WE is a classic of dystopian science fiction by the Russian revolutionary Yevgeny Zamyatin. The novel is set 1,000 years after a revolution that brought the One State into power, a society where all live for the collective good and individual freedom does not exist.
Citizens are known only by their number, and the story's main character is D-503, an engineer working on a spaceship that aims to bring the glorious principles of the Revolution to space. This world is controlled by the Guardians, who spy on citizens, who all live in apartments made of glass so that they can be perfectly observed. Trust in the system is absolute.
While 1984 and other dystopias featured surveillance and telescreens, WE is the most analogous to the panoptical surveillance utopia being promoted by the tech gods of Silicon Valley, who seem to admire computers more than they do humans. In WE, citizens see themselves as part of a glorious, infallible machine. In the One State, the Guardians and Benefactor urge men to live like machines themselves, so as to avoid even the possibility of failure. "One State Science cannot make a mistake,"
The reality that dawns on the reader is that this seeming fiction is all-too real in our times.
“[Zamyatin’s] intuitive grasp of the irrational side of totalitarianism — human sacrifice, cruelty as an end in itself — makes [We] superior to Huxley’s [Brave New World].” —George Orwell
Along with Jack London's The Iron Heel, WE is generally considered to be the grandfather of the satirical futuristic dystopia genre. WE directly inspired George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Ayn Rand's Anthem, and was a precursor to the work of Philip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem.
WE was first published in 1921. Translated by Gregory Zilboorg. E-Book: ePUB, 71,000 words, average reading time 6 hours.
Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin (1884 –1937), was a Russian author of science fiction and political satire. He is most famous for his 1921 novel WE, a story set in a dystopian future police state.