When dystopian novels - or any science fiction novels - are useful, it's not because they predict the future in any exact way. It's fun when they happen to get it right, but it's beside the point. They're not about the future; they're about now. So Zamyatin's We (1921) shows a future in which individuality has been willfully destroyed in order to point out the shortcomings of the post-revolution Soviet state. Huxley's Brave New World (1931) takes Henry Ford's philosophy to its logical extreme not because he thinks we might end up there precisely, but to criticize what it's up to right now.
Dystopia in the hands of a good writer is an elaborate way of saying, "Chill, dude." In the hands of a nutjob, it's Anthem.
Like Huxley before her, Rand rips off We blatantly. The generic names assigned to people and the annihilation of the individual; the impersonal mating system; the illegality of being alone; the shutting-out of nature; the mythical past war that destroyed civilization; the banning of literature; most obviously, the very word "We," which is used elegantly in Zamyatin's masterpiece and like a fucking jackhammer in Anthem (1937).
But at its core, Anthem is about something different. It uses its extreme vision of the future to propound an equally extreme philosophy for today, and that's why it's crazy talk.
The word "We" is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it...the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong...
What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it?
This is a sophomoric thing to say. When you take collective living to its grotesque extreme, it doesn't mean that any collective thinking at all is terrible. It means that you shouldn't take it to its grotesque extreme. Zamyatin knew this. It doesn't take a genius, but it's still beyond Ayn Rand. Anthem is an overreaction. It's loony, extremist, fanatic. It's stupid.
And this book is terrible. It's amateurishly written, as all her books are. Its characters are ludicrously one-dimensional - particularly its lone woman - as all her characters are. It steals its setting wholesale from We, and then drives it pell-mell over the edge of a cliff: Rand's plagiarized We without understanding it. It's poorly written and poorly thought, and it's a crap book.
Literature is never dangerous. To read literature is just to have someone else's idea. And ideas are never dangerous. I have all kinds of ideas: good ones, bad ones, silly ones. The dangerous thing is bad judgment: when you're wrong about which ideas are good, and which are bad. Go ahead and read Anthem, but don't be mistaken: it's a bad idea.