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