Looking Backwards by Edward Bellamy



So I attacked this novel solely because it’s the next book to read for my 19th Century American Lit. class. So… to cut the suspense, I think I’ve just been having bad luck with books lately. 

Quick Synopsis: Julian West falls asleep in 1887, due to hypnosis, and wakes up 113 years later in the year 2000. Everything’s changed. The “evil” and “self-serving” capitalist society has been abolished, replaced by a utopia of sorts. In short, the novel glorifies communism and the main character has a mental breakdown near the end when he pities himself for having lived in 19th Century America, where he believes society was inherently corrupt. 

My thoughts: When I first picked it up and read the first two chapters or so, I was actually intrigued. I like books with a sci-fi element, and ones that ask you to stretch your imagination a little. My interest, er… ended there. Before I explain what I think is the downfall of this book, I’ll give it to Bellamy – he’s a passionate author. You can tell he’s probably made sweet passionate LOVE to the ideas that he presents within the novel. All the ideas in his novel are extreeeemely fleshed out, and of course – they make you think.

Ultimately, however, Bellamy can’t write and that’s what made this novel almost unbearable to me. His book was what in theater, we call “talking heads.” There was monologue after monologue after monologue. Dr. Leete just doesn’t shut up; 75% of the novel is him talking.  It became so blatantly obvious that the character of Dr. Leete was just a channel for Bellamy to vent and spew his own frustrations and ideas about the society he lived in that the entire “story” of the novel just takes a backseat. When you look at the story at a whole, Julian West falls asleep, wakes up, falls asleep and wakes up again. That’s it. The rest is Dr. Leete (who has absolutely no personality whatsoever) talking… and talking… and talking… 

That was just the downfall for me. However, it can’t be ignored that the book seems to be a hit on amazon and it has survived a century in circulation…so, it’s clearly not trash. Read it for yourself, and let me know what you think! =) 



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