Sunday, November 9, 2008

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The last time I read this book, I did so all in one sitting. After beginning it again, I can remember why. It begins with descriptions of the new way of making humans in this futuristic, dystopian world. We discover in the first few pages that no longer are people born, they are decanted from bottles, where they are grown from the very tiniest embryo. Not only that, but their predestination for their station in life is determined before they leave the bottle, and so the conditioning begins while they are still a fetus. It is just creepy. Huxley does a fantastic job in describing this world, and when he describes how the concept of parents is absolutely obscene, we can understand why. The next rather horrifying thing that we learn about this world is that "everyone belongs to everyone", which really just seems to mean that the men can have sex with whatever woman they want, and the women don't really get to say no. All of this preconditioning and the idea of sex being meaningless, creating no attachments between people for any reason, is supposedly to produce a happy population. And it seems to work.
The best, and scariest, part of Brave New World is the fact that most people do not seem to mind the state of things at all. Their world is at peace, they have a job that they have been conditioned since before birth to like, they have the drug soma available to them, and they never have to be alone (in fact, they are never supposed to be alone). Even those people who are deliberately stunted before birth, who are created for menial jobs, do not have any interest in knowing the truth about their reality, and would rather just be happy with what they have. Only the Alphas, and perhaps the Betas, the people who have been conditioned to do the tasks that require individuality and intelligence, ever have any doubts about their world. But how can you go against a government that merely has the best interests of humanity at heart?
After just reviewing the Uglies series, I have to acknowledge that Scott Westerfeld was definitely influenced by Brave New World. It is clear that his book is written for teens, however, and while Brave New World is often read in high school, it was not written for a teenage readership. It may be difficult for some teens to understand, but should be included on everyone's reading list. Reading about the extremes that a society can go to is always fascinating.


Rebecca Reid said...

I haven't read it, but since I just read The Handmaid's Tale, I feel the need to jump in to more dystopian novels. So fascinating!

Jeska said...

Handmaid's Tale is a favorite of mine (I often cite it as my favorite book). I will actually be re-reading it here in a week or two, and posting a review. I can already tell you what it will sound like: love this book, love it, love it, everyone should read it. :P

Charley said...

It's been some years since I read Brave New World, but I recall enjoying it - and dystopian novels in general. I'm hoping to read Scott Westerfield some day. And perhaps I'll have to check out The Handmaid's Tale as well.