Erewhon

Samuel Butler’s 1872 novel imagines a forgotten civilization tucked away behind a few mountain ranges in New Zealand. Our hero discovers it when trying to find more land to graze sheep on, after a three week camping trip with a native once the sheep-shearing season is over. These are the best parts of the book, the journey to try and discover new lands, and then once he’s discovered by the Erewhonians. But it dulls once he launches into his main theme, which is to skewer social norms by way of this pseudo-utopian society. In this society, if you get sick, you’re a criminal, but embezzling funds is treated as if it were a physical ailment from which you could recover, topsy turvy to our world. Machines have been outlawed, and our hero’s watch is confiscated immediately upon arrival. Banks circulate worthless currency that everyone pretends to believe in. It’s a crime to be born. The college is called the College of Unreason (needless to say, this book was influential on Orwell).