Put bluntly, STARBURST wouldn’t exist if it’s wasn’t for Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1924 novel WE. The English language version of this classic piece of dystopian fiction is easily one of the sources of inspiration for George Lucas’s movie THX 1138. If that movie had never been made, there would be no Star Wars. And without that movie, this magazine would never have launched.
So as you might be able to guess, WE is a pretty significant work in the world of science fiction. Set in a distant post-apocalyptic future, the world has been controlled by the monolithic One State for a thousand years. Every human being on Earth has their life controlled by a strict schedule of events. Everyone lives in a house made of glass, designed so the state can witness your every action. Every one marches in step. There is no concept of freedom.
Our main protagonist, D-503 is a rocket ship designer and is working on a spaceship called The Integral, one intended to bring the glory of the One State to other worlds. But, in actual fact, will most likely never be finished. Sex is assigned by the state, and D-503 has an assigned lover. It all changes when D-503 meets I-330, a woman who refuses to be bound by the rules. D-503 becomes inspired to rebel against the status quo and becomes part of the resistance.
If this rings any bells, well that’s because this is the book that inspired 1984 and pretty much the entire dystopian subgenre. The original Russian manuscript was completed in 1921, but it’s the English translation that swept the world; the original language text was banned in Russia until the 90s. This social and political satire is a powerful work. Despite being almost hundred years old the tale flows well and the story is a powerful (if very recognisable one). The technological differences simply underline the otherness of the tale, whilst making the essential themes of love, freedom, responsibility, dreams, repression and power all the more significant. Still as vital today as it was last century. Also still as engaging.
The Folio Society has recently released a version of this classic work, and it’s a corker. For a start, the slipcase and cover are just freaky. The cover is a stark grey, with a bleak yet retro design. A lenticular window on the slipcase means that the ‘head; on the cover pulses when you pop the book into its case like you’re drilling into D-503’s very soul. The book itself is the usual gorgeous quality we expect from the Folio Society. Kit Russell has produced five lovely black and white illustrations that have a modernist yet retro-futuristic feel to them. Of particular delight is an introduction from the late great Ursula K. Le Guin, who provides a powerful perspective on the book.
A classic, and one you should read to understand where a lot of the things you love came from.
WE / AUTHOR: YEVGENY ZAMYATIN / PUBLISHER: FOLIO SOCIETY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW