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May 1, 2004

The Watch

The Watch The Watch by Dennis Danvers
Science Fiction
New York : Eos, c2002.
356 p

Lest anyone think that all I care about is stadiums, I thought it might be a good idea to start writing more about other topics. I read a fair amount of books so I hope to give some reviews of the books I read periodically on this blog. Most of the reviews will be for books I liked since I usually can't get through a book if I don't like it, and I only review books that I finish. Enough about that, though, and on to the book.

The Watch is one of the best and most imaginative books I've read in a while. It is the type of book I wish I could write. The book centers around the adventures of Peter Kropotkin, an actual figure in history known as the "Anarchist Prince" and a person who believed, well, that anarchy should be our preferred method of government (or lack of government as the case may be). Anarchy is usually thought of as utter chaos and as something that is somewhat evil, but Kropotkin actually believed that through anarchy private property and unequal incomes would be replaced by the free distribution of goods and services on an "as needed" basis. Kropotkin's masterpiece, Mutual Aid, actually demonstrates through a wide variety of proof that the animal world is dominated by a sense of cooperation rather than "survival of the fittest" and that humans are no exception. He argues that throughout history man has sought to help his fellow man in his own community more often than not whether it be primitive tribe, peasant village, or medieval commune and that this "mutual aid" has extended into the common era through trade unions, learned societies, the Red Cross and other like organizations. He argues that "(t)he trend of modern history ... was pointing back toward decentralized, nonpolitical, cooperative societies in which people could develop their creative faculties without interference from rulers, clerics, or soldiers." Essentially people can rule themselves in small groups more effectively than any large government. ( "Kropotkin, Peter Alekseyevich" Encyclopędia Britannica from Encyclopędia Britannica Online. )

Cool. That is what I love about books like this. I had never heard of Kropotkin, but through this book I now have a better understanding of anarchist principles and thought. Anyway, this book starts with the death of Kropotkin. On his death bed he is visited by a man from the future, Anchee, who offers him a chance to live as a young man in 1999 Richmond, Virginia. Kropotkin takes his offer and begins to live his 1999 life. The character of Kropotikin, as realized by the author, is one of the most fascinating characters I have ever read about. I absolutely loved him. His convictions, attitudes about life, interactions with other people, they were all priceless and provided ample food for thought. Kropotkin believes he is free to make his own choices in his new life but he soon finds out that his benefactor, Anchee, is subtly pulling the strings and moving Kropotkin along to some unknown fate. Kropotkin is very upset about this, but knowing there is little he can do about it he decides grudgingly to play along, giving Anchee an earful every time he sees him. Eventually Kropotkin finds out what Anchee has in store for him and must decide whether or not to live the life (really the dream) Anchee has provided for him or live a life where he is in complete control, even though that life may not be as pleasant or fulfilling.

This is merely my own weak understanding of the book. There was so much more to the story, with Kropotkin's own philosophies of social justice and prison reform taking center stage. What I got from it were these philosophies, plus some wonderful musings on the concepts of predestination and free will. Why do we tolerate the suffering of our neighbors? Why do we fret and point and wish the government could do more when the answer sometimes lies with the fact that we need to do more in our own communities? Why are we so lazy and selfish? Sadly I am no exception. Anyway, it was a great book. Pick it up if you want a little jolt of shame and a desire to do more.

Posted by snackeru at May 1, 2004 10:23 PM | Books


the watch is like the best book ever.i mean, personally i hate to read, but when i had to get a book for my english class and got this one i totaly fell in love with it.this is not one of those books that makes you want to fall asleep, every page makes me want to read more and more.the watch is a really good book.

Posted by: sindy at May 17, 2005 4:27 PM

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