Part I of a multi-part review series.
Standard libertarian dishonesty that seeks to conflate egalitarian doctrine generically with various unpleasant practices. For instance, the state holds back technological development--primitivism--wishing to punish narrator for the comically unlikely invention of an electrical light. State also keeps knowledge of the past secret, of "the towers which rose to the sky, in those Unemntionable Times, and of the wagons which moved without horses, and of the lights which burned without flame." Narrator's invention is also rejected because it will "bring ruin to the Department of Candles," which is less a primitivist position than a cartel's protectionism, hardly a progressive idea. There can be egalitarian primitivism, sure--though hardly anyone advocates that. More than likely this is intended to be a slur on egalitarian progressivism, i.e., socialism.
Likewise, in the assertion "we are nothing," we see the self-abnegation common to fascist doctrine, which libertarians are pleased to associate with egalitarianism, even though fascism seeks to undo even those limited forms of egalitarianism that libertarians will recognize, usually. (Not Rand, however, for in this text the state has a "free and general vote of all men"--so perhaps the indictment of egalitarianism is total, and Rand joins with Dostoevsky, Conrad, and other anti-democratic rightwing writers--though of course Dostoevsky and Conrad are good writers, and worth reading, despite the bad politics.) In the same vein, the prohibition on speaking to persons in other trades is old syndicalist/corporativist doctrine of generating controls on civil society within employment groups, and managing the struggle of capital and labor through industry mediation, preventing thereby class-based unions of workers and limiting them to their own shops and factories, at the mercy of the employer.
Similarly, egalitarianism is equated herein with religious mysticism, such as in "the will of our brothers, which is holy." This is one of the most douchey (douchiest?) criticisms of socialism, and I'm surprised that there are people who still make it. Rand takes it so far as to have public burnings of heretics, as though this were 15th century England and heresy were punished by writ de heretico comburendo.
We also see sexual pairings decided by a council of eugenics, which is an odd thing to associate with progressive egalitarianism.
Egalitarianism is toward the end of novella conflated with "serfdom," which is Hayekian enough, I suppose--though this is manifestly idiotic, the merger in imagination of feudalism and socialism. (It may not be socialism, though: we see that narrator admits to possession of "stolen" items--so there is definitely some sort of property ideology here. If this were intended to be a critique of socialism, though, then the dystopia is not very effective in eradicating property ideology--I'll just go ahead and regard that as a writerly default of misconception or inartful execution or both.)
The text also demonstrates a severe lack of understanding regarding the content of egalitarian doctrine, attributing to egalitarianism undesirable policies that have no intrinsic relation to egalitarianism, such as statutes or customs or aesthetic standards that forbid or censure writing, height, having distinct tastes, having an independent will, having friends, having sex, creating works of art, doing any job other than what is assigned, speaking of historical events, leaving the city, and so on. It's one long strawperson, and it is so pervasive that not even someone as ludicrously uninformed as this author could have got it so wrong without trying--so perhaps it's best to assume a lack of good faith, considering the magnitude of the errors.
In other words, there is no form of barbarism or silliness that Rand does not associate with egalitarian politics, including the moronic assertion that with egalitarianism, humanity "fell lower than his savage beginning."
As though that weren't bad enough, text is just plain bad as a writing. Narrator states that "it is a sin to give men other names which distinguish them from other men," but yet everyone encountered has a name that distinguishes. Sure, there's a generic term and a number, but that produces a distinction. It appears, accordingly, that author didn't really think this through very far. Same, the hasty assertion that "never have men said this to women," when narrator refers to his amorous interest as "our dearest one." Another dumb moment: "A street Sweeper walking in upon the World Council of Scholars! It is not to be believed! It is against all the rules and all the laws!" Certainly not all
the laws, on that one very specific point, which is presumably sufficiently rare that it is not to be believed when it does in fact occur?
Biggest writerly & conceptual default however is in what author must have considered the climax, when narrator sheds "we" as his first person singular pronoun and begins using "I." This feeds into the puerile doctrine that "we" is tyranny. It's all juvenile hyperindividualist Stirner stuff, and I can see why teenagers like this sort of thing.
The problem with the shift from "we" to "I" is that narrator always had the conceptual scheme for "I," an individualism from the first page, literally--but lacks only the word, substituting in another signifier for the first person singular grammatical function, which he always already possessed. The entire story is about narrator's individualist deviations. And he's not alone. The other characters involved each have their own deviations from the alleged rules (which are not very well enforced--he walks out of prison, and leaves a trail that amorous interest follows to find him, but there is no pursuit by law enforcement.) So, it's all one big red herring, really, and the facts represented by the narrative do not bear out narrator's dogmatic posturings.
Overall, terrible, poorly conceived & executed writing, filled with dishonest criticisms of left politics, substituting in childish ideas that should embarrass rather than embolden the rightwing. One of the worst books ever written.
Recommended nevertheless for those who owe nothing to their brothers, persons who want to live where there is no odor of men, and teabaggers who want to be flattered.