Monday, 16 April 2012

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley



Title: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 1932
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

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"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley is one of these classics that so many people seem to have read or heard of. Whilst I had previously read its contemporary "1984" by George Orwell I had never actually got around to reading "Brave New World" myself. However, when the Sci-Fi Reader Challenge highlighted the requirement to read a pre 1950's classic I decided that now was the time to finally pick up this book and give it a whirl.

The novel is set in a dystopian future world where babies are now grown in bottles and are developed or limited in different ways depending on what class of human they are to become. Each class of human is expected to do a different type of work, with the Alphas and Betas taking on the roles of managers and professionals whilst the remaining classes are primary labourers and servants. The society itself promotes and encourages materialistic consumption and encourages the taking of a legal drug called Soma to ensure people remain happy. In addition, marriage and other monogamous relationships no longer occur and instead people are free to be with whoever they wish without recrimination or fear.

However, not everyone is happy with this live and Bernard Marx is one of these people who often finds himself angry and depressed. However, when he visits a "Savage Reservation" where people still live as they did in the past without civilization he meets a man there named John. Bernard brings John back to civilization with him where he becomes an instant celebrity although John finds that civilization is not the place he hoped it would be.

The story itself takes quite a while to develop as the beginning of the novel is dedicated to introducing the world and how the people live in it. Even when the plot does get going it feels like it is playing second fiddle to the overall warning to us all that Huxley is trying to put across. The chilling future society that Huxley has created in which there is no family or religion and in which materialism rules is really quite powerful to behold as something to compare our own current society against.

The most interesting aspect of the novel for me is the idea that in a way, Huxley has actually created a form of Utopia in the book. There is no war, people are well fed, they are mainly all happy and they all enjoy the various forms of work that they are required to do. I liked the fact that what the reader was seeing is that whilst people may strive for some sort of Utopia, is it really worth the possible sacrifices required in regards to Art, Science and Literature? The way in which John reacts upon reaching so called civilization and his debates with one of the so called World Controllers really highlights these sacrifices and how bland they leave the world.

As I said earlier, the plot is marginalized a little by the message Huxley was putting across and I think that this does probably weaken the book a little in regards to it being an overall entertainment tool. I also felt that the weak storyline results in the book being a little bit slow at times which could result in some readers possibly finding it a little tough to get into. The final weakness in the plot is in relation to the characters though in that I didn't find any of them to be very well developed and there was no real connection evoked either.

In summary, anyone interested in dystopian novels should find this book thoroughly engrossing and I would advise you to pick it up. The novel poses a lot of interesting questions and its warnings are just as true today as they were when Huxley wrote it. The only real issue with the book is the rather slow and weak plot but there is still enough there to keep you reading so that you can enjoy the intriguing look at the dystopian world created by Huxley.

Challenges Book Counts Towards:
Ebook Reading Challenge (The Eclectic Bookshelf)
Ebook Reading Challenge (Workaday Reads)
Speculative Fiction Challenge
Sci-Fi Reader Challenge