"Books Fall Open, You Fall In"
I rated this book 2 ½ out of 5 stars
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?”
You know a book isn’t going to live up to the high expectations you have set when the introduction from the author includes statements such as “I first published the novella A Clockwork Orange in 1962, which ought to be enough in the past for it to be erased from the world’s literary memory. It refuses to be erased however,” or “I should myself be glad to disown it for various reasons, but this is not permitted,” and when speaking of the Russian inspired slang he used heavily throughout the book, “I have shown enough, though the curtain of an invented lingo gets in the way – another aspect of my cowardice.” Had I paid attention to these quotes, perhaps I would have went in with a different attitude (I still would have read it of course) and maybe even ended up loving the book like so many others. I didn’t. But I didn’t hate it either because A Clockwork Orange isn’t a bad book. It’s actually pretty good. That is if you can get past the language, which isn’t easy for everyone. Many find it difficult and even if they do come to the understanding of what all these words mean (and there are a lot of them), it can take so much effort to get there that the story itself becomes lost. What you end up with is more of a homework assignment instead of a good read. Here’s an example: “But there were the golosses of millicents telling them to shut it and you could even slooshy the zvook of like somebody being tolchocked real horrorshow and going owwwwwwwww, and it was like the goloss of a drunken starry ptitsa, not a man.” The whole thing is like that. Luckily some books come with a glossary, making it easier. Others, like the edition I had, did not, so it’s left up to the reader to either figure it out on your own or look it up on the numerous websites devoted to defining the language for you.
As for the story, it is quite violent and the characters extremely unlikable. Even with the original final chapter added, sympathy does not come easily for the protagonist. At least not from me. Because of the brutal acts within the book that he performs, I had a hard time caring what happened to him. Even when doctors went about conditioning him in ways that can only be described as inhumane, I still couldn’t bring myself to feel sympathetic because he never felt any remorse for his actions. The feelings he had towards violence weren’t his own. I suppose that’s the point though. The loss to think and act for ourselves, no matter what those thoughts and actions may be. That should be what scares you. Thankfully I don’t have to like the main character in order for me to enjoy a book and in this case it wasn’t necessary to be fond of him. I just wish I could have enjoyed this one much more than I did. The concept and idea behind it is interesting and that is why I decided to read it in the first place. Unfortunately I think I would have gotten more out of it had there been less unrecognizable slang used throughout it. Of course I will say I understand why the author used it. A means to soften the blow of how disturbing the book truly is. There were times I was thankful that I didn’t fully understand what was going on because just what I was able to figure out without full comprehension made the acts horrific enough. I did find the second half of the book easier to read, but that’s mostly because by then I was able to figure out what most of the words meant and I was finally able to really focus on the story. Which would have been great had it not been for the final chapter. I won’t go into it so as not to give it away to anyone that hasn’t read it. I just found it unbelievable.
Now for the question: Who I would recommend this book to? Well, I would say anyone who wants to read it. I wouldn’t avoid it just because of the possible difficulty in understanding it. Some do find it easier to decipher and for that you might find it a bit more enjoyable than I did.
Available on Amazon at the link below: