We is Zamyatin's masterpiece, an early dystopian novel which set the stage for both 1984 and Brave New World in many ways. It was written in 1921 and circulated in the form of typewritten copies made in secret. It was first published in 1924 in a translated English version. Copies of We in the original Russian began to appear in Eastern Europe in 1927, but the first official printing in Russian was not until 1952. Furthermore, it was not printed within Russia itself until 1988.

Spoiler warning: moderate spoilers ahead.

A number of important precedents for dystopian literature and film were set by We. The labelling of people as numbers appears in THX-1138. The reduction of human love to mere sex is apparent in Huxley's orgies in Brave New World. The Benefactor in We set forth the archetype for Big Brother.

  • D-503: he is the protagonist of the story. An engineer and mathematician, he is the designer of the Integral, a ship designed to establish the society of the Numbers upon other planets.
  • I-330: she is seductive, independent, and devious. In sexually awakening D-503, and via her other actions, she brings about his separation from normal society and inclusion in the Mephi, a group of rebels.
  • O-90: round and maternal, she is quite different from I-330. Essentially D-503's mate, she is a follower, but even she is unsatisfied with her life.
  • S: Sinuous and snakelike, he appears to be a by-the-books agent of the establishment.
  • The Benefactor: He is the leader of the Numbers, unanimously reelected every year by his followers. D-503 is shocked to think that elections in the past were held without knowing the outcome beforehand.

We is narrated by D-503 from a point in time towards the end of the events related by the novel. It follows him as he changes from a normal, conforming member of society, to a rebellious and free-thinking independent man. This change is catalyzed by I-330, who seduces him into a world of prohibited alcohol, nicotine, unregulated sex, and shattering the rules of the society he has always blindly obeyed. Free thought is anathema in We, and is repeatedly associated with the imagery of clouds. O-90's eyes are described as unclouded, and D-503 relates the Number's deeply ingrained preference for a pure blue sky early in the novel. The submersion of the self, the individual, the "I" into the society, the group, the "we" is a major theme of the book, thus the title.