Alex and his three friends’ typical activities at night consist of rape, robbery and violence. When this finally spills over into murder, the Police catch up with Alex. He is imprisoned, and subsequently subjected to a form of mind control, which means that he can be returned to society, with no risk to others around him.
Set in an ambiguous and not-too-distant future (although it is worth remembering that the book was written in 1963), the book is written in ‘Nadsat’ – a form of teenage slang used by Alex (the narrator) and his peers.
If there is one book which I think everybody should read, this would be it. I first read it about 20 years ago, and thought it was due for a re-read. I appreciated it more second time around.
The nadsat language has a dual role here – it firmly entrenches Alex into his own culture (none of the adults or authority figures in the book use it), and also makes the violence less graphic, meaning that the book is disturbing because of it’s message and not the violence contained within the pages.
This is a book which raises questions of ethics: Is a man who chooses to be bad better than a man who is forced to do good? Is it okay to take away individual choice for the good of society? Does it do any good to only treat the symptoms of a problem, and not the cause?
Despite the violence and disrespect for authority which is shown by Alex and his gang, the most disturbing aspect of this book is the so-called treatment doled out by medical professionals, and people who are supposed to be good.
The nadsat language may put some people off reading this, but in truth, it is not long before you get used to it. It is obvious what most words mean, either by their context, or by the words they are obviously derived from (for example, ‘apologies’ becomes appy polly loggies’).
A definitely 5/5 for me, and one that I recommend to anybody with an interest in great literature.