Title: 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.