1984 is the most frightening book I have read. The book is set up in a world controlled by a totalitarian regime. It describes a dystopian society that is completely controlled by the government and every aspect of personal life is violated by it. Every citizen is continuously surveilled and the children of party members are indoctrinated to revere the government absolutely and unquestioningly.
This leads to some stunning results. Obvious untruths are accepted in society and the past is continuously altered to fit the party line. The party exerts absolute control over its member’s minds and it creates a narrative of being in control of the truth. It exploits this control by constantly indoctrinating and twisting its subject’s thoughts. Some examples are the party mottos and the names of its ministries. The ‘Ministry of Peace’ deals with war and the ‘Ministry of Truth’ manages the news. In each case the role of the ministry is antithetical to its name which is still comprehensible to the party members by a thought process called doublethink by which a word can be interpreted in a manner opposite to its actual meaning. Every activity that is artful or of personal importance is either banned or morally reprehensible and all the individuals energy is designed to be directed towards spreading the party propaganda or state designated work.
The control is so pervasive that party introduces a new language. This language is designed to make all anti-party thoughts redundant by not defining any words for it. New words are created by which large number of similar meaning words can be removed from the language. This removes the art from language and makes any expression almost robotic. At the same time, since there is no means of expressing anti-party thoughts it would be extremely difficult to have anti-party thoughts.
This is the concept behind the totalitarian regime in control of the world. Yet this is not what makes the book so terrifyingly beautiful. For a majority of this book, it is a story of hope, of beauty and love and defiance against the oppressive regime. It is a story of finding art and creating beauty despite a society that hammers absolute reverence into the individuals mind. It is a story of simple acts of rebellion that makes the main character human. It is this hope that makes the story beautiful but it is also this hope that makes the story terrifying.
If you want to read this book, be warned because it will be disturbing. It will not be disturbing because of its gory scenes but because of its masterful storytelling and brilliant world building. The ideas explored in the book are truly terrifyingly beautiful.