Book Review: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Preview…I’m not sure why Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” doesn’t stick out in my memory as the great dystopian work. It has all of the trappings required of this genre except perhaps the suspense that is signature to novels such as “1984” and “A Handmaid’s Tale”. Huxley’s dystopia seems the most likely of any, a world state controlled by science rather than big government. It all starts with a single embryo, which can be divided into as many as 96 identical cells. New humans are literally grown in bottles on a production line—even time is measured as AF (after Ford) rather than AD (anno domini). Each bottle is treated according to the caste its being will belong to. Once free of the bottle, these youngest members of society are classically conditioned both in waking and sleep to gravitate towards certain tendencies and be repelled by others. From an early age, sex is demystified and mindless orgies are a common practice among those of the world state.
Our initial protagonist, Bernard Marx doesn’t exactly fit into this mechanical society. He is too short of stature and low in confidence for his alpha caste position. Along with Lenina, a sexual interest, he visits the savage reservation. There, people live much closer to how we live today. The pair meets John, a pale savage, who was born to a woman that was accidentally misplaced from the world state while visiting the reservation. Bernard gets clearance to bring John and his mother back to society. Once there, John is appalled by the regularly prescribed drug use and flash orgies that are characteristic of the state. The complete lack of art, scientific invention and religion in favor of social order and mild complacency are almost too much for him to stomach. Will John learn to fit into this brave new world, or are social and genetic conditioning required for one to endure such a mindless existence?
You may like this book if…you find solace in Christ-like literary characters, you believe that science is the most likely route to dystopia, you think that overindulgence in drugs steals a person’s humanity, you are interested in politics, demography, psychology or the like, you are intrigued by caste systems, you like thinking “what if”, you like a book with cute little rhymes throughout
You may not like this book if…you think dystopia needs suspense to work, you feel we are already much to close to the world state described in this text, you are sickened by the wide practice of ethics violations such as those regarding the “Little Albert” experiment, you would like to follow one main character throughout the entire story rather than two, you don’t see how orgies can be a bad thing