Drew Graham's Reviews > Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
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Jun 22, 12

Read from June 16 to 21, 2012

Several hundred years in the earth's future, society has changed dramatically into one where children are cloned and grown in bottles, rampant sexuality and regular drug-induced reveries are encouraged and almost required, and a sedate sense of happiness and content is the primary objective of humanity. One man dares to imagine that there must be something more to life and relationships than his lifelong conditioning has convinced him, and when he finds a young man who grew up away from this so-called utopia, new ideas start to appear, alarming and disconcerting to those who so struggle to keep the balance of the new world order.

I have had this book on my to-read list for years, and once I even picked it up to start it, but then it was due back at the library so it was put on hold for quite some time. I'm so glad I finally read it! It was a very quick read, and it was riveting and compelling, and though it's not a perfect novel story- or character-wise, it has so much going on and gave me so much to think about that I felt it was more about the ideas presented than the characters themselves. The way the world was first presented was a little scientific for my taste, and it seemed to take its time picking up speed, but once it did, and once it started putting forth some of the more philosophical ideas, I really enjoyed it. I was surprised at the amount of sexual content, I just hadn't expected that, but it was also nice how it was handled pretty subtly. The writing was good and readable, and Huxley used a few pretty unique devices to keep me on my toes. While there wasn't one main protagonist throughout, I found the cast of characters pretty varied and interesting, from the businesslike Henry Foster and the guileless product of her generation Lenina Crowne to the "grotesque" outcast Linda and the source of her everlasting personal shame, her son John. Watching the dramatic change in character of the dissatisfied and almost mutinous Bernard Marx and his pensive friend Helmholtz Watson was very interesting too. John, the "Savage," was clearly the character I was supposed to relate to, and I did. It was just so easy to take his side and adopt his perspective, but at the same time it seemed important to consider that Lenina really wasn't a strumpet, she was just a member of this bizarre society. Toward the end there was a little more discussion than I expected, but the ending was appropriately and satisfyingly grim. Overall, I was pretty shocked at how relevant this book is, probably even more now than when it was written. It was surprising to learn from one of the appendices of the edition I read that it was not very well-received by critics of its day, most of whom found problems with the plot or characters, but this is the kind of book that (well, evidently) means more as more time goes by. It's uncanny in its premonitions and kind of unsettling in what it could mean for the future of humanity. The other thing is that the purpose of this book could change pretty dramatically based on the reader's individual perspective. It's very interesting the ideas this book brings up about happiness, especially as seen through the lens of this entitled generation, so used are we to instant gratification. Is it really the most important thing to be happy all the time? To never work or achieve or be sad or disappointed?

I always expected this book to be one of those huge tomes that people feel obliged make their way through once in their lifetime, but I tore through it and really liked it. As far as futuristic dystopian novels this probably isn't the absolute best ever (that distinction might go to 1984), but it is gripping and compelling, and pretty (appropriately) sad. Its relevance to today's society and ideals was eerie and at times unsettling, but every time I picked it up I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next.
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06/18/2012 page 57
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