Thommy Ford Reads

A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library

Free eBook Review: News from Nowhere by William Morris and a Few Other Utopian eBooks

Looking for some free books to fill your eReader?  You may already know that there are plenty of classics available as free downloadable eBooks, but if you explore enough you’ll find some free titles you might not expect: forgotten bestsellers, early genre classics, pulp fiction and more.  Here’s a free title that has caught my attention lately, with links to the download below.

Frontispiece from the 1892 edition printed by Morris’ own Kelmscott Press

I have a weakness for utopias. I’ll be the first to admit that they are rarely well written. If they manage to have a plot at all it’s usually the most contrived plot imaginable. Yet, I almost always find the worlds they build to be compelling enough on their own.

One of my personal favorites is News from Nowhere by William Morris.  It does not avoid the flaw of being relatively plotless, but Morris’ depiction of a pastoral 21st century governed more by goodwill than anything resembling a state, naive as it may be, is beautiful.  His antiquated prose style—developed while writing his influential historical fiction of the medieval romance variety—is perfectly suited to this idyllic world of simple craftsmen and contented workers.

There are some charming characters in Morris’ future, like Dick and Clara, the earthy young couple that scoff at our ideas of contractual marriage and class distinctions while serving as our tour guides to Nowhere.  There’s plenty of humor and satire too—one of the few familiar buildings you’ll find in Morris’ 21st century is Westminster Palace, where the farmers of rural London store their manure.  But most of the book’s appeal is in Nowhere’s contrast with our own busy, frenetic world.  The book is, after all, rather agreeably subtitled An Epoch of Rest. Math, science, and—for the most part—technology are conspicuously absent, and while you might occasionally feel the urge to abhor these luddite tendencies, you won’t be able to deny the basic appeal of Morris’ vision.

News from Nowhere is available for the Kindle, Nook, iPad and just about every other eReader at Project Gutenberg.

Here’s a short list of some other utopias that are available as free eBooks from Project Gutenberg:

Review by Matthew

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This entry was posted on July 27, 2012 by in Book Review, eBook, Fantasy, Fiction, Free eBook Reviews, Lists, Science Fiction.
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