Author: Aldous Huxley
Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics
First Published: 1932
Rating: 3.5 stars
“’We’ve gone on controlling ever since. It hasn’t been very good for truth, of course. But it’s been very good for happiness. One can’t have something for nothing. Happiness has got to be paid for. You’re paying for it Mr Watson – paying because you happen to be too much interested in beauty. I was too much interested in truth; I paid too.’”
In Huxley’s most famous work, he shows us the future where society is run like a mass-market industry. The World Controllers have created the ideal civilisation. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress.
Wow, this book was eerie in a way that I’ve come to associate with dystopian fiction. Fuelled by exaggerations with the underlying terror that gone unchecked this could happen to us. In such a short book, there is so much to unpack—which I think is what amazed me the most. I read this book a month ago and I’m still thinking about it.
It is hard to believe that it was written in the 1930s as the world is so carefully constructed on the back of a huge amount of science. Focusing on fertility and psychology. Also amazing to see that a lot of what we know about psychology and fertility hasn’t altered much.
Huxley has this way of twisting the scientific constructs just enough to show us a nightmare version of the future. Imagine if class systems were so ingrained into society, that you were damaged while in utero and then were constantly conditioned to fear things, such as books and flowers, all so you’ll never reach above your station in life? Well, this is the society Brave New World gives us.
There isn’t any fighting or crime in this novel, which is something I would want in my ideal world. People are living in huge communities and support one another. Which is exactly what we’d hope it would be, right?
“Everyone belongs to everyone else,” is one of the mottos of the society, however, there is a dark undertone to it. Just think about it.
Everyone belongs to everyone else.
What a scary concept. Gone is the individual because each person is subject to the desires and urges of all those around them.
The narrative style is really confusing for the first few chapters. I would recommend reading it in a few sittings as possible just to get used to the writing style. It opens with the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning giving a tour to new Alpha students of the Fertilising Room. There is a lot of information thrown at you but also a lot of characters. You’re disorientated from the get-go. The narrative moves around following conversations at, what feels like random. In one scene there were three conversations going at once, rotating between them each paragraph. It just feels like noise. I had to read back over to try to make some sense of what was going on. It helps to reflect the suffocation Bernard is feeling of being imperfect in a perfect world.
Enjoy isn’t a word I used to describe my reading experience, but I was fascinating, in the morbidly curious way that we humans get. I especially enjoyed the debate about what things a society needs to be able to functions and what is more important security or individualism. If you’re looking for a book that will get you thinking, I highly recommend giving this one a try.