It is the year 3000, and society has finally built a rocket that can travel faster than the speed of light. There's no telling who or what this spaceship may encounter in its journey into the great unknown, so the leader of these futuristic people, the Great Benefactor, has called for all citizens to write something to put aboard the vessel to explain their way of life to those it may discover. This is the premise of the book We, written by Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin in 1921. All people are numbers; all human concepts, including love, art, poetry, and all other aspects of life have been solved through mathematics. Imagination is a disease. All art and poetry is at the service of the One State and should serve to glorify the Benefactor. Our main character, a narrator, and a reluctant hero is D-503, the engineer that developed the rocket. He loves the One State and is proud to be part of such a glorious society. He decides that any civilization the spaceship comes across will naturally be curious about the man who built such an amazing machine, so he starts a journal of his daily life to put aboard. The book is this journal, and at the beginning, he is the ideal citizen. However, things change quickly for D-503 when he meets I-330, a woman who leads him on a journey into the underworld of this society and shows him things he never dreamed could exist. He may even feel "love" for her though such an irrational emotion has no place in his structured brain. Such feelings and ideas can only be explained by our confused narrator as "the square root of negative one", a non-existent number mathematicians refer to as "imaginary". This concept threw D-503 when he encountered it in school as a child and is the only way he can describe how I-350 makes him feel. As his journal continues throughout the book, leading up to the launch of the spaceship Integral, D-503 finds himself questioning everything he knows or thought he knew. Though written in 1921, this book was never published in Russia until 1988, as the emerging Soviet state in the 1920s saw the obvious parallels between D-503's society and the society they were creating. It was first published in New York in 1924, with publication in French following shortly after in 1927. This is most likely when George Orwell and Aldous Huxley both discovered it, and it is quite obvious that Orwell and Huxley were influenced by this book. Orwell actually admitted as such and started writing 1984 eight months after reading We. Huxley claimed it had no influence on him or on Brave New World though there is some evidence to dispute this. Regardless, We stands on its own as one of the earliest, and in my opinion, best dystopian novels.
In the One State of the Great Benefactor, individuals have been replaced by numbers and passions subdued. But when the chief architect of the spaceship "Integral, " known as D-503, has a chance meeting with the beautiful I-330, he stumbles upon an unexpected discovery that threatens all he believes about himself and the One State.