Book Review: A Clockwork Orange (Spoilers)

Title: A Clockwork Orange

Author: Anthony Burgess

Genre: Science fiction, dystopia, satire

Publication date: 1962

Pages: 192 hardback edition, 172 paperback edition

Source: Bought it

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5


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?”- Goodreads


Before I even begin, this is my reaction the first time I read the book.

I confess that it was a challenge for me reading this the first time; therefore, I actually had to read it the second time to gain a better comprehension of this book.  I think the slang terms used by Alex in the book and me zoning out part of the time while reading it, is probably the result of my confusion.

In the beginning of the book, Anthony Burgess, exhibits that the book is going to be violent.  The violent tendencies of Alex, the main character and narrator of the book and his gang rise to the sickening levels almost right off the bat in the start of the novel.  The book is divided into three parts:

1st part:Alex and his “droogs” being loose in society committing atrocious acts such as stealing, beating people up, and rape.  It is however, after murdering an elderly woman that he is captured and incarcerated.

2nd part: Focuses on Alex’s time in prison with no intention of reform.  Therefore, the officials recommend him for a new but highly controversial program that brainwashes a criminal mind and removes any desire it might have to commit evil acts.

3rd part: Alex successfully finishes the program and is released.

I thought that this book had a very clever plot, though, I may not recommend it for everyone. The idea is very disturbing and if you’re offended by violence, this may be a book that you want to avoid; however, I’d also advise to keep an open mind.  When reading this for the first time, you may notice the strange writing style  (i.e Nadsat- Russian-Sloviak lingo) which I found really frustrating at first because of the unfamiliar terms being used, so at some point, I just wanted to quit reading it. However, once you get the hang of the terms since they do tend to get repetitive, reading it further isn’t so bad.

Alex who refers to himself as ‘Your Humble and Faithful Narrator’ is an interesting character.  He’s the anti-hero and has committed violent acts that should make you hate him (and I mean you should because of his penchant for unbelievable horror), however, as the story progresses your opinion about him may change slightly.  Alex is nonchalantly bloodthirsty, but despite his dark demeanor, he has some very peculiar qualities for a violent criminal- one being his love for classical music.  He enjoys nothing more than listening to the likes of Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart. This certain attribute for a criminal, I found rather intriguing and I think the fact that I like classical music myself probably made him somewhat kind of likeable (in that aspect), though it doesn’t change the fact that he’s a horrible person for the heinous crimes he committed especially for someone who is only 15 years old.

But it’s during his capture and when he was injected with the brain altering drug–the Ludovico treatment that he is on the receiving end of brutality.  As much as I don’t condone his actions, it’s during these parts that I may have an inch of sympathy towards him because of what he had to endure.  I don’t know if it’s Alex himself that I felt bad for, or maybe just the fact that you begin to question human nature, choice, and freedom.  His reconditioning was being praised and for me it made me a little uncomfortable, because technically his freedom of thought had been taken away.  I think that’s a much worse fate than simply being in prison. At least there, your mind is still your own. Yes, Alex is indeed a criminal and a horrid person because he does it for pleasure; however, those involved in the program for treating these criminals aren’t exactly a group that I could appreciate.  The thought that your future is in the hands of these people, is a frightening notion.  They wouldn’t tell Alex exactly what he was signing up for, and the fact they used the process on a teenager, to me is criminal itself.  Although, I am glad that in the end,  Alex realized the wrongness of his actions and even going so far as to contemplate a possible future with a wife and kids of his own.

I gave this book 4 stars, not necessarily for the content but the mere fact that I had to read it a second time for better comprehension.  Nevertheless, I really did like the book.  It is well-written, minus the slang terms that was rather a turn off while I was reading.  The topic of violence as well as the moral and ethic issues surrounding how society handles violent offenders is addressed well in this book.  And if you want a read that is thought-provoking, then this book might be something you want to give a chance and definitely I would recommend. On another note, I know that the movie version ended differently; however, I found that the book ending is more fitting and definitely preferable, in my opinion.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: A Clockwork Orange (Spoilers)

  1. On my wish-list! There is a gorgeous Folio Society edition of the book that I want to own.
    I wonder if I’ll like it,because I know just as many people who adored it as those who hated it.


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