“...reality, however utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays....”
Set in a far, distant future Brave New World catapults you into the newly created, ideal society within it first chapter. Science, technology and genetics have been perfected to the point where babies are literally churned out and raised in labs. Foetus’ are biologically conditioned from the moment of fertilisation to fit into the new social hierarchy. Infants are then psychologically conditioned to serve their purpose in the world – whether that be as a higher ranking Alpha-Plus or lower ranked Epsilon-Minus.
The result is a social order supposedly free of suffering, pain or fear of death itself, its inhabitants are free from the burden of becoming parents (the word ‘mother’ even seen as a disgusting term), consumption is encouraged, as is promiscuity, inviduality frowned upon, and if you’re feeling low? Take a holiday with some Soma pills; your mind will float into a blissful trance.
The book introduces two main characters: Bernard Marx, the introverted intellectual, who feels nothing but distaste for this way of living; Lenina Crowne, a girl very much brought up on the values of this Industrialist society.
The two agree to visit a ‘Savage Reservation’ in New Mexico, a place cut off from the ‘civilised society’. There they meet a young man named John, a ‘savage’ born and raised in the reservation by a woman who ran away from Bernard and Lenina’s world, and they decide to bring him back to London for the world to see.
So what’s my verdict?
Brave New World is a wholly complex novel to explain, in fact apart from Never Let Me Go this one was probably one of the hardest I’ve had to summarise.
First off this is is definitely not the type of Dystopian/Uptopian you’d pick up in the YA section of Waterstones. The first chapter sets the tone of the novel, detailing the genetic process of the creation and conditioning of babies and children. It’s completely clinical, almost like a scientific textbook, and definitely unnerving from the way that the students learning about this process flinch at the use of the word ‘mother’ to the lacklustre way The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning explains the use of shocking tactics to modify children’s behaviour.
It’s the conversations between John ‘the Savage’ and Mustapha Mond (One of 10 men who run the World State) about this ‘Brave New World’, the absence of religion and God was especially capturing, leaving the reader to question their own views and beliefs.
Huxley’s manipulation of language and voice in this is nothing like I’ve read before. It was cold at times but fitted with the theme. The contrast in the beliefs and thoughts of Bernard, Lenina and even John are stark and well voiced.
I personally found the novel compelling and thought provoking, with my advice to those who are interested in reading it to keep an open mind when approaching the subject matter. This is not your typical boy/girl rebellion against society, the ending is particularly hard-hitting and a little morbid, but is a must read for those who want to read the grandfather of all modern day dystopian fiction.
One Engine: The Decemberists; Bittersweet Symphony: The Verve; Fantasy: The XX; Madness: Muse; Build God, Then We'll Talk: Panic! at the Disco
For lovers of…Huxley’s other work, 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell, Utopian fiction (Oliver’s Delirium and Kackvinsky’s Awaken in particular)
This post was written by regular reviewer Ria, get to know her here.
*all images (c)Ria Cagampang