A Clockwork Orange

A couple of years ago I was nearly as interested in watching movies constantly as I currently am in reading books.  While going through all of my movies, I started to look for several classic movies, which is how I came to own Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.”  I knew that it was based upon a novel, but I’d never read it before.  While on a recent trip through my local Barnes & Noble I saw this book and decided to buy it (if you follow my blog at all you’ll see that I get quite a few books this way, which is why as much as I love Amazon I still go to B&N quite often for books).  Anthony Burgess’s classic novel is interesting to say the least, but at times aggravating as well.

Book Stats

212 pages

Stand alone

Classic

Characters

The book follows Alex, who is 15 years old when the book begins.  He is the leader of a gang which includes himself and 3 “droogs.”  The book is told in 1st person and Alex is a very introspective character who constantly analyzes his situation.  He is an intelligent person who spends his time constantly breaking the law and getting into fights with other gangs.

Setting

The city where the story takes place isn’t really named, not that it’s important to the story.

Plot

With his law-breaking ways, Alex eventually gets caught by the police and then taken to prison where to avoid his entire sentence he agrees to undergo an experimental treatment that will allow him to return to society “cured” and able to function as a proper member of society.

Enjoyment

This book is odd in many ways, some of which Burgess mentions in his introduction to the version that I have.  One of the first things stated in the introduction is that the original American version only had 20 chapters as opposed to the 21 that the author wrote.  The movie is also based upon the version containing 20 chapters.  In all honesty, the book is better without the 21st chapter, which seems out of place from the direction that the rest of the novel was going.  The other part of the book that needs to be mentioned in any review of it is the language used.  Alex and his droogs talk in a very heavy slang that is at times very hard to understand.  Especially in the earlier sections of the book, I would have had no idea what was going on had I not seen the movie and been able to relate what was going on back to scenes from the movie.  Later in the book you are able to understand it easier (while very odd, it is at least consistent) but it’s still frustrating to read.

Overall Grade

The idea of the story is powerful, but it’s not good enough to overcome the dialect flaws and the fact that the last chapter just doesn’t fit with the direction the story was going in.  I almost hate to say this, but for anyone interested in this I would suggest that they watch the movie rather than read the book.

3/10

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6 Comments

  1. Hmmm, I tried to read this book once and only got as far as the first page! I really want to have another go though. I think the film is very powerful and was hoping the book would be good… Oh well, I’ll probably try it anyway!

    Reply
  2. hannahrose42

     /  November 11, 2011

    I agree that it was quite difficult to get into the slang. I always thought this was a great novel, and then one day, I realized I had no idea why I thought that. It was certainly interesting, but not amazing. Thorough review!

    Reply
  3. What, dialect flaws? Like Hoban’s Ridley Walker I found that I caught on quite quickly to the dialect…

    Reply
    • I don’t like dialects in books. Any time the author uses a dialect it knocks you out of the story. I can think of 1 example where a dialect was done well enough to where it helped the story rather than dragging it down, and it was in a short story. (The story was The Valetudinarian by Joshua Ferris, I read it from The Best American Short Stories 2010 for a class I took in college.)

      The dialect was a large part of the reason that the book didn’t work for me, but the ending was also a big problem. In my edition there is a note about how Burgess wrote the book with 21 chapters but the original publisher didn’t include the final chapter in the book. I think the book would have been much stronger without the final chapter, which I thought undermined everything that Alex went through in the middle section of the book.

      Reply
      • But i still don’t understand WHY you didn’t like the book besides the dialect and that it was difficult…. Dialects are definitely an older style — most authors have sort of phased them out (although, as you point out some still try). So Heinlein and his “oh lookee, the spaceship and those alien folksters with their straw hats” (you get the point — hehe) was abandoned by the majority of sci-fi writers since the 80s…

      • The dialect was annoying to me and was part of the reason that I gave it a low score. A bigger factor in giving it a 3/10 was the final chapter. The second and third sections dealt with the consequences of a person who lives his life according to violence and dealt with the ways that society reacts to their violence. To me the final chapter came across as saying that as violent as Alex was, it was just a phase that he would have grown out of. It undermined everything that he had been through in the second and third sections of the book which ruined the book for me.

        The book is much stronger without the 21st chapter, and had I read a version without that chapter I probably would have given the book a 5 or 6, which I don’t consider to be an outstanding book, but still a book of high quality that I would suggest in some circumstances.

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