**spoiler alert** This book had always been represented to me as a dystopia, but I really don't think it is. Sure, the world constructed here has its...more**spoiler alert** This book had always been represented to me as a dystopia, but I really don't think it is. Sure, the world constructed here has its flaws, but it's no worse than our world, just different in its particulars, for we are no less conditioned than its inhabitants.
Excellently written genuine science fiction.
(And when they first mentioned the blood-surrogate they grow the embryos in, I thought, ooh, DMEM!)
I would, however, recommend skipping the last chapter. It's depressing and, I think, ultimately superfluous (because, come on, we all knew by that point that the Savage would never adjust to civilization, because he had not been conditioned to it). (Huxley himself writes in the foreword that if he could go back he would change the ending.)
After reading Atlas Shrugged, it occurred to me how much Brave New World has in common with The Foundation. Shaping world events using psychohistory is a bit like shaping societies using conditioning. The government doesn't have to resort to 1984-style violence because, as Salvor Hardin said, violence is the last refuge of the incompetent, and the government is not incompetent.
I still can't figure out why some readers interpret Brave New World as a dystopia. I don't think the leadership in the book is thinking, "What is the best way to oppress and quell the populace? Aha! conditioning!", but rather, "What is the best way to build a productive and harmonious society? Aha! conditioning!"(less)
**spoiler alert** Having invested the 10+ weeks in reading it (approximately equal to one quarter in college), I'll have to come up with more measured...more**spoiler alert** Having invested the 10+ weeks in reading it (approximately equal to one quarter in college), I'll have to come up with more measured remarks, but in the meantime, some scattered thoughts:
Page 571 is when, in my opinion, this book went off the deep end. I was fine with the hymn to well-earned self-esteem, the morality of being unashamed of your strengths and the rewards you earn from them, the assertion that the evils of the world stem not from an evil genius, but from laziness and incompetence, but then the proposed solution to these evils is...abolishing the income tax and adopting the gold standard? Really? Especially when declared in the very same breath that the pirate uses to proudly proclaim that he never attacks military ships, because they're just performing services in return for payment?
But it only gets worse. Around page 700 Dagny crashes her stolen airplane into what was supposed to be a very well-hidden valley, because the architects of Shangri-La Atlantis didn't count on her audacity, and she wakes up into an extremely creepy Dagny fan club, but instead of shooting the creepy stalker (or, better yet, beheading him with a sword she forged herself from Rearden Metal) as she had previously vowed to, she...falls in love with him? We go from one of the best scenes in literature to, only pages later, one of the most offensive: no, Dagny, a wife is not a servant with benefits.
This book is also not without a whiff of fascism. Not only do just about all of the characters have blue eyes (even the South American one), but the book has a dangerous tendency to refer to the villains as merely "they" or, at the most specific, "the looters". When the hero claims that his only rule is not to initiate physical violence against another human being, it is so very convenient to dismiss one's enemies (and, not just the people you've met and disliked, but also all the people you haven't met but can't be bothered to judge whether they're worthy of inviting onto your ark or not) as just not real human beings, which makes the murder and the genocide that much easier. (No word on the inevitable population bottleneck, though, since exactly three women were included on the ark.)
Atlas Shrugged is a sort of anti-Brave New World. In Atlas Shrugged, the only force in the world that matters is the individual human will. Your environment has absolutely no impact on your success: not who your parents are, not what values they teach, not what resources you have access to. In this way each of the protagonists is able to have their own evil brother (so I find it a bit surprising that Rand did not herself have a brother), because each character's qualities are completely independent of those from everyone else in the world: you wouldn't expect James Taggart to be any more like Dagny than any other random person from off the street, in this world.
As opposed to Brave New World, which is all about how you are a product of how your environment has conditioned you: sure, you can take credit for your talents, your values, your character, but you're just kidding yourself.
It's really too bad: American literature has a dearth of heroines, and Dagny Taggart is the best you could ask for: like an Austen heroine, she's not afraid to be the smartest person in the room, but unlike Austen heroines, she has the advantage of living in 20th-century America, so she can do great things in her career. Unfortunately, she's a great heroine trapped in a sub-par novel.(less)
What I liked best about The Foundation was reading about clever people coming up with creative, non-violent ways to get themselves out of scrapes. The...moreWhat I liked best about The Foundation was reading about clever people coming up with creative, non-violent ways to get themselves out of scrapes. There was none of that here.(less)
The Colour of Magic is really a collection of four stories (novellas? novelettes?): "The Colour of Magic", "The Sending of Eight", "The Lure of the Wy...moreThe Colour of Magic is really a collection of four stories (novellas? novelettes?): "The Colour of Magic", "The Sending of Eight", "The Lure of the Wyrm", and "Close to the Edge".
I would give "The Colour of Magic" five stars, and the rest three, so that averages out to 3.5, which rounds to four.
But seriously. You should read "The Colour of Magic".(less)