The cover of the book published by Heaven Lake Press.

The spirit of George Orwell, and his writings in 1984 and Animal Farm, is alive and giving hell to amoral authoritarians everywhere in this new anthology

In a digital age and so-called “post-truth” era of fake news, when attenuated attention spans have pretty much killed off the long-form essay outside of academia, and when corporate interests and Big Brother-like governments have stymied investigative journalism, the belief Orwell espoused in truthful writing as a revolutionary act is in danger of being written off.

Do not start typing the obituary just yet, for The Orwell Brigade (Heaven Lake Press, 2012) is an anthology of thought-evoking essays by contemporary crime authors reclaiming his turf.

Edited by Thailand’s most prolific expat novelist, Christopher G. Moore, the book maps out a world of injustices, from the cruel economic disparities in America along one highway, to Latin American dictatorships, to the editor’s take on the war crimes trial for Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia.

Elsewhere, Mike Lawson delves into one of the motifs Orwell wrote about in Nineteen Eighty-Four – high-tech surveillance systems – while Matt Rees examines “Doublethink for the Arab Spring.” Lest anyone forget the past life of George Orwell as a colonial policeman in Burma, and his fierce opposition to British imperialism, John Burdett (Bangkok 8) recasts that legacy, and the tyranny of money, in his powerful essay.

One might quibble that the anthology, slim in pages yet hefty in ideas, is all over the map; but that only goes to prove that Orwell’s obsessions with race, class, the inequalities between them, and abuses of power remain global challenges.

This review originally appeared in the Jan-Feb 2013 issue of PATA Compass magazine. It was updated in 2017. Pick up a copy here. 

A sketch by Rudy Anders.