Book Review: News from Nowhere

“Education was something to be swallowed by the beginner whether he liked it or not, and was hungry for it or not: and which had been chewed and digested over and over again by people who didn’t care about it in order to serve it out to other people who didn’t care about it…”

I spend far too much time reading Dystopian novels. It’s starting to make me a little peculiar, to the point where I am convinced that a zombie apocalypse is going to kick off at any minute. With that in mind, I thought I would change things up a bit and immerse myself in a Utopia instead. You don’t hear of many Utopian novels, probably because death, destruction and Rick from The Walking Dead are infinitely more interesting.

News from Nowhere is a rather smug attempt to show what a wonderful place London would be, had it only embraced socialism. William Guest returns home from a meeting of the Socialist League and promptly falls asleep (who can blame him). He awakes in a magical Socialist Utopia where there is no marriage, no private property and all work is deemed to be pleasurable and creative. It’s mostly nonsense obviously. He also makes numerous references to how attractive all the women in this Socialist society are, as if reading a bit of Marx can magically stop someone from being a hideous troll.

That being said, News from Nowhere is beautifully written, if a little dry. It is also fascinating to see how little the overall aims of Socialism have changed since this book was published in 1890. The criticisms remain unaddressed while the many positives remain as relevant and tantalizingly possible as ever.

I found News from Nowhere to be slow going at times, probably not helped by the fact that I have been reading the famously long and difficult Infinite Jest alongside it, but it was also rewarding and interesting. William Morris’ novel serves as a fitting introduction to the ideals of Socialism as well as the more broad concept of a Utopian novel.


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