10 Most Crucial British Science Fiction Novels 4

Nineteen Eighty-Four

By George Orwell
1949

In a recent poll, Nineteen Eighty-Four came top of a list of novels people falsely claimed to have read in order to impress. It’s a wonder more of us don’t balk. If Huxley’s vision of the future in Brave New World is bleak, it at least holds up the possibility of living outside mainstream society. Warning against totalitarianism, George Orwell removes even this slim chance.

As O’Brien, both torturer and confidante to Orwell’s hero, everyman Winston Smith says, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” It’s a prelude to capitulation because what can an individual do when state control is so complete that even history is slippery, subject to constant revision?

It’s a novel of such all-pervading influence that its terminology – the likes of “Big Brother”, “Room 101”, “doublethink” – has entered everyday language.

If you like this, why not try?
Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)
Because while the thematic links between Orwell’s final books are obvious, each demands to be read on its own terms.

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