Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley was first published in 1932 and is the product of a rapidly changing world. H. G. Wells was one of the fathers of this genre - science fiction born out of a fear (or concern at least) of a rapidly industrialising society where scientific advancement was making unprecedented leaps and bounds. In Huxley's age society was in flux following the Great War and the Russian Revolution, everything was changing and the lower classes were rising - Russia with its revolution was an unnerving glimpse into a possible future of England, socialism was on the rise, and in other countries so too was communism, making it look as though Karl Marx had been right all along and a bloody revolution in western Europe could potentially be inevitable. Such totalitarianism coupled with labour-saving machinery well and truly on the rise, and, at the time Huxley was writing, already rumblings of discontent coming across from Germany, people were nervous. And Huxley wasn't the only one: Zamyatin had already expressed such concerns in We (1924) and Orwell would again in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

No wonder then that dystopian novels were appearing, and would continue after the Second World War, but Huxley's was one of the first of the greats. The title ironically comes from Shakespeare's The Tempest (1611):
O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't.
It envisages a world in 2540 A.D. It is a totalitarian nightmare in which children are born in artificial wombs, indoctrinated and separated into their social classes even before birth: they will obey because it will be in their nature to do so. The goal is to breed a happy and well-functioning society. But, of course, it is anything but for some of the lead characters: as with We and Nineteen Eighty-Four there is sexual tension between two of them, in this instance Bernard Marx and Lenina Crowne, Barnard feeling and then being treated like an outsider which is reinforced when he and Lenina meet people from outside their country and see how they live and indeed feel without such a regulated existence. Two of the people they meet are John and Linda, Linda having already lived in this 'brave new world'. They both return to it, and we see how John adapts having known what it is to be free and Linda, having known and lived in both worlds.

Now, I hate to say it, but Brave New World is one of my least favourite novels and I think it boils down to the fact that I don't enjoy dystopian novels and I'd already read Nineteen Eighty-Four, which in my mind is far superior. The similarity in plot means I feel I've already read the better version and I didn't much enjoy reading the lesser novel from a genre I don't like anyway. But there it is. People do love this book, and I do appreciate it's warning against industrialisation, the age of machinery, and totalitarianism, but having given it a second go it's not one I'd read again. It's a shame, though, so many people think it's a work of genius and I couldn't see it. That said, I would still read the sequel, Brave New World Revisited (1958).

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Further Reading


Comments

  1. i read this sixty years ago and was awed by it, if i recall correctly which i probably don't... i think Orwell's book was better, but i still have a lot of respect for Huxley, not only for his literary work but because of his forebears, Julian especially; well, i guess that's not fair; one's ancestors shouldn't have much to do with one, should they?

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    1. His forebears? I don't know enough about Huxley I'm afraid. Is it Julian Huxley? Let me know so I can look him up :)

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