April 25, 2011

Anthem - Book Review

Anthem, Expanded 50th Anniversary EditionA couple of weeks ago I finished the King Raven Trilogy and knew I needed some more fiction.  So, I headed to my local public Library and browsed through the books.  I hit the Science Fiction section and picked up The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl, then I started scanning through the general fiction section.  My eye caught the name Ayn Rand and I picked the smallest book she had, Anthem.

Ayn Rand has been talked about lately because she writes about what might happen if some of the various political trends that we see at work today were carried into the future.  The scary thing about her works is the amazing similarity between the proposed future and what is actually happening now.

On the back cover of Anthem we read this:
He lived in the dark ages of the future.  In a loveless world he dared to love the woman of his choice.  In an age that had lost all trace of science and civilization he had the courage to seek after knowledge.  But these were not the crimes for which he would be hunted.  He was marked for death because he had committed the unpardonable sin: he had stood forth form the mindless human herd.  He was a man alone.
I found Ayn Rand's writing to be really quite engaging.  In fact, I went today and picked up one of her more famous works titled, Atlas Shrugged.  In Anthem, I enjoyed following the hero of the story as he began to discover and find new knowledge, as he groped for the one thing that was missing.  Unfortunately the one thing that Any Rand promotes as the key missing ingredient is the self.

In her own words, in the final chapters of the book, the hero of the story comes to a full realization of the core reality of mankind.  He relates this new understanding, as he has now broken free from the individualess crowd of humanity, in this way:
What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and the impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey? 
But I am done with this creed of corruption. 
I am done with the monster of "We," the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame. 
And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into begging, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. 
This god, this one word: 
"I."
That's it.  That is the crux of the book.  Man is fulfilled when he begins to worship himself.  It was so sad, actually.  I wanted to jump into the story line and tell this character about something bigger, something grander.  I wanted to share the glorious gospel of grace.  Unfortunately it is just a story.  Even more unfortunate is the reality of the crowds of people who have come to the same conclusion. And sadder still is the sinking realization of my own tendency to live out that conclusion.

I know this isn't much of a book review, but I did want to share my thoughts on this book.  This is, after all, a blog called, Harmless Thoughts.