ORWELL'S REVENGE by Peter Huber

ORWELL'S REVENGE

The 1984 Palimpsest
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A curious, contentious, but always interesting sequel cum polemic that conjures up the ghost in Orwell's machine. Huber (Galileo's Revenge, 1991), a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute for Policy Research, has two abiding convictions: that 1984 remains ``the most important book published since the war'' for its prescient recognition that the information and technology culture would pose the late 20th century's determining challenges for human culture; and that Orwell was nevertheless ``completely, irredeemably, outrageously wrong'' about the implications of the technology he so perspicaciously portrayed. Writing from a postCold War, postinformation superhighway perspective, Huber argues that the convergence of information and communication technologies Orwell foresaw in his ``telescreen,'' far from condemning society to the grim panoptic coercion of the Party, are by their nature driven toward the creation of markets in information and services that will inevitably elude the grasp of centralizing authority and ultimately topple it (adducing as evidence the Internet and the role of information technology in the collapse of the Soviet empire). He makes this case in a singular fashion, alternating passages of conventional literary and political critique with his own sequel cum rewrite of 1984--a patented computer-aided ``palimpsest'' assembled largely in Orwell's own words from shreds and patches of both the original novel and his other writings--in which the fearsome interrogator O'Brien, the Party, and the vast totalitarian superstates all perish not by self-conscious political activism or revolt, but simply through the innate logic of the technology they wrongly believed they could control. Many readers may question Huber's libertarian faith in market forces and in the inevitable Big Brotherdom of all social planning or collective endeavor; and matters aren't helped by a style whose affectations, when not simply reformatting Orwell, can border on the precious. But overstated and overlong as it may be, Huber's undertaking remains ambitious, strikingly original, and thoroughly provocative.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1994
ISBN: 0-02-915335-2
Page count: 366pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1994