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Ape and Essence

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In February 2108, the New Zealand Rediscovery Expedition reaches California at last. It is over a century since the world was devastated by nuclear war, but the blight of radioactivity and disease still gnaws away at the survivors. The expedition expects to find physical destruction but they are quite unprepared for the moral degradation they meet. Ape and Essence is Huxley's vision of the ruin of humanity, told with all his knowledge and imaginative genius.

222 pages, Paperback

First published August 1, 1948

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About the author

Aldous Huxley

938 books11.8k followers
Brave New World (1932), best-known work of British writer Aldous Leonard Huxley, paints a grim picture of a scientifically organized utopia.

This most prominent member of the famous Huxley family of England spent the part of his life from 1937 in Los Angeles in the United States until his death. Best known for his novels and wide-ranging output of essays, he also published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts. Through novels and essays, Huxley functioned as an examiner and sometimes critic of social mores, norms and ideals. Spiritual subjects, such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism, interested Huxley, a humanist, towards the end of his life. People widely acknowledged him as one of the pre-eminent intellectuals of his time before the end of his life.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 388 reviews
Profile Image for Matthias.
107 reviews352 followers
October 25, 2016
"There are times, and this is one of them, when the world seems purposefully beautiful, when it is as though some mind in things had suddenly chosen to make manifest, for all who choose to see, the supernatural reality that underlies all appearances."

I was reading Ape and Essence in a sunlit park when I was struck by this line. It emitted a beacon of light that folded back on itself and enveloped these words, this book, my hands, my legs, the ground under my feet, the park, the city, its surrounding forests, the seas and the planet in a golden glow that made me look at it all with a disposition that was more generous than ever. I've got a weak spot for sumptuous prose, whether carefully crafted or welling up from a natural spring, but it's been since reading G.K. Chesterton and Charles Dickens that I've been so smitten with man's way of words. Ape and Essence made me discover that Huxley belongs up there with the other wizards of writing.

The fact that the strongest point of this book is its prose doesn't help me in reviewing it very effectively. I can't hope to emulate it, obviously. Weaving some kind of metaphor around it with silly beacons of light folding back on themselves can tell you something about the effect it had on me, but it doesn't convey what it is in its essence. Its essence can only be experienced through direct contact with this book. Much like with a song, people can tell you it's good, but it's only upon hearing it for yourself that you can truly be immersed into what other people's opinions unsuccesfully tried to convey. Brilliance. Simple, basic brilliance. I could present you with some more quotes, a selection of flowers grown and cultivated in this bright author's garden patch of a book, but they'd whither in my clumsy hands, out in this cold review.

So what else can I do to convince you to read this, aside from maladroitly trying to describe its beauty beyond expression? I can try by mentioning this tells the stories that Fahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies tried to tell, only with more humour and more grace, and that it did so way before those well-known books. That it paints the picture of a grey post-apocalyptic world, but with colour and poetry. That it dissects modern society in a way that is as pertinent today as it was when it was first written. That it recognises both the ape and the essence within all of us, that amidst the bleak remnants of a collapsed society it offers an optimistic vision, a convincing explanation of why evil can't endure. That it made me smile.

Faced with the limits of my reviewing prowess in the face of this work of congenial genius, I decided to give you another flower. A small one, a description of a woman that wears the same expression this book would if it had a face. Cherish it, give it warmth and let its scent convince you to explore this story for yourself.

"In a minute or two, she is lying quite still in the crook of his arm. Sighing happily, she opens her eyes, looks up at him and smiles with an expression of tenderness, to which the dimples add a ravishingly incongruous hint of mischief."
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
May 7, 2020
America the Fearful

Fear turns democracy into tyranny. Perhaps fear is the foundation of democracy, the fear of material or spiritual loss. Isn’t that the sentiment behind the dispersion 0f power in constitutional government? If so, the Trump-phenomenon may be an inevitable consequence of democratic politics. And the thing to be feared most.

I am reading Ape and Essence, written in 1948, while the racist Trump rally is taking place in North Carolina. Chants of ‘Send her back’ are being directed at black congresswomen by the Evangelical Christian crowd. Huxley has his crowd at a not dissimilar rally shouting
“Church and State,
Greed and Hate: --
Two baboon-persons
In one Supreme Gorilla.”

‘Ape and Essence’ is actually a screenplay contained within this novel of post-World War II paranoia in America. The narrator of the screenplay makes the context clear: “And fear, my good friends, fear is the very basis and foundation of modern life.” Then it was fear of the godless Russians who were intent on taking away America’s Christian heritage. Today it is fear of Central Americans and women with headscarves who... well, threaten to take away America’s Christian heritage.

Huxley understood the problem of democracy as well as de Tocqueville did. As his narrator says, “Today, thanks to that Higher Ignorance which is our knowledge, man's stature has increased to such an extent that the least among us is now a baboon, the greatest an orangutan or even, if he takes rank as a Saviour of Society, a true Gorilla.” It is not inapt, I think, to perceive the North Carolinans and their political hero in exactly this way. The problem is not the Gorilla, who is merely a somewhat defective human being; the problem is the baboons, who use democracy as a means to exercise their fear and hatred without fingerprints.

“Cruelty and compassion come with the chromosomes,” says the narrator. Which one gets switched on is a matter of culture, of the habits and social training to which we all are exposed. Something has gone deeply wrong in the culture of America. It has happened before in other democratic states, but rarely with such global publicity and even more rarely with such unified support from the rank and file religionists of Christianity. “Ends are ape-chosen; only the means are man's,” The narrator laments. The apes are in charge, from the bottom up. Democracy, it seems, releases “the Blowfly in every individual heart.”
919 reviews255 followers
July 1, 2016
Though I adored Brave New World, and therefore considered myself familiar with its famous author, I had never even heard of Ape and Essence before stumbling across it on one of the dustier shelves in the local library. Never again will I make the mistake of relegating an author to the "one-book-wonder" list. This little 150 page book is so utterly bizarre, eerie, beautiful and perfect that from the very first reading it has leapt straight into my list of all-time favourites.

Brave New World makes it very clear that Huxley had a huge problem with the egotistical nationalism of modern society. Ape and Essence takes this view to an extreme, and though I agreed with many of his points, it was the writers unusual and eloquent way of getting them across that made me fall in love.

The story is told in two sections. The first, only 25 pages long, is from the point of view of a screen writer who finds a rejected screenplay entitled "Of Ape and Essence" and goes on a journey to meet the author. The second, much longer part is the transcription of this screenplay. It details how the world has been destroyed through atomic warfare, and human-kind worship the devil, "Beliel", as they cannot face the idea that they are in fact to blame for their own destruction. Such an inherently human trait, the fear of guilt, the need to feel blameless. I suppose this is where the term "scapegoat" comes in handy.

The prose is strange and quite beautiful, with a narrator who speaks in poetry, and details that come from the "screenplay" nature of the work. Potential soundtracks are mentioned, as are details such as "close-up on..." or "wide shot of...", "Voices fade out as Narrator speaks again"...

The themes are all politically charged, a warning against selfish hedonism and, equally, deprivation and self harm caused by religion and patriotism. Lines include "Church and State, Greed and Hate:- Two baboon-persons In one Supreme Gorilla." and "The longer you study modern history, the more evidence you find of Beliel's Guiding Hand." (these lines fall far short of giving any idea as to the odd beauty of the writing, but I wanted to include them anyway)

Quite honestly, writing a short review of this book is near impossible - it would be all too easy to write an essay-like discussion, dissection, dissertation of Huxley's ideas about religion, war, politics etc, but I think to do so would in fact be detrimental to the book itself, at leasst without having the anaylitical skills to do it justice. I will leave the in-depth analysis to a possible future thesis, but by not going in depth there is little more to say here other than this is a book that begs for many more readings, and I will do so very happily. I strongly suggest you do the same.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,889 reviews1,416 followers
January 10, 2019
Cruelty and compassion come with the chromosomes

I've elected to storm into the ranks of Huxley, like a Korean antihero in a Vengeance film. This is a peculiar fruit. There was much from which I recoiled. I feel at moments that History had made the novel look foolish and impotent.

The reasons to dislike this were Legion
The novel's thrust is a rejected screenplay
The narrative then is couched
in satirical and cinematic terms
speaking of a future
a world devastated by nuclear exchange
Kiwis having no strategic importance
Set out to trawl the ruins
Sub-Saharan Africa as well
Though Huxley leaves us with but
an ill humored parenthesis
Back to the New Zealanders
Broaching the California shores
100 years after the mushroom clouds
He finds a strange tribal society
One worshiping the Diabolical
For what else could govern their
Haphazard hungry lives?
Sex is outlawed except for
yearly festival of frenzy
the mutated offspring are
sacrificed for their inherent
There is a classic information dump
The devil obviously arrived
in the Scientific Method
Without a humanizing temper
Radioactive fallout was Destiny

It is this final exchange of ideas which redeems the novel, so similar to Brave New World --though here we substitute Shelley for Shakespeare. There is an annoying glibness to this but it appears more a farce than anything meaningful or resonant, whereas the Orgy-Porgy scenes in Brave New World will haunt me forever. There wasn't a corresponding moment in Ape and Essence of the timeless. Parody, just parody.
Profile Image for Chris.
386 reviews151 followers
March 28, 2016
[All chanting]:
Give me Detumescence.
Give me Detumescence.
Give me Detumescence.
In a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by the nefarious nationalistic exploitation of science, Huxley offers up a supremely hilarious post-apocalyptic satire. In Los Angeles, a new religion has arisen where the Devil (as Belial) has substituted God, while maintaining all other aspects of today's structured institutions of faith. Using this simple device, he penetratingly skewers organized religion more effectively than with direct criticism. Along the way he delights in puncturing the mystique of Hollywood and the carefree mid-twentieth-century lifestyle of Southern California. These are perennial Huxley themes in his fiction and non-fiction, but nowhere does he present them in such an over-the-top funny way. The satire is hilarious, continuous, and irreverent. There was hardly a single page that I didn't laugh or smile. Yes, this is a very, very serious book, but it's a true comedy all the same.

Morals abound throughout. Memorable quotations flow from every page, ironies are exploited to the embarrassment of the various Religions. Huxley's voice is confident but never pretentious, pushing "tactful" to the ultimate limits. (Some reviewers claim to be offended by the several scenes of sexual debauchery. Good. Huxley made his point.)

Always at risk in any dystopia seem to be women, and their treatment in Ape and Essence is particularly chilling: identified insultingly as "vessels of the Unholy Spirit," they are relegated only to menial labor, and ritualized reproduction. Huxley's "vessels" are almost certainly a contributing inspiration to Margaret Atwood's later, frightening novel of Christian theocracy, The Handmaid's Tale, where women have the same functions in her fearsome dictatorial society.

I loved this book. It is now my favorite Huxley work, and is likely to remain so, having only a few left to read. Among so many messages that he leaves us with, particularly in this book, the most important is:
Judge for yourself what is Right and Moral; don't blindly accept the combined degenerate will of the Herd.

From his early intelligent comedies of manners, then appearing as central to the classic Brave New World, and in his insightful essays, that single message is never absent, never contraindicated.


Here are a few marvelous quotations from Ape and Essence, illustrating many of the concepts in the book. Much is satire, interpret them in that light; you might be offended. That's alright, Huxley would say, form your own opinion.

[The origin of World War Three]: "Vertical stripes, horizontal stripes, knots and crosses, eagles and hammers. Mere arbitrary signs. But every reality to which a sign has been attached is thereby made subject to its sign...and because of the flags it immediately became right and proper for the one with the foreskin to disembowel the one without a foreskin, and for the circumcised to shoot the uncircumcised, rape his wife and roast his children over slow fires." (41) (page numbers from the first edition, 1948)

[Danger of Science]: "Ends are ape-chosen; only the means are man's." (45)

[Satirical maternal repression of our academic hero]: "Too full of an unnatural piety to marry, he has spent half a lifetime surreptitiously burning. Feeling that it would be a sacrilege to ask a virtuous young gentlewoman to share his bed, he inhabits, under the carapace of academic respectability, a hot and furtive world, where erotic phantasies beget an agonizing repentance and adolescent desires forever struggle with the maternal precepts." (82)

[Conflict between natural desires and religious suppression of same]: "The Seventh Commandment, the Facts of Life. But there is also another Fact, to which one cannot react by a mere departmentalized negation or a no less fragmentary display of lust—the Fact of Personality." (87)

[A religious chant to control sexual desire]: "Give me Detumescence." (90)

[Hierarchy of values, using books from the Los Angeles Public Library as fuel]: "In goes The Phenomenology of Spirit, out comes the corn bread. And damn good bread it is." (91)

[Subversion of an obvious morality, one not requiring religion to elucidate]: "My duty towards my neighbor is to do my best to prevent him from doing unto me what I should like to do unto him." (95)

[How religion corrupts the masses]: "By the smoky and intermittent light of torches we see the faces of a great congregation. Tier above tier, like massed gargoyles, spouting the groundless faith, the subhuman excitement, the collective imbecility which are the products of ceremonial religion—spouting them from black eyeholes, from quivering nostrils, from parted lips..." (108)

[Who's to blame?]: "If you want social solidarity, you've got to have either an external enemy or an oppressed minority. They're what the Jews were under Hitler, what the bourgeois were under Lenin and Stalin, what the heretics used to be in Catholic countries and the papists under the Protestants. If anything goes wrong, it's always the fault of [them]."(138)

[The burden of self-determination]: "How tedious is a guilty conscience! How tedious, for that matter, an unguilty one!" (153)

[Rationality vs. instinct]: "You think too much. You mustn't think. If you think, it [sex] stops being fun." (158)

[About individuality, the courage to ignore the majority, to reject dogma, to be joyful in Nature, Huxley's "Source"]: "What's the good of thinking about other people? Let's think about ourselves. Let's think how happy we could be..." (193)
Profile Image for Sara Zovko.
356 reviews80 followers
December 30, 2016
Prvih 50-ak stranica bila sam totalno izgubljena u knjizi, radnji i svemu ostalome, a onda... Mračno, ironično, potresno i genijalno, sve ono što Huxley je.
Profile Image for Andy.
Author 14 books139 followers
January 30, 2008
While I was reading this book I laughed and realized this is where DEVO got all their shit from. Huxley, back in the 1930's said (in this brilliant novel) that while we technologically advance we will behave more and more like crazed apes..."The Truth Behind De-Evolution". I'm sure the Mothersbaugh and Casale Brothers read this book more than a few times when they attended Kent State in Ohio.

Huxley switches time span gears like crazy, veering from a Darwinian 1930's Busby Berkeley musical to a cold, bleak sci-fi fable, all taking place in the sleazy Eden that is Hollywood. Huxley has given us a Jean Harlow worthy glam sci-fi novel; There's never been a book like "Ape and Essence". It really will blow your mind. I think I've read this book at least 20 times.
Profile Image for Roxana Chirilă.
1,041 reviews138 followers
September 9, 2017
Two guys from Hollywood are talking about... stuff. One of them is the first-person narrator, the other is a guy who's gotten a mistress despite the fact that he didn't really want one, and now he's in trouble with his wife.

I'm making it sound way more interesting than it actually is. I spaced out while reading some of their discussion, which was about Gandhi getting murdered and the nature of marxism and fascism and politics and whatever.

In the middle of the philosophy, I shut the book and read the summary on the back - "In February 2108, the New Zealand Rediscovery Expedition reaches California at last. It is over a century since the world was devastated by nuclear war, but the blight of radioactivity and disease still gnaws away at the survivors." Yeah, no relation to what I was reading. I had the weird feeling the book's cover had been replaced, you know?

So, as the two Hollywood guys walk around, a truck filled with manuscripts headed for the incinerator takes a sudden turn and three scripts fall out. Two are declared to be crap, one is read by the two friends, who go in search of the mysterious writer, but find out that he died a few weeks before and has no family, but his neighbors piece together a short history of the guy, which... whatever.

And then the script is reproduced in its entirety - and, well, to be honest, no wonder it was heading to the incinerator.

It starts with SYMBOLISM!!!! and baboons who act like humans and who have Albert Einsiteins on leashes, making them create weapons which let them destroy the world. Very symbol, much wow. More spacing out on my side, I had to re-read some of this stuff.

Later on, New Zealanders go off to explore the world, since they're the only ones who apparently escaped the nuclear war because nobody cared much about them (go, New Zealand!). They land in America, somewhere next to L.A., and one of the characters, a botanist, is captured by a tribe of genetically mutated people who have extra fingers, toes and pairs of nipples, who have mating seasons, and who are dead-set on worshiping the devil, seeing him as a cause of the world's destruction.

I'm making this sound interesting again. It's all very symbolic and philosophical and the priests keep explaining how the devil convinced humanity to self-destruct.

So the New Zealand dude gets left behind by his colleagues, falls in love with one of the natives and runs off with her in search of a colony of other humans, because the devil-worshipers hate people who have sex out of mating season.

Symbolism, poking fun at humanity, philosophising about the world, more poetry thrown everywhere, more random words your eyes will skip over, and less fun than "Brave New World".
Profile Image for John.
1,202 reviews95 followers
May 9, 2020
Huxley hits the proverbial nail on the head with this biting dystopian satire of the dangers of democracy. We see it in our daily lives of the dangers of an ill educated populace able to vote and elect dangerous individuals. However, the problem lies perhaps not in democracy but the criteria we use for people to qualify and allowed to vote. Plus a media completely controlled by an oligopoly of billionaires who have their own agenda. This story is interesting as it was written just at the beginning of the Cold War between communism and democracy.

Tallis is a scriptwriter, and two Hollywood writers find a copy of his film script that falls off a truck taking thousands of rejected scripts to an incinerator. They are fascinated by the the Ape and Essence script and decide to track down the author but alas, Tallis is dead.

We are then in the second part of the book presented with the film script and dialogue. The story takes place in 2108, a hundred years after the planet was destroyed by nuclear weapons in the Third World War. A ship approaches the Californian coast with the crew of the Canterbury, a ship carrying the New Zealand Rediscovery Expedition. New Zealand was spared the worse of the war as no one thought they were worth nuking.

Botanist and mother’s boy, Dr Alfred Poole a botanist and mother’s not is the hero and is captured by the locals who worship the devil who they call Belial. They live in a society where sex it outlawed, except on one day a year for breeding purposes. It is a society where women are basically slaves and any deformed babies are killed prior to the breeding orgy in a religious ceremony.

Poole becomes valuable as a scientist to create better crops and falls for Loola. He then has to make a decision about whether to stay or escape to a more liberal community across the Mojave desert.

Glad I read this satire of the way that people continue to conduct war and kill off our own kind for the most superficial reasons, such as religious, color and of course those old chestnuts freedom and nationalism.
Profile Image for Seyma.
644 reviews
November 8, 2021
Huxley'den okuduğum ilk kitaptı ama maalesef pek anlaşamadık. Kitabı tam anlamıyla anladığımı iddia etmiyorum yazarın diğer kitaplarını okuyup diline aşina olduktan sonra dönüp tekrar okuyacağım.
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
5,030 reviews1,167 followers
June 25, 2014
After reading Brave New World while still in the public schools, either in junior or senior high, I went into a Huxley phase, purchasing and reading his Brave New World Revisited, Island, The Devils, Heaven and Hell, The Doors of Perception and this one, Ape and Essence. Pulling it out of the bookshelf in my room more than once during high school, I repeatedly replaced it unread, the theatrical elements of it putting me off. Recently, however, several other Huxley nonfiction works having been read and appreciated in the meantime and a respected friend having spoken well of the thing, I pulled it out again.

Ape and Essence is a story within a story. The first is of an erudite narrator and his craven Hollywood friend discovering a discarded screenplay, then finding its author recently deceased. The second is of the play itself, its plot ending in a twist whereby the protagonist encounters the grave of the author 'previously' visited by the original narrator and his friend. The bulk of the text consists of the screenplay.

The book is a satire on Hollywood, on the arms race, on governments, on theology and on human self-conceit, a very dark satire distanced from the objects of its criticism by being set in the far future, after a third world war has devastated much of the planet. Much of the humor concerns sex, the play's protagonist being a repressed thirty-something academic Congregationalist. Despite the bleak picture painted overall, the story ends hopefully.

As literature, this is not a great work. For one thing, it's too blunt in its satire, Huxley basically ridiculing the objects of his abuse. For another, as a political satire it is naturally dated--but not so much so as to be irrelevant, many of Huxley's points being, as he would say in another context, 'perennial'. It also demands rather too much of its readers to be fully appreciated by most. Huxley was supremely well educated in the humanities and he does a lot of showing off here. A strong liberal arts background finds some reward in this book by allowing those with such to get all the jokes.
Profile Image for Jay.
175 reviews14 followers
November 27, 2015
"The leech's kiss, the squid's embrace, the prurient ape's defiling touch. And do you like the human race? No, not much."

I read this book in high school after I had finished Brave New World. Almost back to back. "Ape and Essence" is a story-within-a-story, a screenplay written by one of the semi-autobiographical characters. The screenplay is rescued from the Hollywood reject bin, and after the finders find the author on his desert hacienda, the screenplay then becomes the novel. The quote, above, is Huxley speaking his own mind as well as the recluse author's. The screenplay is a great literary device by which Huxley becomes twice removed, in a sense, from the themes and ideas articulated therein. The "screenplay" relates a tale of post-nuclear war society where survivors from New Zealand rediscover what's left of California and find humans there have devolved into... I won't spoil it. Ape is a much more ambitious novel than BNW and satirizes in less than 200 pages Hollywood, Southern California, the insanity of the Cold War, science, human nature, a smorgasbord of targets, all deftly skewered with the inimitable Huxley wit. In character and plot development, Ape is a more mature and compelling novel than the more allegorical BNW, although the latter seems like the more accurate prediction of our future as a species. Prurient apes, indeed.

Confession: I actually bought and read the Bantam paperback edition with the cover shown for this review (the ambiguous menacing face above the two naked people). Truth to tell, the cover hooked me to buy the book.

Profile Image for Mindaugas.
102 reviews3 followers
February 2, 2023

Profile Image for Alex Akesson.
41 reviews26 followers
April 11, 2013
Re-reading my precious 1st edition

page 51 "Fear also casts out intelligence, casts out goodness, casts out all thought of beauty and truth. What remains in the bum or studiedly jocular desperation of one who is aware of the obscene Presence in the corner of the room and knows that the door is locked, that there aren’t any windows. And now the thing bears down on him. He feels a hand on his sleeve, smells a stinking breath, as the executioner’s assistant leans almost amorously toward him. “Your turn next, brother. Kindly step this way.” And in an instant his quiet terror is transmuted into a frenzy as violent as it is futile. There is no longer a man among his fellow men, no longer a rational being speaking articulately to other rational beings; there is only a lacerated animal, screaming and struggling in the trap. For in the end fear casts out even a man’s humanity. And fear, my good friends, fear is the very basis and foundation of modern life. Fear of the much touted technology which, while it raises out standard of living, increases the probability of our violently dying. Fear of the science which takes away the one hand even more than what it so profusely gives with the other. Fear of the demonstrably fatal institutions for while, in our suicidal loyalty, we are ready to kill and die. Fear of the Great Men whom we have raised, and by popular acclaim, to a power which they use, inevitably, to murder and enslave us. Fear of the war we don’t want yet do everything we can to bring about."
— Aldous Huxley (Ape and Essence)
Profile Image for Jose Moa.
519 reviews68 followers
September 22, 2016
This is th most original, misantropic, terrorific,grotesque postapocaliptic distopia perhaps ever written.

In this book Huxley makes the most corrosive acid satire,with touchs of the blakest humor on the human nature and human civilization i ever read,all is demolished,the ideologies,marxism,capitalism,nationalism,militarism,christianism,the bad use of science and technologie.
Is the final victory with our help of the evil over the good in a inverted moral values world,a world where actually Belial is God,is the triumph of the animal we carry within over the rational.
It is a extremely bitter reflection on the humankind,on the evilness and stupidity of the humans.

Huxley is also a visionary, in this novel of 1947 he anticipates the environement catastrophic destruction by us and the hell of a nuclear war,where only the devil Belial,The Lord of Flies,the wild ape wins and the humanity lose and dies.

A literally must to read before to die book
Profile Image for Ugh.
175 reviews81 followers
December 6, 2012
Awesome book. Heres some quotes....actually, fuck it, im too lazy to add them. Read the book you lazy ass....its short, so dont worry...Also, usually I agree with the reviews on "goodreads.com" but most of Huxley works are given three stars here??? Duh-fuck is wrong with you all! Dude's a fuckin genius!
OK, that's enough elitism for today...

Profile Image for Mark.
Author 14 books23 followers
November 20, 2011
Well if Hux were around to day perhaps he'd be amazed how close we're coming to this (less well-known than BNW) negative Utopia. In a world where crotchless thongs are marketed to 9-year- olds, college coaches (as well as priests) sodomize boys-not-yet-men, women advertise themselves via the internet promising no more than a cooling effluvia of ejaculata, and countless millions of might-have-been love stories are food for salt, blood, and tears; it might not be such a far stretch to conclude his vision of a world corrupted to the celebration of pain rather than joy is now yet well nigh.
It's a world a hundred years hence (2108) where the third- generational survivors of a nuclear & biological holocaust live in a latter-day Los Angeles devoted to the worship of -the Devil-. No need for high tech suction machines here, the infant young are dispatched before the eyes of their cowed and degraded mothers with an easy low-tech solution- the knife. Work is all the de-sexualized drones know, but for two weeks of the year- when the infants resulting from the 9-months-prior orgies which don't conform to standards (seven toes, three sets of breasts, & that's OK- but more than that & off to the axe-man) are dispatched, and subsequently the entire community take part in compulsory loveless sex which will, in another nine months, lead to yet another harvest for the priests of Belial. Because they have not the technology to do anything but else, they clothe themselves by digging up the dead of the previous century and wear their clothing. The protagonist, who came west from untouched New Zealand, where such quaint things as railroads, Christian churches, and regular crops still exist, is eventually (but not completely) convinced by the logic of a high-priest that it's best he make his own peace with Belial- or else... & no I won't spoil the ending.
If this is freaky enough for you, perhaps you'll read it yourself and draw your own conclusions. I would certainly not recommend it to the squeamish.
Huxley was not really aiming at shocking people for shock's sake, through his work, but to make them aware of the possibilities and consequences of a world where blind faith in science took precedence over values, a nuclear war might have only been inevitable when human ideals were being sacrificed to militarism, and the threat of annihilation only grew worse between 1945 and the year Huxley died (1963). While people often cast him as a cynic, actually he happened to have a great deal of hope in humanity, being one of the century's premier humanists. It's a brooding book that will keep you reading and thinking it over for a good whiles.
Profile Image for Jim.
2,099 reviews700 followers
September 18, 2016
Take Brave New World (1931) and scroll the calendar to 1948, after World War Two and Hiroshima. Significantly, the action begins on the day that Gandhi was assassinated. The world that author Aldous Huxley gives us in Ape and Essence is slightly different.

There has been a World War Three that decimated the entire population of the world, except for New Zealand, which sends an expedition to Southern California. One of the scientists, a botanist named Alfred Poole, is kidnapped by the surviving humans who now worship Belial. Sex is frowned upon as sinful -- except for five days of the year during a Satanic festival, which is an all-shag-all orgy. Other times of the year, humans must avoid sex. To this end, they wear aprons and patches over their erogenous zones that just say NO.

Part of the reason for this is that many of the children born nine months after the festival are not only deformed, but frequently badly deformed enough to warrant death. Naturally, this is not a society that is in danger of overpopulation. In the background of the novel is a song whose refrain is: "Give me, give me, give me give me detumescence."

There is also a framing story set in the present day, and the main story is the full text of a rejected script by a screenwriter named William Tallis, who dies shortly after sending his work to the studio.

Ape and Essence is not up to the level of Brave New World, but it is, if anything, even more skeptical. "The chief end of man is to propitiate Belial, deprecate His enmity and avoid destruction for as long vas possible."

Profile Image for Nataša.
146 reviews
October 1, 2017
Distopija koja je na mene ostavila nešto slabiji utisak od svih prethodnih...
A i od Hakslija sam imala prevelika očekivanja nakon što pročitah "Ostrvo" :)
Profile Image for Speranza.
138 reviews100 followers
June 29, 2017
Give me detumescence
We are all apes -
That's the essence.

I don't know if Huxley was on psychedelic drugs while writing this, but I surely felt like being on some while reading it.
Profile Image for 0rkun.
130 reviews28 followers
July 19, 2018
Maymun Ve Öz şeytanın başrolde olduğu bir Aldous Huxley distopyası. Kitabın büyük kısmında yok edilmekten son anda kurtulan bir senaryoyu okuyoruz. Kitabın içindeki kitap gibi biraz. Uzak gelecekte nükleer bir yıkım gerçekleşmiş, dünya eskisi gibi değildir. Amerika kıtasını keşfe çıkan Yeni Zelandalı bir ekip şeytana tapan bir yerli grubuyla karşılaşır. Ekipten Dr. Poole'u esir alan yerlileri Poole'ın gözünden inceleme şansı buluruz. Şeytana tapan bu toplulukta cinsellik büyük ölçüde yasaktır, herhangi bir sakatlığı olan her çocuk arındırılma adı altında katledilmektedir. Dr. Poole da ölümün kıyısından uzmanlık alanını bu toplumun yararına kullanabileceğini vaat ederek döner ve gözlemlerine başlar.

Okuduğum en korkunç distopya kesinlikle bu kitaptı. Okuması biraz sıkıcı gibi gözükse de geriye dönüp baktığınızda tüylerinizi ürpertecek detaylarla dolu kitap.
Profile Image for Jordan.
355 reviews2 followers
November 30, 2013
A literate neighbor (they do exist, I have one!) left a library-bound edition of this incredible novella on the console table in my building's hallway, and I wish I could thank the fuck out of them. Holy shit.

On a scale from The Handmaid's Tale to Rosemary's Baby, this book lands somewhere in the middle, and deserves a place on your shelf next to your dogeared copy of Brave New World.

Two screenwriters discuss their mistresses and their miseries in Hollywood before stumbling across a rejected screenplay for Ape and Essence, written by a Mr. William Tallis. The two of them are so taken by the peculiar screenplay, that they find themselves driving across the Mojave Desert to find Tallis. Well, Tallis is dead, but his landlady takes the time to talk to them about the lonely and hateful, yet respectful man who wrote such an odd and insightful movie.

Then Huxley launches us into the dystopic world of Ape and Essence, with New Zealanders venturing into North America in the year 2108, to look for signs of civilization after a nuclear holocaust blasted that unfortunate hunk of land from sea to shining sea. Dr. Poole, the introverted botanist with an overbearing mother and without a girl to appease said mother, is drawn into the new theocracy of Belial, full of sex, murder, and atrocities galore. I read it in a day, because it is that good (and short!).

Despite this incredible story, the ending is so-so. It's a bit saccharine, really, considering the gruesome events that came before it: Huxley seems to want to leave on a hopeful note, "love conquers all" and that sort of nonsense... but for a novella condemning nuclear warfare and the core of human nature, it seemed a little cheap and underdeveloped, sort of like the happy-go-lucky ending to Great Expectations (SPOILER: not Dickens' original).

But, I suppose Huxley can have one small breath of fresh air in a novel of such aching, asphyxiating power.

Buy this title from Powell's Books.
Profile Image for Brett.
640 reviews25 followers
December 6, 2015
Not long ago, I wrote about how, though Aldous Huxley's non-fiction never really spoke to me, I always seemed to enjoy his fiction. Now I have to go back on my statement.

Ape and Essence is half-baked nonsense. It is warmed over Brave New World without compelling ideas or characters that the reader cares about.

The plot concerns a world that has been decimated by nuclear war and the totalitarian society that arises in its aftermath. Well--it's sort of about that. It begins in Hollywood, where a couple of people who work for a movie studio find a script called Ape and Essence. They travel to meet the writer, who it turns out is dead. That's the first 25 pages of the book. The remainder of the 150 is dedicated to basically printing out this supposedly revolutionary movie script.

By an odd coincidence, this is also the time period when Huxley was living in Hollywood and trying to make money as a screenwriter, without much success. So the whole thing, as you can imagine, feels very much like wish fulfillment on the part of Huxley. No one is recognizing how great my scripts are, so here is a book about how great my scripts are! (With the side benefit that I can just cut and paste a lot of my material from a rejected script into the book).

I don't know if that's what really happened, but it sure feels that way. Ape and Essence is a preachy bore and would have, in all likelihood, made a terrible movie. The studio was right to reject it.
Profile Image for Emily.
804 reviews118 followers
March 10, 2011
Two motion picture executives stumble across a screenplay in the lot. The majority of the book is the text of that document. It is about a future era, post World War III, when the residents of Southern California worship the devil and sex is outlawed except for two weeks once per year. The resulting infants are increasingly more deformed due to radiation fallout. The action of the 'film' seems to be mostly an excuse to espouse the philosophy that human kind, following the Second World War were increasingly destructive and not in cohesion with the Order of Things (i.e. Nature, God, etc.) and that led to their downfall. A lot of the points Huxley makes seem particularly true and relevant even now in the late 2000's. Although the first few chapters were almost incomprehensible to me, due to choppiness, jargon, and references to popular events and figures in the late 1940's, once the narrative turned to the screenplay, it was a fascinating tale. The pop culture references that I didn't really comprehend continued throughout the book, and it's quite possible that I've missed out on a lot of the points that were being made due to my having been born several decades later and not being familiar with those references.
Profile Image for Robyn.
282 reviews27 followers
February 9, 2012
I'm honestly not sure what to feel about this book. The first thing to note is that it's not nearly as accessible as Brave New World. It's much less straight forward, more surreal, and sometimes I felt that a thesaurus vomited on a few pages of it. It's not an easy book to follow, and there were some parts I really didn't understand until I started reading about it online.

However, once you get into the swing, and you figure out who's doing what (I had to go back and reread a few times to sort some of it out) the tale Huxley spins is pretty interesting. Exaggerated? Sure. Shocking? Absolutely, but the man had something worthwhile to say about our culture, and it would certainly behoove us to listen.

A very worthwhile book, overall, though frustrating and oddly put together. Read it, but read it slow.
Profile Image for Jovi Ene.
Author 2 books203 followers
December 15, 2017
Un scenariu respins din 1947 este descoperit și este înfățișat cititorului.
Mare parte din carte este tocmai acest scenariu avangardist, despre un viitor îndepărtat, în care lumea este devastată, post-apocaliptic, iar California este condusă acum sub auspiciile unui zeu nebun, un fel de diavol, Belial, care interzice (cu excepția a două săptămâni din an) pasiunea, sexul, diformitatea, libertatea înseamnă de fapt sclavie etc. Huxley face de fapt o critică acidă umanității, care se transformă în sclavă a răului, tocmai pentru că este incapabilă să recunoască răul pe care l-a produs ea însăși.
Multiple referințe culturale, muzicale, cinematografice, cărțile sunt arse fiind ultimele surse de energie, un roman greu, mai ales până intri în atmosferă, pentru care trebuie să ai nerv și deschidere, dar care rămâne memorabil măcar pentru descrierea unui viitor potențial.
Profile Image for Christina.
23 reviews14 followers
April 27, 2009
I loved this book! So many reasons why, but the most obvious reason being the fact that it took place in a post-apocalyptic world where people were supressed and controlled by those in charge. I cannot even tell you how many times I have read books with the same theme and I am still enthralled every single time. Huxely puts a good small irony at the ending which makes it worth the quick read. And the having the story within the story is an excellent difference too. I can see the similarities between Huxely and Orwell. They were from the same school of thought and paranoia. Best 51 cents I ever spent at the thrift store...will be reread.
Profile Image for Chris Pauer.
4 reviews3 followers
February 5, 2008
Awesome book, I loved every page.
Large, colorful vocabulary and descriptors assists in projecting a world post nuclear war and the life and civilization that remains.
I was hooked from the first few pages.
Profile Image for delievi.
46 reviews3 followers
February 15, 2022
biçimsel olarak okuması zor ama içerik bakımından unga bungacı ruhuma şifa gibi geldi
Profile Image for Nam.
36 reviews3 followers
April 3, 2009
Ape and Essence (Harper and Row, NYC, 1948)

I didn't even know that Aldous Huxley had written this. Found it on a 25 cent cart at the hospital while at work. As per Huxley it deals with utopian or not, approaches to futuristic concepts. Not really Sci-Fi but take a Brave New World, for instance. I personally have always loved Doors of Perception, however this book is short, inspiring and challenging in its picture of human (de)volution. One idea that I had never thought of, within a survivalist context was making use of cemeteries/graves as sources of good(s)/a resource/mine...

Plus, the whole concept of a Church of Belial on a post nuclear planet, but particularly in the context of a post-nuclear human civilization is enlightening. Some of the sexual politics and rituals/orgies were surprising in their structurally poetic delight(s).

The most surprising aspect of the book, or of it's plot line for me, was the at least until the end of the book, successful escape of Dr. Poole and his co-Hot.. I figured they wouldn't make it. But evolution i guess then holds promise?

Finally, the most interesting section of the book from a architectural, urban or decay perspective is that describing the vista of a post-nuclear LA wasteland of 2108. To quote the Narrator (pg 46);

"The Sea and its clouds, the mountains glacous-golden

The valleys full of indigo darkness,

The drought of lion-colored plains,

The rivers of pebbles and white sand.

And in the midst of them the City of the Angels.

Half a million houses,

Five thoushand miles of streets,

Fifteen hundred thousand motor vehicles,

And more rubber goods than Akron,

More celluloid than the Soviets,

More nylons than New Rochelle,

More brassieres than Buffalo,

More deodorants than Denver,

More oranges than anywhere,

With Bigger and better girls-

The great Metropolis of the West."

The passage goes on;

"And now we are only five miles up and it becomes increasingly obvious that the great Metropolis is a ghost town, that what was once the world's largest oasis is now its greatest agglomeration of ruins in a wasteland. Nothing moves in the streets. Dunes of sand have drifted across the concrete. The avenue of palms and pepper trees have left no traces."

Some other pages of personal interest; 48 and 59.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 388 reviews

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