Oh dear. Sticking with the dream metaphor, I have to say that this book was a nightmare in more than one regard! After the very rough start it gives you thanks to the overly antiquated language, you’d think it would get better once you’re used to that, but this is not the case whatsoever, because all of L’an 2440 remains an exhausting, yet not really rewarding read.
First of all, Mercier must have had a severe footnote fetish. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that almost every page contains at least two of them, sometimes the footnotes even take up more space on the page than the actual text. And as if this wouldn’t have been enough distraction, there are hundreds of additional annotations and comments by the translator as well as editor of this book, so focusing on the already not electrifying plot is a serious challenge.
Secondly, instead of describing his utopian vision of Paris in 2440, Mercier is almost exclusively complaining about his 18th century present and – if you think about it – even this happens in a weird way. In his dream he talks to a bunch of 25th century people and it seems that every one of them must be a historian specialised in 18th century France, because they are very well informed about various details of everyday life during that time. And I mean very well informed indeed.
For a utopian novel there are hardly any innovations to be found, Merciers idea of improving the shitty present doesn’t go any further than having a "good" monarch ascend the throne and enact a bunch of morally improved laws. All in all, this is way too preachy, exhausting and too far off from the good old liberté, égalité and fraternité to enjoy reading it.