Yevgeny Zamyatin
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D-503 is a model citizen of the One State society. As the designer of the Integral, the spaceship that will carry the wonders of One State to what they assume are the primitive people of other planets in the solar system, D-503 would be a distinguished citizen. But everyone in One State is equal, and D-503 does not question the wisdom of this system. He enjoys the regularity of his day, ordered by The Table of Hours: his wake-up time, his feeding hours, his work time, and his evenings in one of the huge auditoriums where citizens gather for instructive entertainment. He has a private hour, and sometimes a pink slip is issued that allows him a sexual interlude with the adoring and complacent O-90.

Life is good for D-503. But one day, walk walking like thousands of others during the walking hour and with O-90 by his side, he sees for the first time I-330, and she will acknowledge his glance. D-503's life, from this moment, will begin to spiral out of control.

Zamyatin's novel takes the form of the journal D-503 is keeping as a guide aimed at those beings he expects to meet on other planets. It describes the joys and wisdom of One State. D-503 is a relentlessly honest record keeper, and he holds nothing back. Even as his self-confident and didactic narrative begins to express his confusion, panic, and joy after meeting the beautiful, dangerous I-330, he continues his faithful recording of the facts. His passion for I-330 is disorienting and obsessive. He finds himself drawn into a conspiracy that both appalls and fascinates him. He questions for the first time. His first kiss with I-330 brings a revelation.

It has never occurred to me before, but this is truly how it is: all of us on earth walk constantly over a seething, scarlet sea of flame, hidden below, in the belly of the earth. We never think of it. But what if the thin crust under our feet should turn into glass and we should suddenly see… I became glass. I saw – within myself.

Zamyatin's 1921 novel has foundational status in the history of science fiction, but as a book it has more in common with Gulliver's Travels than with the SF that would define the 20th and our present century. Zamyatin has no interest in the careful world building that has become crucial to science fiction writing. He characters, his plot, the well-developed but not very convincing details of One State are all in service to his darkly satirical vision of the future he foresaw for post-revolutionary Soviet society. In D-503 he has created a great character, one who channels his inner turmoil directly into his prose. That is the continuing strength of this novel almost a century after its composition.