Review: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess


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A vicious fifteen-year-old “droog” is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick’s magnificent film of the same title.

In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to “redeem” him—the novel asks, “At what cost?”



Overrate əʊvəˈreɪt/ verb:  have a higher opinion of (someone or something) than is deserved.

Firstly, in the Kindle format it’s impossible to read the glossary alongside the ridiculous vocab, though it’s simple enough to pick up on after a little while. This was a pain in the ass, particularly when I took a break from reading and the newfound ability to read and understand nadsat leaked from my brain.

The story itself is intriguing, particularly the brainwashing part (I’m just going to go ahead and assume most people have watched the Kubrick adaptation, if not read the book) though I found it a little tiresome how easily the brainwashing was completed and then reversed. I know, I know – the book was released in the 60’s but we had a man on the moon that decade, dammit – Pavlovian conditioning was described in 1903!

My angry behaviourist tendencies aside, the story was pretty good but I just felt that this book was lacking something given that it’s touted (yes, touted. I never get to use that word) as a masterpiece. I understand the fascination with the role of free will in the concepts of good and evil, thoroughly appreciating this as the focal point of the novel but I can’t help but feel that some authors did this better; naming Anne Rice for one. I am slightly biased as she’s already well established as my favourite author and possibly human being, more on that another day though.


To conclude, it was a very enjoyable if difficult read. Stomach churning at times, irritating at others but it was a good look at the evil of teenagers and the importance of free will.

Reading this to a soundtrack of Beethoven may have been the best decision of my adult life thus far.

“Civilised my syphilised yarbles.”
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

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