Aug 22, 08
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!