This isn't SF. It isn't
really even "speculative fiction" (as best as I understand what that
means). Animal Farm's plot and major characters aren't products of
imagination. It's essentially Orwell's condensation of the rise of Stalinism
after the Russian Revolution - told something like a fable with animals as the
I went to a family gathering
/ vacation. Before hand, the 20-something members of the family had decided
they wanted a book discussion during the vacation. They picked Animal Farm as
the book. Most of the discussion wasn't about the Soviet Union or the past.
Nor did we talk about the characters and plot as simply a work of fiction
distinction from reality. Although there's no political lecturing to the
reader, the reader is left with little doubt Orwell expects us to be thinking
of how the real world is reflected in the story. We talked about the
concentration of power and propaganda in the context of the protests in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in early 2011. And also political trends and propaganda in the US. So, I guess Animal Farm is not only a retelling of the past, but also a prophetic view
of what to expect in the future if we don't stop it.
Animal Farm can be read as a
way to understand the process that led from the ideals under which the Soviet Union was created to the dominance by a self-serving elite. It can be read as an
entertaining telling of history. Or it can be used as a more general depiction
of how elites manipulate and coerce the population.
In any case it is
entertainingly presented. At the same time, readers can find it distressing to
watch the hopes for a better world being undermined by a ruthless minority.
It's a short book - I've seen it described as a novella - so it's not a big
investment in time.
For a further view of Orwell's political views, see: