Book Review: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

bravenewworldTitle: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Genre: Dystopian fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library.
First line: A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories.

Brave New World was written by Aldous Huxley in 1932. That in itself is amazing because of how modern it seems. In Huxley’s world, science is god. Science has perfected everything, eliminating the need for pain, aging, unhappiness – and also happiness, love, sadness, and everything that makes us human.

People are no longer born; they are decanted. During the process of embryo incubation, various chemicals are introduced to determine the aptitudes – and therefore class – of the future human. Alphas are the academics and intellectuals. Deltas and Epsilons are purposely stunted and damaged during development so that they will be suited to – and not desire anything but – common, physical labor.

Sex has become pure recreation, with everyone belonging to everyone else. The characters talk about “having” someone, as if they are talking about what they ate for dinner. Children are encouraged to explore any and all sexual feelings during childhood. When grown to adulthood, people are encouraged to spend their recreation hours doing whatever will give them pleasure and will keep them from thinking or being alone. Religion is no longer necessary because the ideas of sin and conscience have been obliterated.

Into this world comes John Savage, a man whose mother was a part of this brave new world but ended up on a reservation of savages (people living outside the system) and gave birth to John. He is raised with his mother’s memories of this “perfect” society contrasted with the civilization he sees in front of him on the reservation. The “savages” display monogamy, religious faith, and morals. These qualities are directly opposed to the values espoused in the “civilized” world. When Bernard Marks brings John into civil society, he is confused and horrified by what he sees. The results are tragic.

This book is written in a detached, scientific manner, as if the narrator is simply the observer of an experiment. The matter-of-fact way he talks about some of the most horrifying aspects of this society is chilling. Even more chilling is how close our world has become to the world Huxley was trying to warn us against – the world of science as god, of truth being relative, of the “if it feels good, do it” mantra.

I can’t say I enjoyed this book, although it is extremely well written. The ending leaves you without hope that anything will ever change. I think that’s why I enjoyed two other adult dystopian novels, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Children of Men by P.D. James, so much more – they both ended with at least a hint of hope.

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21 Responses to Book Review: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

  1. Michelle says:

    This is one of my all-time favorites.

    I agree with you that there really isn’t a hopeful ending, here, but I think Huxley did that for the shock value; to warn people of what could very easily happen if they weren’t careful.
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Teaser Tuesdays: Split-Level Edition =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Michelle – you’re probably right, the whole book is really a cautionary tale.

  2. Kathy says:

    My son liked this one, but I don’t think it’s for me.
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Review: What the Dog Saw =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kathy – it’s funny – with books that are on the “must-read classics” list, there’s some that I can see the value of, but don’t really enjoy.

  3. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    Oooh, I’ve heard Children of Men was a great read. I absolutely LOVED the movie (Clive baby!).
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..The Body Scoop for Girls – Jennifer Ashton =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – i actually didn’t really like the movie, even though I love Clive. I thought they kind of missed the whole point of the book, though I know people who hadn’t read the book really liked the film.

  4. Ash says:

    I’ve had this on my list for a long time but never get around to reading it. After reading your review I think I’ll read Fahrenheit 451 first.
    .-= Ash´s last blog ..Teaser Tuesdays (Jan. 19) =-.

  5. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)
    Twitter: SavvyVerseWit

    I haven’t read this one in a long while, but I remember liking it. Maybe I will have to revisit it. Thanks for the review.
    .-= Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)´s last blog ..International Winner of When She Flew =-.

  6. Stephanie says:

    I wasn’t a big fan of A Brave New World either. It just didn’t grab my attention in the way I expected it to.
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Teaser Tuesday: East of Eden =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Stephanie – It was like watching an accident about to happen – without being able to do anything about it. Gives you a sinking feeling in your stomach!

  7. Anna says:

    I’ve never read this one and I’m not sure I will, though it does sound interesting. One of the things that draws me to dystopian novels is hope amid chaos. I guess that’s not part of this book.
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Interview With Jamie Ford, Author of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Anna – I agree – it’s the contrast of hope against chaos that works for me, as well.

  8. Jeane says:

    I know I read this a long time ago, but I completely forgot that the main character has his origins outside the society. I do want to read it again someday.
    .-= Jeane´s last blog ..The Character of Cats =-.

  9. Kim
    Twitter: BookstoreK

    I read this in the mid-70s and remember all of the hupla when 1984 actually arrived, it was interesting then and even more so now to see what is similar to today and what isn’t. I think the hope comes in the comparison, we have retained so much of what is important.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kim -definitely – I agree that we could have gone a lot farther down that path than we have, which is encouraging.

  10. Kathy Sesto says:

    Watch the movie “The Island” (no reference to Huxley’s novel “The Island) though the directors seem to make no reference to Huxley’s “Brave New World” it has all the thematic connections – social conditioning, cloning, lack of emotional connectedness, state propaganda techniques to control citizens and more. Huxley is a multi-discilinarian author, who makes countless references to economics, psychology, science and english literature. His works are far-reaching in their scope. We seem to be living his reality now. He wit, wisdom and observation of social order and beings just never ceases to amaze and amuse me.

  11. Cassandra says:

    I have to admit that Brave New World is really one of my favourite books ever.
    Of course it is not exactly an enjoyable one, but it is so gripping and thrillingly written that I could not put it down until I had finished it.
    When I read it for the first time I was 13 years old I think (my older sister was supposed to read it for her English class, and since I tend to pick up every book I see I started reading it) and I have thought about it a lot since.
    The way Huxley imagines our future is very impressing, frightening and alarming of course, but nonetheless impressive.

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