Sunday, 10 July 2011

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (5/5)

The back says: Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone in feeling discontent. Harbouring an unnatural desire for solitude, and a perverse distaste for the pleasures of compulsory promiscuity, Bernard has 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. Huxley's ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.

I say: I really loved this, mostly because it made me think. I’m a sucker for things that make me think.

The beginning of the book was a tad tedious, with the overly scientific explanations of how children were created. I do understand the importance of knowing this, but it made me hesitant about the rest of the novel. But fear not, as soon as that was over and done with, and a plot was introduced I thoroughly started enjoying myself.

As horrifying (yes, really) as Huxley’s Brave New World was, I couldn’t help but kind of like it; the thought of everyone being satisfied with what they had and never striving for more; the fact that if things got too much they popped a few pills and went on “vacation”, how there were no marriages/relationships or children to care about.

It was, in a sense, a perfect utopia.

That is, if you overlook the brainwashing, manipulating of embryos, the quite blatant drug addiction and inherent inequalities in the society.

Bernard doesn’t feel at home in this world, and makes little, if any, attempt to cover up the fact. He goes off to a Savage Reservation and returns with a “savage” named John, who is desperate to know this other world that his mother has spoken so fondly of (maybe it’s a spoiler to say who the mother is, so I won’t). However, as always with these things, Bernard is faced with a different kind of internal struggle upon his return, while John is trying to understand the workings of this new society and people.

I thought it was very blatant where it was all going, and although parts of my predictions were right, there were a few curveballs thrown in there. The ending was, for once, exactly what I was hoping for – however weird that makes me sound.

I feel like I could, quite literally, talk about this book for days (and actually have). There were so many noteworthy quotes and ideas and opinions that really sent my head reeling, but I shall sum it all up with John quoting Miranda’s speech in The Tempest by William Shakespeare:

“Oh brave new world that has such people in it.” – p118

Aside: Supposedly Huxley plagiarised a number of other books when writing Brave New World, but I’m not going to get into all that because, quite frankly, I can’t be arsed with the research right now – I’ll leave that to the scholars (or until I’ve read all the books mentioned).

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