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Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy

Looking Backward (original 1888; edition 1951)

by Edward Bellamy

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Title:Looking Backward
Authors:Edward Bellamy
Info:Random House~trade (1951), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy (1888)


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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Socialist/comunist BS ( )
  MaxwellT | Oct 31, 2013 |
One of science fiction's best functions is as criticism of contemporary society, and this book does that extremely well, both implicitly in the first 200 pages or so, and explicitly in the last forty pages or so. Of course we have to ask is it a proper theoretical treatise on society? No. Is it a particularly good novel? No, as well. Is it an interesting attempt to blend the two things? Yes. More importantly, though, is it an important attempt to update the dialogue as a literary form from it's early Greek genre-constraints? Absolutely. ( )
  JWarren42 | Oct 10, 2013 |
maybe i'll finish it someday..
  Kari.Hall | Jul 15, 2013 |
Oh hey, proto-scifi utopian whatever!

Oh hey, book I never wrote a review for! Okay, here's what: Looking Backward was a blockbuster hit in 1887 - according to Wikipedia "the third-largest bestseller of its time, after Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ." This is mystifying because it's basically a boring socialist tract.

"Does it then really seem to you that human nature is insensible to any motives save fear of want and love of luxury, that you should expect security and equality of livelihood to leave them without possible incentives to effort?" (63)

Unfortunately, it turns out that the answer to this question is yes.

A little short on the plot, very short on the characterization. Lots of babbling about how great the world will be when the socialists inevitably win.

Falling into the standard trap of utopianists (?), merrily pretending that people are terrific because that's the only way utopias work, Bellamy mentions that all prisons have disappeared, those few "criminal" elements left consigned to asylums...but then, "A man able to duty, and persistently refusing, is sentenced to solitary imprisonment on bread and water till he consents" (83) - one of the book's very few hints at the dangers of an essentially totalitarian society. (While elections happen, the elected officials are allowed to do very little.)

There's almost zero accurate forecasting of the future. It's credited (har!) with inventing credit cards, but they bear zero resemblance to actual credit cards so I'm not buying that (har!).

Bellamy imagines the future economy with great, mind-numbing detail, but it doesn't occur to him that music or art might have changed in the slightest. He's prescient on one front, though. He imagines a future where publishing is entirely egalitarian: anyone who wants to can write a book, and if enough people like it then it gets published. We're totally doing that now, and [b:it's working out great!|10818853|Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)|E.L. James|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1300842729s/10818853.jpg|15732562]

This is not a very good book. ( )
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
Rather tedious proselytizing for the author's views, very little actual action.

Read 1926 Houghton-Mifflin ed., hardcover, 337 p. ( )
  Georges_T._Dodds | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edward Bellamyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fromm, Erichsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, Walter JamesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Preface: Living as we do in the closing year of the twentieth century, enjoying the blessings of a social order at once so simple and logical that it seems but the triumph of common sense, it is, no doubt, difficult for those whose studies have not been largely historical to realize that the present organization of society is, in its completeness, less than a century old.
I first saw the light in the city of Boston in the year 1857.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140390189, Paperback)

It is the year 2000 - and full employment, material abundance and social harmony can be found everywhere. This is the America to which Julian West, a young Bostonian, awakens after more than a century of sleep. West's initial sense of wonder, his gradual acceptance of the new order and a new love, and Bellamy's wonderful prophetic inventions - electric lighting, shopping malls, credit cards, electronic broadcasting - ensured the mass popularity of this 1888 novel. But, however rich in fantasy and romance, "Looking Backward" is a passionate attach on the social ills of nineteenth-century industrialism and a plea for social reform and moral renewal. In her introduction, Cecelia Tichi discusses how the novel echoes the anguish and hopes of its own age while it embodies a sustaining myth of the American literary tradition - that man's perfectibility is attainable in the New World.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:35 -0400)

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A wealthy Bostonian awakes from a hypnotic trance to find himself in a futuristic cooperative commonwealth.

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