Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
“But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
These are words uttered in the face of tyranny and complete oppression, though they are very rare words to be spoken or even thought of in this world because every human passion and sense of creativity is repressed and eradicated through a long and complex process of conditioning. And that’s what makes this novel so powerful; it’s not unbelievable. Like Orwell’s 1984 and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, there’s just enough truth within Brave New World for it to be real. It’s a cruel mirroring of our own existence, should we follow a certain path too strongly. And that's the wonder of speculative science fiction, though unlike the other two books, there’s no violence involved in Huxley’s world. It’s just as controlling and scary, but it’s done in a more indirect way.
Sex is on tap, everybody should be happy.
People don’t go missing in the night nor are they stoned to death by a group of their peers, but they have just as little freedom (even if they don’t realise it.) In this dystopia they are trained from birth to think and feel in a certain way, and, for whatever reason, should they ever deviate from their ordained path, they are fed drugs that induce happiness and serenity; thus, the populace is kept within their desired space, and persist with the tasks they were born to do. Very few of them even consider that this is wrong: this is all they have known. And to make things even more maniacally clever, all physical and sexual needs are fulfilled completely as everybody belongs to everybody else in every sense with the ultimate goal of people never developing desire. Nobody should want for anything else.
People are machines and houses are factories. They are mass produced and designed to be one thing and one thing only. All values are inverted. The idea of showing any emotion is horrific and repulsive. Love is unknown and alien. Death is associated with sweetness and relief. Children are fed candy when they are taught about death, they associate the two together, so when as adults they see death they think of treats rather than the loss of someone they have known and worked beside for years.
In Brave New World people are husks, empty and detached, without ever realising it. I can only admire and praise Huxley’s genius through the writing. Like all effective dystopian societies, reading and information plays an exceedingly important role. As with Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, all books have been destroyed and made inaccessible. John, one of the few characters who was born away from the new world, stumbles across a volume of Shakespeare and it changes his life. He can only think and feel in Shakespearean language and begins to view the world through a semi-romantic lens and only finds depravity when he walks into the new world.
It’s everything he hates. He has been termed the savage, though he knows and understands the real meaning of the term even if those who call him such do not. Naturally, he becomes depressed and isolated in this new space, a space that he cannot be a part of or accepted in (not that he would want to be.) And I found him by far the most interesting and compelling character within the story because he is the only one to really look beyond the boundaries of his own experience and to find it wanting.
So, this is a terribly important novel. If you haven’t read it already, you know what you have to do. This isn’t something to be missed. It’s a novel that made me think and imagine in a way a book hasn’t done in quite some time.
This Brave New World book review was written by Sean Barrs
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