Saturday, December 5, 2015

Brave New World Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Aldous Huxley
Publisher: Chato and Windus
Genre: Literary Science Fiction
Series: Standalone
Pages: 288

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Brave New World is one of the earliest dystopian future novels ever written, pre-dating its famous contemporary, George Orwell’s 1984, by 17 years.  Huxley’s novel explores what the values of being human are, and it warns against the dangers of an all powerful state and the use of technology to oppress the masses.

Huxley primarily introduces three classes of characters: the people that empower, work in, and support the government; the people that work in the government but dislike working for it; and the people who are completely outside the reach of the government.  Brave New World introduces us to a cast of characters that fits one of these molds and has each mold clash with one another to expose Huxley’s philosophical ideas about where the world is going wrong.

Brave New World is a classic dystopian science fiction novel that has stood the test of time.  Along with 1984, this is a must read for everyone.

Brave New World introduces us to the rules of the future world (The World State Society) via an extended tour of the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre.  Here we learn humans are artificially made with machines and that there are five types of human that are created: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and epsilon.  Alphas are the most superior type of human (the future rulers of the world) and each human type is less intelligent and more defective as they go down to epsilon.  Creating humans in this manner helps maintain a world order by keeping the less intelligent deltas and epsilons content with their manual labor jobs.

Bernard Marx a discontent alpha decides to take a potential romantic interest, Lenina Crowne, on a trip to the Savage New Mexico Reservation.  There Bernard and Lenina meet John, an outcast from the Reservation who is well versed in Shakespeare.  John wishes not to be an outcast anymore, and because his mother was from the World State Society, he is motivated to learn about where she came from.  John, and his mother Linda, return to the World State Society with Lenina and Bernard and prepare to deal with the consequences.

One of the greatest parts of Brave New World is all of the references to Shakespeare.  John taught himself to read with a biology book, and a complete copy of the works of William Shakespeare.  After John is introduced the works of Shakespeare and quotes from his books frequently reassert themselves throughout the novel.  Subsequently, Shakespeare becomes one of the chief representatives of what defines humanity. Adding to the symbolism is the title of the novel, Brave New World, which is a direct quote from Act V of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

In addition to an abundance of Shakespeare references, Brave New World puts forward a number of philosophical discussions.  One of the greatest discussions in the story comes later when the characters John and Mustapha Mond debate the policies of the World State Society.  Here John argues that the policies destroy humanity, while Mond argues that humanity can be sacrificed if it provides stability and happiness to the masses.  This argument serves as a key question for readers of the story: what is the price humanity will pay in order to achieve stability and happiness?

The methods used by the World State Society to keep everyone under control is a major part of the story.  These methods include the use of the drug soma, the strict control of educational centers, and the manipulative designing of embryos are all examples of how The World Society is using technology to keep the masses in line.  People do not have choices in Brave New World, and Huxley’s novel takes almost every opportunity to remind readers of that.

It’s difficult not to compare Orwell and Huxley as both of their most famous novels were written around the same time, and both are about a dystopian future.  But there are a number of differences.  The most disturbing difference between the two novels is in Brave New World humanity is willing to accept the future with open arms and be completely enthralled by it, where as in 1984 a lot of the characters secretly hate what they have become a part of.  The complete acceptance of the horrible fate of humanity in Brave New World makes their situation seem a lot more hopeless.  If the masses support a crap idea, than how can that idea ever be overcome?

Brave New World also features a larger cast of characters than 1984 and it features more discussions about the different types of people that have to interact with the oppressive World State Society.  It’s these discussions that drive the story and ask questions that will have readers thinking on a deeper level.  There are some dry characterizations in Brave New World, which is the only negative thing that can be said about the story.  Otherwise Brave New World is a masterpiece and an important innovator in creating a story set in a dystopian society.

Score: 9.9

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