Originally published in 1977 in Great Britain, this re-released dystopia follows and unnamed narrator who navigates a dangerous new world in which an unspecified menace—"they"—cracks down on nonconformity and artists like the narrator and her friends.
... a succession of nine quietly horrifying stories from a dystopian, pastorally radiant England ... The novella is suffocating...in part because of its odd depth of focus. The dystopia is distant and lightly sketched ... It is also disturbingly intimate ... The episodes in They seem to take place at different stages of the disaster; you’re never quite sure whether it is just beginning or hope is gone. The pages seethe with casual violence ... The book veers between the rapture of individual escape and the paranoia of being targeted for precisely that longing. They is dark, but the light never quite goes out ... The book is supple with dread.
... [a] disquieting, lean, pared-back dystopian tale ... much of the novel’s power lies in its mystery ... Given that Dick made a habit of loosely fictionalizing her own experiences, I’ve come to think of her protagonist in They as female. Even more inscrutable though are the 'they' of the book’s title...extremely dangerous and violent, but also strangely vacant and automaton-like. 'They' are rarely distinguished as individuals, which situates them in stark contrast to the narrator and her acquaintances ... It’s chilling, but compellingly so. All the more so because of the seamless way in which Dick stitches together what’s an evocatively drawn portrait of otherwise idyllic rural England with this shadow landscape of fear and violence ... There are many ways to read the book: as a straightforward Orwellian dystopia, a sequence of vividly drawn nightmares, or...perhaps even as a metaphor for artistic struggle ... Like any strong allegory, They can be read many ways, but is perhaps best, and most accurately, read as a plea for individual and intellectual freedoms by a woman artist who refused to...live by many of society’s rules.
They is spare, troubling, eerily familiar...occupying a space between dystopia and horror. The lush landscapes are haunted by profoundly unsettling details about the forces at work ... Art is strangled: capitalism, commerce, governments, institutions, bigots, scolds, cowards. In this context, They feels nearly paralysing. What is to be done in the face of this loss, evil, calamity? Kay Dick tells us. Or, at least, she gives us an opening, a small and meaningful door[.]