One can see echoes of this story in other greats of dystopian SF such as Brave New World. Written in the early 1920's it hadn't taken Zamyatin long to realise the logical consequences of the ideological reasoning behind his country's recent revolution. And this is precisely what is explored here, several hundred years in the future after the successful elimination of all opposition.
What would a society be like that had eliminated all notion of the individual, freedom and independent thought? Is the pinnacle of civilization one that has extended rational analysis to every aspect of social and human conduct? Is the superior society one that has more smoothly combined its individuals into a cohesive, integrated whole?
These questions and more are explored through the eyes of the protagonist, one of the system's most ardent adherents. We see his resolve weaken and break down as he becomes infatuated with a woman who will do anything to bring down the regime and everything it stands for. The protagonist, because of his job, becomes embroiled in events that culminate in an attempt to overthrow the regime but he never really knows what's going on, seems more driven by is obsession than a reversal of his way of thinking.
The narrative is driven by a sharp, jagged imagery and fluid prose. Through this we get a sense of his perception of events and his isolation from those around him. A possible side effect of the prose is that I also felt, as the reader, dislocated from the events in the story, sometimes finding it hard to tell what was going on.
A classic, well worth reading in its own right and not just for its legacy.