begins with our main protagonist; Bill Masen, waking up blindfolded in hospital and surrounded by complete silence, with no one responding to his calls for help.

After taking off his bandages to find he has not been blinded by his latest sting in the lab, he ironically discovers that everyone else in the hospital has been blinded by a dazzling meteor shower that he, fortunately, was unable to watch the night before.

Outside it’s the same story, it appears the entire population of London and most likely the entire world have been blinded and now droves of people helplessly wander the streets looking for food, water and salvation.

With only a handful of people around the world able to see, civilization has descended into chaos and is now completely vulnerable to the Triffids; large, venomous plants that walk freely and feed on human flesh.

Although this book sounds like a ridiculously lame 2am horror film on channel 5, it is actually incredibly exciting, eerie and rooted in the not so ludicrous idea of biological warfare.

Given that it was written over 60 years ago it may seem a little dated and trivial to anyone who reads modern Sci-Fi novels, but that is exactly what I love about it! You not only get the thrilling story that has so blatantly inspired much of modern sci-fi but you get to enjoy it alongside the fast paced, sharp and witty vernacular of the 1950s.

The characters are classic, brilliantly portrayed and appear to have just stepped off the set of an Alfred Hitchcock film whilst the tale they are thrown into in is futuristic, apocalyptic and worthy of any Sci-Fi nuts appreciation.

All in all, The Day of the Triffids is an absolutely fabulous book that backs up the notion that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or in this case by the ridiculous sounding blurb on the back of it!

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