“A Clockwork Orange” – Spoiler-Free Book Review

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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“What’s it going to be then, eh?”

Normally I start off these reviews with a digital photo of the book cover for cleanliness and clarity. But this particular copy of A Clockwork Orange was a gift given to me by my lovely friend River. Therefore I thought I’d instead use this shot I took of it on my shelf with the Alex DeLarge Funko Mystery Mini I got in a massive blind box haul!

A Clockwork Orange is one of those classic books that I’ve had on my list of “things I really should read” for years. I’ve long since seen the movie and was very curious about how it matched up to the book. Sadly I just never seemed to get around to picking up a copy. Cue River, who found this out and just couldn’t let the injustice stand! She had an extra copy and shipped it my way immediately. Thanks again, River!

“He looked a malenky bit poogly when he viddied the four of us like that…”

The first thing I have to mention about A Clockwork Orange is that some people may find it a little difficult to read, or at least to get into, because of the language. I don’t want to deter anybody; I just want to give a heads up. A large portion of the book is written in “nadsat slang” (teen-speak), which is, according to Burgess, a “Russified” version of English. This can be quite confusing, especially in the beginning chapters, because our humble Narrator rarely explains the strange words he’s using.

Eventually a few things begin to come clear. “Cutter”, “deng”, and “pretty polly” all refer to money. “Bezoomny” means mad or crazy. A “droog” is a friend, a “devotchka” is a young lady, and a “chelloveck” is a young man. But there are plenty more – see this Appendix for a list – and many only come up once or twice, leaving you no chance to discern their nature. It’s left up to the reader to try to figure it out, and if you’re anything like me you won’t have a clue. Unless, perhaps, you’re familiar with Russian.

But immersion is one of the best forms of learning tools.

As I said, the confusing slang shouldn’t be a deterrent, as it slowly becomes more like background noise. By the time I was halfway into the book I was finding myself hardly even noticing the slang. Some of it I’d naturally picked up as I went. Some I still didn’t get, but I found myself understanding the general context of what the sentence was saying anyway. All in all it didn’t both me enough to ruin my enjoyment of the book. In fact, it did enhance the feel of the story. Our Narrator is a teenager, after all, and who the hell understands teenagers?

Moving away from the language…

For anyone who has neither read the book nor seen the movie, the overarching story is about the violence of youth. Along with that comes the importance of free will. Eventually the disgusting nature of government and politics is mixed in as well (although I’m not certain Burgess intended to express it that way, or if it was just a side-effect).

Our Humble Narrator is Alex DeLarge, a teen who has two obsessions in life: classical music and ultra-violence. He and his “droogs” are the epitome of evil, and I don’t say that lightly. They aren’t just hoodlums. They aren’t just thieves. They’re sociopaths who do whatever (and whomever) they wish. To these ends, some might find A Clockwork Orange to be a difficult read. This is a far warning. There really is “ultra-violence” in this story. Burgess takes the idea of teenagers being impulsive, self-involved little bastards and takes it to the extreme. A night on the town for this group is bashing a few faces in and maybe breaking into someone’s home to have their way with the lady of the house.

But here’s the twist…

As brutal as our Narrator’s actions are, what makes A Clockwork Orange a particularly weird read is that we’re meant to empathize with him. When the state takes extreme measures in order to redeem Alex (not a spoiler! It’s on the back of the book!) we’re meant to sympathize with his plight. They’re attempting to “fix” him by literally taking away his ability to do the things he does. In this way, the book is a very interesting commentary on what freedom and free will are, and how important they are when compared to the safety and comfort of society.

Ultimately, for this reason, the story gave me a feeling of disjointed loss; I didn’t know what I wanted the outcome to be. On the one hand Alex was clearly a psycho who deserved to burn for the things he’d done. On the other hand, he had one redeeming quality that was inadvertently stolen from him along with his free will. I was – as I believe Burgess intended – able to feel bad for him. I wanted him to pay for his sins, but I also wanted those who’d destroyed his mind to pay for theirs.

Stop playing with my emotions, authors!

It’s a rare thing, I think, to be able to hate a character one moment, and root for them the next. Especially rare is when those two oxymoronic notions play leap frog in your head, bouncing from one to the other and back again. To my recollection I believe only one other author ever accomplished this particular feat with me, and that was George R.R. Martin of A Song of Ice and Fire fame. In his world people make evil decisions one moment, and moral ones the next, so that a villain may turn out to become your favorite hero. Then he’ll turn around and do something horrible that makes you feel psychotic for ever liking them for even a moment.

Burgess’s Alex DeLarge is the same way. He’s an evil, horrid little wretch who you want to suffer. But then does suffer, in a rather horrible way, so you can’t help rooting for him, at least a little bit. Yet at the same time you still think he’s horrid. It’s a very complex mental conundrum.

The 21st Chapter

My copy of the book also has the missing twenty-first chapter. When the book was first released in the US, this final chapter was dropped out with the vague explanation of “Americans won’t get it”. Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation  followed suit and ended with the second-to-last chapter, although this may have been for unrelated reasons owing to artistic expression. Having now read the final chapter – and having seen the film – I’m not entirely certain what they thought Americans wouldn’t “get”. It’s seems to be a perfectly straightforward concept to me, but then…no spoilers, so you’ll have to judge for yourself.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I would personally say that Burgess got across the point he was trying to make with this story. It may have been done in an especially extreme way, making Alex out to be the worst possible example he could fathom. Regardless, by the end of that final chapter (the real final chapter) it definitely made sense as to where Burgess had been going with it all. He made his point about free will. He made his point about government and authority. And he made his point about youth, and the inevitability of youth passing into age.

A Clockwork Orange is definitely worth a read, especially if you’re a fan of the film, or if the film left a hundred questions in your head. Burgess was inside Alex’s mind, and was able to portray that mind in a frighteningly thorough fashion. Grab this one for your bookshelf now!


Want to check out A Clockwork Orange for yourself? Click right here to order!
Already read it? Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment section below!

May’s “To Be Read” List

This is less a TBR for May, and more of a confession. Do you recall at the beginning of April when I said that I wasn’t going to create a TBR because I was behind on a few books already and didn’t want to just keep adding to the pile? Well, I followed that up by completely failing to read anything at all throughout April. 

Okay, that’s a tiny bit of an exaggeration because I did read a bit more A Clockwork Orange, and the little one and I finally finished up The Brothers Lionheart, but all things considered I read very, very little.

Therefore May is going to be a bit of a repeat of April (hopefully not literally, since I actually want to get some reading done this time). My intention is to finish the three books I still have in progress, which are the previously mentioned A Clockwork Orange, plus Stephen King’s On Writing, and the final book in the Lunar Chronicles series, Winter. They’re all partway done, so if I can set aside the mobile games for a little while I should have no trouble actually, you know…finishing them. 

If there’s time to be had, I’d like to also delve into a few comics, as they’ve been creating quite the pile in our downstairs hallway. 😛

Reviews will also come for everything, of course.

So with that said, I’ll head off to grab a book, because there’s no sense in just talking about reading, right? Right. 🙂


Do you have a “To Be Read” list for May? What’s on it? Feel free to share in the comments below!

April’s “To Be Read” List

Prepare yourselves! I’m about to lay down a totally logical and mildly adult decision!

As I mentioned in my first “To Be Read” post back in January, I really like the idea of a TBR list because it gives that sense of accountability and it is definitely helping to remind me to actually read some of the giant pile of books and comics that I’ve been amassing over the years. That said, I’ve been having a bit of trouble finding the time of late, give a laundry list of reasons which I won’t get into because I mention them often enough in my weekly update posts.

For March’s list I didn’t finish either of the books I had intended to, although I did get about halfway through Stephen King’s On Writing and am enjoying it. I did manage to get through the Buffy the Vampire Season 8 volume that I had left over from February’s list, and I’m getting close to finishing A Clockwork Orange, which was actually from January’s list, but that still leaves me behind by one full book (The Lunar Chronicles: Winter) and two halves of books. In addition to that I’ve actually also been reading The Brothers Lionheart with the little one, and I give that one precedence since reading with my daughter is more important to me than reading just for myself. 🙂

So, to cut to the chase, I’m currently reading three different books at once, and have another full one remaining from last month’s TBR list, so I’ve decided to just leave it at that for the month of April, because I don’t want to get further behind. If I do manage to complete the books that I’ve yet to catch up on, I’ll try to sneak in an extra one just to say that I read something extra for April, but I’m not terribly concerned. The official listing will return in May.

In the meantime, look forward to getting reviews for all the books I’m currently working through, including The Brothers Lionheart, which I’m enjoying just as much as the little one!

Plans and Goals 2018: Week 2 Review

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I feel like I say this often, but the past week seemed to have disappeared on me in the blink of an eye. I feel like I literally just wrote last week’s post, although seven more days have mysteriously passed. Happily, part of the reason time has escaped me again is because I was rather busy getting things done. What a concept, right? So let’s take a look…


Plan #1: Focus more on Writing.
I didn’t reach my writing goals for the week at all, unfortunately, but I did manage to write something every day of this past week, which is a real accomplish for me, believe it or not. I also managed to get a few other things out of the way (which I’ll mention shortly), so I should be able to (hopefully) catch up a bit in the second half of the month.

  • Goal #1: Write half a million words throughout the year. I only succeeded in writing 1370 words on one day this week, which is a bit of a downer, but as mentioned I did manage to write daily, if only a little. All told I wrote 3108 words toward blog posts, 1528 words toward The Other World: Book 2, and 379 words toward a random personal project I began. That’s 5015 words total for the week, which isn’t much, but at least it’s something. For the sake of argument, I’m now at 9179 words for the year so far, which is an average of 706 words per day. Nowhere near the goal to reach half a million by the end of the year, but it’s definitely better than nothing!
  • Goal #2: Sell more books. Thus far this year I haven’t sold any books online, which is a bummer, but I believe I’ve sold a few via the collectibles shop I mentioned last week. I haven’t been able to get a hold of the owner, as he’s currently on a trip to the other side of the country, but the last time I was in the store it seemed like a few of the books were missing from the stack, so fingers crossed!
  • Goal #3: Complete and publish The Other World: Book Two. The little that I did write toward TOW2 this week brought me very close to the end. There are a few things near the beginning of the manuscript that I have to go back to before it can be a complete draft, but I’m nearing the point when I’ll be able to wrap it up and ship it off to my beta readers.

Plan #2: Focus more on YouTube.
Jason and I KICKED ASS on this goal in the second week. I don’t know where the energy and motivation came from, but I’m definitely not complaining!

  • Goal #1: Film more often. In the past week I filmed 8 videos, which I haven’t done in AGES, and between myself and Jason we actually managed to get every one of them edited and published, shocking some of our closest YouTube friends with our sudden burst of output. It was awesome!
  • Goal #2: Put more focus into, and have more fun with, the social media aspect. I petered off with this one at the end of the week when I started to get exhausted (and then Adrianna had a friend over for a sleepover, and pretty much everything came to a grinding halt…lol), but the majority of the week was good. Lots of tweeting, Instagramming, and talking to people on Facebook. I’m still getting used to getting back into SnapChat – it just doesn’t seem as important since there’s not really a lot of interaction there – but I’m working on it. I want to try to bolster the Instagram posts in the coming week, as that’s where we have the most followers and interaction.

Plan #3: Focus more on myself.
And here’s the real test? Did I take care of myself during all this work? Well, yeah, for the most part, I did!

  • Goal #1: Take time daily to read/watch/play. I’ll willingly admit that a lot of my “me time” this past week consisted of crashing on the couch and playing Sailor Drops on my phone, but given how much I was getting done with the YouTube channel, I’m going to forgive myself for defaulting to brainless mobile games for a bit. I also began reading A Clockwork Orange, which proves to be very interesting, and last night when the girls were finally quieting down a bit I absolutely devoured Gyo, which I’ll have to write a review of soon because…damn. I’m going to be having nightmares for weeks!
  • Goal #2: Stay active, but don’t obsess. The overwhelming majority of my physical activity this week involved cleaning, but hey, it needs to be done, and at least I was up and moving around! I also played a bit of  Just Dance with Adrianna, which never fails to remind me how out of shape I am, and while this doesn’t necessarily fall under “stay active”, I also started taking vitamin D to combat the winter blues, as well as guzzling more water to keep myself hydrated. So far I think both things are helping because I’ve been feeling more awake and alert, which is never a bad thing.

So that was my second week of 2018. Not a huge amount of success on the writing side, but lots of good with everything else. I’m hoping to press into the third week with more filming and more writing, and if I can manage to carve out some time I’d like to get back into Breath of the Wild before I forget how to play. ^_~

How was your week? Were you able to accomplish anything? Do anything fun? Make any progress toward your own goals? Feel free to share!

January’s “To-Be Read” List

As part of my goals post yesterday, I mentioned that as part of a plan to “focus more on myself”, I plan to read, watch, and play more in 2018. I didn’t make it a specific goal, but as part of this plan I intend to make a monthly “to-be read” list to give myself specific books to focus on. This system seems to work really well for several friends of mine, so I thought it was worth giving a try.

For this first month of January I’m taking it a little easy on myself by starting off with a book I’ve already read half of, a book on the shorter side, and a manga compilation I got for Christmas. No need to sabotage myself right from the get-go by getting too ambitious, right? Right.

So what are the books in question?

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The one I have half-read is Stalking Jack the Ripper, by Kerri Maniscalco. It was my online book club’s book for November, but I simply got too busy with my daughter’s birthday, holiday stuff, and other various life-related road-blocks that I never got around to finishing it. I have been loving it though, so it’s the first on my list to for 2018, and when I do get to that last page I plan to write a review on this blog. For interested parties, the story is set in the time of Jack the Ripper, and follows a cast of characters – a wonderfully likable female protagonist named Audrey Rose, and a mysterious and vexing male companion named Thomas – as they attempt to hut down the vicious murderer who has been stalking the streets, taking the lives of ladies of the night. It’s well-written and a very interesting take on the mystery surrounding the famous killer.

The second book I’m going to read shouldn’t be unfamiliar to anyone, even if you didn’t realize that the pop-culturally relevant movie is actually based on a book: it’s Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. I’ve actually been intending to read this book for quite some time – it’s on a list of classics that I feel I should be able to say that I’ve read – but I just never got around to it, mainly because I would never think to pick it up whenever I was in a book store. That is no longer an excuse, however, because my awesome friend, River, sent me an extra copy that she happened to have! So thank you very much, River! I’m finally going to be able to say that I’ve read this one, and I’ll definitely write a review of it on the blog as soon as possible as well.

Finally, we have an incredibly creepy-looking horror manga from the incredibly creepy-minded Junji Ito, Gyo 2-in-1 Deluxe Edition. Jason picked me this up for Christmas, and I’m very keen to check it out as soon as possible. A few months ago I read Ito’s Uzumaki (3-in-1, Deluxe Edition): Includes vols. 1, 2 & 3 after being sent a copy by our good friend, Johnny Tellez the Hyper Geek, and I absolutely devoured it. Ito boasts an amazingly freaky art style and a mind right up there with some of the most celebrated names in horror. Uzumaki made me feel equal parts uncomfortable and obsessed, so I can’t wait to dive into Gyo and see what it’s all about. Of course, there will be a review coming of that as well.


So those are the three books that I intend to start off 2018 with. Do you plan on doing any extra reading this year? Do you have any books set aside for January already? Please feel free to share, and if you’ve already read any of the three I listed, feel free to let me know what you thought of them! Cheers!