It should be noted that this review is more of an overview. As such, it contains heavy spoilers. For anyone that thinks that they can skip reading the book by reading this review: Please do not attempt. I am not a substitute, just read the damn book. A little culture never hurt.
How many godly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people in’t!”
Never has a quote so perfectly matched a book.
It’s used ironically in its original text, as well as is in the title of one of the greatest American books: the science fiction/dystopia novel “Brave New World,” written in 1931 by Aldous Huxley.
It details a dystopian future where all of man’s problems are gone, and everyone lives in a seemingly perfect world. It is only when seen through the correct lens that the true horrors become clear. As you read, there is this…feeling…of dread to the entire thing. You can tell that something is not right in this world.
Then you begin to see it, little things are wrong in the worst ways. Soul crushing concepts and dark ideals are everywhere in grand display. The book begins with a detailed description of how people are born in this future: cloned and bottled from fake reproductive organs, no humans involved.
No love involved.
At first it just seems creepy, not completely evil, and maybe even a bit logical. Then the first bomb shell hits: the clones are made to fulfill a set social class, and the lower you are, the more damage they do the fetus through alcohol.
Through out, these continuous horror occurs at a slow build. Once you have accepted one of this worlds ideals, you will find the next just as shocking, just as lurid.
One of the leaders in the book said it best:
“There used to be a thing called Religion”.
After setting up the world, the focus shifts to a citizen in it, a man by the name of Bernard. He is a special man, he enjoys having negative emotions, continuously refusing to take a drug called Soma, which causes euphoria and elimination of deep thoughts.
The first part of the book is mainly from his perspective, and on occasion a woman named Lenina.
She find Bernard interesting, and decides she wants to sleep with him.
The two of them mainly serve as a framing device to direct the reader through the world and its rules, a world of work, drugs, and sex.
Now as I said earlier, all reproduction is by machines, so what of the humans sexual organs? Well, in a world where the citizens value pleasure above all else, what do you think happens? Everyone belongs to everyone in this future. Meaning that sex with anyone is just a conversation away. Everyone carries contraceptives in their pockets. Orgies are a religious experience, mandatory every Sunday.
The question you might ask, is how could this keep going? It is against the basic ethical code of human beings. Well, in this future they have found a way to get around that pesky road block. While everyone sleeps, a machine whispers into their ears, telling them what to do, and think. Propaganda spilled into their thoughts while the rational mind is gone. It is so pervasive that citizens will repeat it like a mantra when they witness something that goes against their “programming”.
For the first part of the book the reader will feel alienated, as the characters do not seem to notice how far down the rabbit hole they fell. It is only when an outsider comes in that the reader has a character to truly like: a Native American, named John, who lives inside a reserve for those human beings that refuse the system.
Born by a mother stuck in the reserve, he’s raised on tales of the city and its awesome convenience. When he runs into Bernard and Lenina his mother finally gets her wish and goes back to a world of pleasure. She takes a “Soma holiday”, basically a drug induced coma. It can last up to three days.
John on the other hand, begins to explore the world, becoming quickly lost in their society.
But despite that, he falls in love with Lenina.
This,of course, leads to problems. Lenina attempts to return his affection the only way she knows how: stripping in front of him and offering her body. This does not exactly go over well, as John believes the idea that sex is a thing only done by married couples. After calling her a whore, among other things, he flees and finally realizes what a chunk of hell he is in.
Angered, John goes to talk to one of the world controllers and it results in possibly the only sane conversation in the entire book. They debate back and forth about how it is necessary to end negative emotions and why they ban books. The scary thing about the conversation is that both sides sound reasonable.
The book ends on an extremely sad note. John, sick of them all, goes into an empty tower, forgotten by the people of the world to live as a hermit. That is, until the curious citizens begin to come to see the novelty of the savage.
He attempts to chase them away at first, but after that fails he begins to commit self-harm. The excitement of this…spectacle, brings the crowd to a fever pitch, which ends in the only type of party they know: an orgy of over 100 people. John attempts to ignore them, sending a whip across his back over and over to drown them out. Finally, the group leaves John alone for the day and he begins to try to tend to his garden. That is not the end though, because the next day a groups of even more people come to see.
The book ends implying that he is never alone, that the corrupt society is all invasive, forcing him to eventually kills himself to escape it.
I have read many horror stories, not a single one scared me in the slightest*.
This book terrified me to the point I had to put it down.
It talks of a world that we could easily become; in fact we already are on our way. Huxely’s warning to all of humanity of what we will become if we do not stop our present course.
The book was extremely well written, and I’m glad teenagers are often required to read it. The book teaches us to question things, and to cast a cynical eye on the people who lead our country.
It is a great read, with a surprisingly fast pace, yet still managing a slow build of tension. Relevant even decades later, it is a testament to the height science fiction can reach.
Personal score: 10 out of 10
Worth Owning: Yes
Recommended audience: 16 and up
Multiple readings: Yes, but only every so often.
Warning: Contain a lot of adult subjects.
*Addendum: Another book did manage to scare me, it’s called Unwind and here is a link to its review: CLICK ME
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