Tom's Reviews > Island

Island by Aldous Huxley
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Aug 22, 08

Recommended for: stoners
Read in August, 2008

This book was simply unbearable to read. The only reason I slugged through it was out of respect for Huxley and for the occasional snippets of philosophical wisdom I discovered along the way.

The theme is pure Huxley: intelligent, open-minded man gets shipwrecked on a remote tropical island where the native population has managed to create a utopia. The man meets a variety of people over a period of days who explain Pala's (the name of the island) unique culture.

The story is actually a succession of philosophical, political, spiritual, scientific, and psychological discussions (or narratives) that describe how their perfect society works.

No wonder this was Huxley's last book. It's obvious he's trying to create a perfect world on paper--one he never had the opportunity to witness in real life.

The main problem I have with "Island" is its complete departure from the novel form. And this issue is not problematic in and of itself, but when the departure is UNINTERESTING, it becomes a problem.

There is no palpable tension, no recognizable antagonist, and absolutely, no climax. If anything, the best part of the book is when the main character, Will Barnaby, takes the "moksha-medicine" and goes into a psychedelic trance. Oh, I won't ruin the end for you...its predictability is so utterly bland, you'll want to keep turning every page.

Ultimately, if you're into Tantra or Buddhism or utopian novels, this may be your book. But if you're into Literature. Be Warned.

One more thing. Here's my favorite quotation of the book (and there's lots more like it if you read it):

"We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way."

I think that's cool!

And one more thing Beatles fans:
There is a "Dr. Robert" in the book who is one of the main characters. He is one of the proponents of the moksha-medicine (mind expanding drug). The Beatles have a song called "Dr. Robert", and Aldous Huxley is one of the famous people on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album!



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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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Phoenix What a great review of this book. I am currently reading it and I think you are spot on. I am a voracious reader of fiction and I feel you on the "uninteresting departure" from the novel comment. I found Brave New World a much more interesting fictional depiction of his philosophy and I think that is the mark of great writing.


message 2: by Tom (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tom I appreciate your kind words. That's half the fun of reading--trusting one's instincts!


Heather I felt the same way about Island, to the point where I actually gave up on it from sheer boredom, something I almost never do with books.


Karin "The only reason I slugged through it was out of respect for Huxley". THIS!!!! you took the words right out of my mouth... or keyboard, whatever :P but it's exacly how I felt while reading it. only reason why i finished it.


Milgem Amen to what everyone else already agreed with you on. And thanks for the Beatles reference!


message 6: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe occasional snippets of philosophical wisdom? I read a different book I guess.


Matt C I completely disagree, simply because there is no "cause-effect-cause-effect" basic plotline doesnt make it bad. The whole idea WAS for it to be an exploration of what a utopia would be like- no climax or real antagonist is needed. And the main characters name is Will Farnaby too...


message 8: by Tom (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tom Yeah, there's been a lot of reaction to my comments on this book. Some like what I have to say. Some don't. I'm over it. I think it sucked. There it is. Done with it!


Brian The point is that you've given it less credit than is due.


Rachel Although I'm still laboring through this (also out of respect for Huxley), your review says everything I've been thinking about this book.


message 11: by Rich (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rich It's a didactic smattering of Huxley's philosophies, which you gave enough credit to, woven around a lame plot in order to make it a novel. I don't see why people would be so upset over your criticism of the book. No book is perfect and this one is very far from it.


message 12: by Habib (new) - added it

Habib  Ulhaq Good book for a purely utopian society; obviously the lack of direct conflict limits the literary impact. On the whole I agree with your review. I would have liked to see more metaphor in action rather than conversation. But still...Huxley.


Irina I just finished this book -my first read by Mr. Huxley- and although I'm not stranger to Tantra, Buddhism, Agnosticism and utopian novels, I was at a loss. I didn't realize this was not a real "novel" but rather a philosophical dissertation of Mr. Huxley's vast knowledge of human behavior and religious creeds.

I appreciate your comments on the book and wanted to let you know I agreed.

With this I want to add that I still want to read Brave New World.


Daniel Matheson It's unfortunate that this review is at the top - it is completely ignorant and written by someone who clearly knows nothing of Huxley's non-fiction work in comparative theology and psychedelics. Do yourself a favor and ignore this review; this novel paints the picture of a utopia we all desperately need.


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