This is Huxley’s vision of the future in his astonishing 1931 novel Brave New World – a world of tomorrow in which capitalist civilization has been reconstituted through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering, where the people are genetically designed to be passive, consistently useful to the ruling class.
Dystopian fiction is not something I have read a lot of but it is a genre that interests me greatly. The small amount of dystopian books and films I have experienced are always very dark; the main characters that are rebelling against the autonomous society do so with fear for their lives. Brave New World is in complete contrast to my previous perceptions. Nobody lives in fear as they are conditioned and drugged to be happy with their place in society. Even Bernard our protagonist, who is trying to resist the psychological conditioning he was given as a child, never fears any consequences for his actions. It is this that makes this book so refreshing and almost light-hearted even though the realities of the book chillingly echo the way society has progressed since the 1930’s.
If you have never heard of this book and you read the above premise, you may be feeling very confused. There is no point in trying to explain Huxley’s futuristic world as my review would be far too long and I could never explain it in the way the book does. In short, children are no longer born naturally but are created and nurtured in laboratories. This allows the society to be controlled by the World State as they create the different levels, or castes, of human beings that are required at any given time, so that society has every type of person it needs to function in a peaceful way. There is no religion, but people do worship Henry Ford, the person whose principles about how society would work better if it was based on how a production plant would be run is what forms the basis for this society. I won’t say any more, you will have to read the book.
What I liked about this book: The beginning of the book was my favourite part. Learning all about how the World State works by following a group of new recruits as they take a tour of the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. The language is evocative and brings the scene to life;I felt I could imagine the centre perfectly, especially the decanting room. My favourite part is when there is an exchange between Lenina, a hatchery worker, and Henry who is the tour guide. My first thoughts were that they were having a secret tryst, that maybe something untoward was happening. However you soon find out through Lenina’s conversation in the women’s changing room that casual relationships are part of normal society and the more sexual partners the better. Which in a way creates more intrigue than Henry and Lenina carrying on in secret.
What I didn’t like about this book: Bernard. At first I pitied Bernard; he feels like an outsider and cannot quite fit into his place in society. He yearns for a deeper connection with his peers, something which is not encouraged in the World State. But as the book goes on he became more despicable to me; I no longer pitied him but thought him quite childish and arrogant. I do feel this is how you are supposed to feel about Bernard, it is not necessarily a flaw in the story line, but after I could no longer root for Bernard I wasn’t sure who I should be rooting for.
This is definitely something different to read, something that you could continually bring up in conversation as a stand out book for its uniqueness if nothing else. It was easily to read but also deep in places with the ideas it portrayed. Despite the lack on fear from the characters it was still a scary thought to think of our world becoming the World State, although with all the drugs they hand out it wouldn’t be as bad as some other autonomous states portrayed in literature and films. I would say Brave New World definitely deserves its spot on the top 100 list and would urge anyone reading this to give the book a go.