I'm not sure if I liked this book or not. My general reaction to it was that it was a fun book, well written, and with some interesting social points, but it got a bit extreme at the end. The premise is that the ultimate communal society has been created where everything is done in order to maximize the good of the whole and nothing can be done for the self. One side-effect is that there is no word "I" anymore - the narrator refers to himself as "we" or "us". It's an interesting technique but I sincerely doubt the plausibility of it occurring.
(maybe some spoilers here...just for Rand's philosophy though, no plot spoilers)
So, as is pretty obvious from the beginning, the book is about a member of this society who starts breaking away and getting a sense of identity. As one reads this, one approves because the communal society is unquestionably bad. However, by the end I think that the degree of individuality advocated is a too extreme. In broad terms, and from what I have heard this is pretty much Rand's philosophy, the only responsibility any person has is to themselves - maintaining one's individuality and doing what seems right in one's own head is most important. The idea of social obligation or obligation to others is totally dispensed with.
Now, in the context of this book, it sort of works. I mean, I can understand why someone who didn't realize they were an individual for the first twenty years of their life would go a bit extreme after realizing that he could have his own thoughts and opinions and such. But knowing that there are people who don't think this is extreme and who try to spread the philosophy (there were tons of ads in the copy of the book I read encouraging readers to send for more information or join groups to learn more and spread the philosophy along), I ended up reading it in that light. So, it was good as a book taken by itself but bothersome to me when I consider that the end philosophy isn't just the better of two extremes but an actually advocated belief.
One last thing that interested me was that the book struck me as quite sexist. The narrator is a man (fine) and he's got some really patriarchal attitudes towards the woman in the book.
(actual plot spoilers here...)
It is a big issue that nobody has names any more. You just have a characteristic and a number assigned to you, and that is your name. Through some interesting plot the man and woman end up talking to each other (this isn't allowed) and the woman says something to the effect that she doesn't understand the man but she can tell he is special and important so she'll follow him and do what he says and basically be subservient and worshipful because he's so special he deserves it. Gag. Then, later, the man decides that it is important to have a name and that an individual should chose their own name rather than having it assigned to them (okay, sure). So he names himself, and then he names the woman. Whatever happened to individuality being the most important thing? It really seemed like he was advocating it only for himself because he was somehow special, but not for anyone who isn't special - which was basically the only other person he talked to, the woman he was with. Then, when he gets her pregnant, he talks about how great this is because soon he will have a son to pass all his thoughts on to. Lots of references to his coming son - not a chance that a daughter will be born.
So, that really turned me off from the book a lot. Other than that, it was fine. And most of those things happened towards the end. But that aspect did turn me off of Rand and her writing.
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