Byzantine Reality

Searching for Byzantine failures in the world around us

Animal Farm

Having read the classic Orwell book 1984 several years ago (and loving it), I always thought I would have got around to reading his other classic work, Animal Farm, much more recently than now. But having stumbled upon it the other day, I knew I had to pick it up and see if it truly is a classic work or not (hint: it is). It is an amazing read, and to nerd it up for all of you out there, I would go so far as to say it is the Portal of books.

So why do I call Animal Farm the Portal of books? Well, I think it’s pretty simple. It’s a short read (much shorter than 1984) and just says what it wants to say and then is done (much like Portal). It’s got lots of interesting ideas, so it just throws them out there and lets you think about them. It doesn’t reiterate its main points over and over again like Godel, Escher, Bach does, and while GEB is an awesome book, Animal Farm gets its point across just as clearly in 1/10th of the space. But I don’t really think that’s a fair comparison, since the former is lightly-veiled fiction depicting the main players from the two World Wars as animals and the latter is an acid trip down recursion-lane.

There’s only one criticism I can really level at the book, and it’s interestingly enough not at the book itself, but the introduction. The specific version of the book I bought is the Signet Classic edition (see the pic above), and in the introduction, all the important plot points are ruined. Interestingly enough, GEB does this also, but it’s OK that GEB does it (and not OK that its done in Animal Farm). GEB is trying to make a point to you and drives it through its many chapters, so introducing the ideas to you early on is fine. But in a work of fiction, ruining all the plot twists is not fine. Telling me how several important characters are going to die is NOT acceptable. If you had a warning before you did it, that would be fine. If you moved it to the back of the book, that would be perfect. But not the way this version of the book does it.

So a short review today for a short amazing read. If you haven’t read it, make this a priority. Take a day off, sit in the sun, and read this book. Skip the introduction if you get the version I have, and you will find a flawless read that is incredibly interesting and will leave you thinking about the tough issues it brings up for a while.