389 of 419 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Through the eyes of a savage
Aldous Huxley's novel "Brave New World" is both one of the best science fiction books and one of the most brilliant pieces of satire ever written. BNW takes place on a future Earth where human beings are mass-produced and conditioned for lives in a rigid caste system. As the story progresses, we learn some of the disturbing secrets that lie underneath the...
Published on November 8, 2001 by Michael J. Mazza
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Reviewed by bookshelfish.blogspot.com
This is one of those books that I have been wanting to read for about twenty years, have started a few times, have been somewhat uneasy about my ignorance of - and now, finally, I did it. Was it worth the long wait? Did I spend my time wondering just what on earth had been the delay, delighting in a classic that had almost gotten away from me, ready to pass it on to...
Published on November 18, 2011 by Bookshelfish, by Jennifer
Most Helpful First | Newest First
389 of 419 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Through the eyes of a savage,
Aldous Huxley's novel "Brave New World" is both one of the best science fiction books and one of the most brilliant pieces of satire ever written. BNW takes place on a future Earth where human beings are mass-produced and conditioned for lives in a rigid caste system. As the story progresses, we learn some of the disturbing secrets that lie underneath the bright, shiny facade of this highly-ordered world.
Huxley opens the book by allowing the reader to eavesdrop on a tour of the Fertilizing Room of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where the high-tech reproduction takes place. Into this seemingly advanced civilization is introduced John, a "savage" from a reservation where old human culture still survives. Thus, BNW is also a tale of "culture shock" and conflict.
Huxley creates a compelling blend of bizarre comedy, serious character study, futuristic extrapolation, and philosophical discussion. His writing style is crisp and witty, and cleverly incorporates references to canonical works of literature. Probably the scariest thing about BNW is the fact that, in many ways, humanity seems to be moving closer to Huxley's dystopian vision.
173 of 184 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At what price contentment?,
Brave New World is an excellent book and, what's more, one that seems to be becoming more relevant all the time in our fast paced world. And unlike many other books with a similar philosophical orientation, Brave New World is quite refreshing, as Huxley's prose is somehow manages to be clear, elegant and insightful without being overly obvious.
As regards the actual plot, Brave New World is in essence a portrayal of a utopia (or dystopia, depending how you look at it) in which there is constant prosperity, people are always content, as they are well provided for and have been programmed to like their society in all respects. This programming is undertaken by workers in charge of breeding the future citizens of this idyllic world, which is united under one government, under Ford. As everybody has been programmed to like their class and job, everybody is constantly content and has no wish to do anything other than what is required of them. If they happen to become depressed, of course, there is always the mood altering drug Soma.
Through presenting a few individuals who do not exactly fit into this molded world, however, Huxley presents us with a challenging and endlessly interesting question: What can possibly be wrong with a world in which everybody is happy, even if there is no real free will involved in actuality? If we can make ourselves superficially content and never have to suffer a moment of desperation or uncertainty, why not just do that? With the help of William Shakespeare and a young man from a "savage reservation," Huxley explores the alternatives to his invented society's promotion of mindless satisfaction. Should true art and the deep thought and emotion that inspires it be sacrificed to perpetual happiness without thought or deeper feeling? Or is the attempt to find these deeper meanings just silly and self-defeating, as we will all meet the same fate in the end?
In this era of quick entertainment, instant gratification and materialism unbounded, there are no better questions to be asking than these, the ones at the heart of Brave New World. Pick up a copy and start to read - in addition to being quite interesting as a science-fiction book or portrayal of a future world, Brave New World is a book that inspires a lot of thinking about our lives today.
576 of 650 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chillingly Prescient Satire On What We Are Becoming!,
This review is from: Brave New World (Hardcover)
As critic and best-selling author Neil Postman points out so well in the introduction to his book "Amusing Ourselves To Death", we have congratulated ourselves prematurely by figuring we made it past the totalitarian nightmare state depicted in George Orwell's gripping cautionary tale "1984". Perhaps, Postman suggests, we should remember another visionary totalitarian nightmare scenario and use it to critically examine the contemporary state of social and psychological well-being. Of course he was referring to Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World, written before Orwell's by 15 or so years, and even more frightening in its own way in the world it describes. More and more, that frightening vision looks like our contemporary world.
Picture his ironic portrait of a populace doped into Nirvana on "soma" (read Prozac and Zoloft), isolated and diverted by petty preoccupations in mindless trivial pursuits (read video games and internet surfing to all the porno sites), oblivious to anything not directly pertaining to themselves and totally unaware of the degree to which they are being socially, economically, and politically co-opted. Beginning to sound more familiar? Remember, says Huxley, brute force is not the only method an oligarchy can use to influence, manage, and finally control our hard-won freedoms and liberties; it can be done with over-indulgence and the deliberate fertilization and promulgation of apathy through self-absorption, as well.
Even Huxley says (circa 1960, almost 30 years after the original publication) in the preface of the revised version of the book that he is alarmed as to how quickly the sort of events he figured might take a hundred years such as the appearance of political internationalism and transnational corporate entities are already arising and beginning to control more and more of the substance of our social, economic, and political lives. Just how much do we know other than what we hear and see on television, for example? Yet the electronic media is owned and managed by transnational corporations. Ever wonder why we never heard much muckraking news coverage of the NAFTA or GATT deals even though many recogized the two bills would radically change the nature of international trade? Perhaps the transnationals didn't want too much hype or fuss. Starting to feel uncomfortable yet? Still, people keep insisting this was just a whimsical work of fiction, that it was a parable, that he really wasn't serious.
Want to find out more? Read this book, but do so slowly, taking notes, recognizing how many contemporary parallels there are to each of the "whimsical details" he conjures up, and then figure out in your own mind how very close he was to prognosticating just how far we have come toward the "Brave New World" in which everyone's soul and awareness is for sale. The kids are wowed by the recent movie The Matrix", yet few appreciate just how much of a fabled existence we are already living in. No pain, no sorrow, no trouble of any kind. Instead, we have our individual and collective consciousness "managed" pharmaceutically; our psyches eased into blithering bliss with "soma", our diminishing attention spans sidetracked and occupied by petty diversions and endless entertainments. Pass me the corndogs, honey!
But, hey! Don't touch that dial; Regis is on! They may retry OJ! What did Bill Clinton really do with that cigar? Have you seen the latest news about the stock market? Did you get any of that new beer they're advertising? it's supposed to make me a real ladies man....What's the latest gadget? Can I buy one on-line? By the way, where are the kids? Hell, never mind, just turn up the volume; I think I know the answer to that question Regis just asked... Meanwhile, folks, our awareness of what is going on around us, our rights and our liberties are being power-washed away, obliterated, and we cannot even see it happening in front of us. We are diverted, distracted, content in our own little worlds. So welcome to our nightmare. Better beware; it just looks like Nirvana. It's really another "Brave New World".
89 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Important Science Fiction Book Ever Written,
I've put off reviewing Brave New World, as I thought I wouldn't be able to give an unbiased review. But, after re-reading the book for the tenth time (or so), I decided to give it a shot. Brave New World is the most important science fiction novel ever written. Not necessarily the best, not necessarily the best-written, but the most important. It is very good and very well written, but those are subjective points open to debate.
Brave New World, published some ten years before Orwell's more popular, anti-Communist 1984, imagines a world where people are conditioned from the moment of their birth to be part of an economic and intelligence-based caste, where the media exists for the sole purpose of distracting people from the humdrum of their lives and news is created as sensationalist entertainment, where different thinking is treated with social ostracization or drugs or both, and where the rule of the entire society is maximizing consumption of material goods. In short, not unlike the world today, and America in particular.
BNW (the society outlined in the book) is a Capitalist and Freudian Hell, where people are manipulated to buy things they don't need and conditioned to be perfect molds for that manipulation. The book follows three main characters: Helmholtz, a reporter who realizes the truth about BNW, Bernard Marx, a man who ultimately succumbs to the ostracizing criticism of his so-called "friends," and John Savage, an outsider who grew up with books and without the benefit of BNW's conditioning. All three eventually come to the same conclusions about BNW: that it is a society based on dictatorship-like control for the sole purpose of increasing consumer-base for a large, unnamed corporation-government.
As politicians are increasingly bought off with "campaign contributions" from corporations and special interests, news media is funneled into networks owned by five white men; physical and mental health is disregarded as the Randian, Capitalist mantra of "maximize profits no matter what" destroys basic human dignity; and everything from wars to game shows are turned into video-games for our amusement, it becomes very difficult not to make the prophetic connections between Huxley's vision and today's society. In BNW, there are no protests because people don't care. There are no dissenters because they are mocked into submission when they don't squeeze into the hole designed for them. Take a stroll through modern America, and things aren't much different.
"Brave New World" is important because it, not 1984, is the vision of the future. In a world turning into a Capitalist "Utopia," where maximization of profits is the norm and consumption of material goods supercedes all else, one cannot help but shudder at Huxley's words. The point is made even more evident when one realizes there is no Iceland or Falkland Islands to which we can escape: when Buddhists temples in Tibet have Coca-Cola machines, it's not difficult to see the tendrils of capitalism-gone-wrong everywhere, dark and inescapable. Good luck trying to figure out how to deal with it, besides "if you can't beat it, join it," the biggest cop-out answer someone can offer - along with the Savage's solution at the end. It can be done, however, even though the answer might not be immediately obvious.
This is a science-fiction classic and a book that everyone should read. Forget 1984: the Communists lost. Unfortunately, the Capitalists aren't doing much better - in BNW, most people are just blissfully ignorant of the Truth, rather than oppressed and numbed by it on a daily basis.
Grade: The ultra-rare A+
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Relevant,
It's useful to keep in mind that Brave New World was first published in 1932. This is not the most subtle novel that you'll have read, nor the most lyrical, but in my opinion much of what makes this novel a classic is it's originality. Orwell's 1984, to which Brave New World is often compared, was more than fifteen years from being published,. This was before Ray Bradbury, Phillip Dick, or Isaac Asimov. Some of these comparisons are more relevant than others, but the point is that the genre of futurism and science fiction had not yet been born.
Brave New World can be read as a critique of the direction in which our civilization is headed, but on another level it can be interpreted as a critique of where we already are.
During the tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, the scene which opens the book, the Director Mr. Foster states that the secret of happiness and virtue is "liking what you've got to do...making people like their un-escapable social destiny." Those of us who through luck of birth have grown up in Western free market economies have embraced the concept of creating our own destinies, but for the vast majority of the inhabitants of our planet life's reality is much different. The concept of an "un-escapable social destiny" is not a futuristic nightmare, but a reality of the present; workers don't have their growth stunted through alcohol in their decanting fluid, but through malnutrition and disease.
Perhaps Huxley's clearest statement is in favor of being awake and aware of society's ills, rather than blinding ourselves. In Huxley's brave new world, individuals achieve Foster's goal of embracing their destiny largely by staying busy, avoiding any reflection, denying their mortality, and drowning themselves in the drug soma whenever a problem arises. Brave New World carries a heavy anti-drug message, which is ironic in that Huxley would later become heavily involved in the psychedelic drug culture and would be considered one of the godfathers of the hippie movement .
Huxley is a bit heavy handed in suggesting that society much pick one of two extremes (either the madness of the savage or the sterile soul-less utopia of the controllers) but in the end he uses this device to show us that there are choices to be made. An interesting observation, and one that is rarely noted, is that in the closing debate between the World Controller Mustapha Mond and the Savage, it's Mond's argument Huxley makes more convincing - or at least that is articulated more clearly. In the end the reader accepts neither, in that both represent an unacceptable extreme, but Huxley makes the point that the emotions of passion, ambition, love, and glory come with the costs of jealousy, violence, and suffering.
This is a clever novel, and at times unexpectedly funny, but in my opinion I'm not sure that Brave New World ranks as great literature. In the areas of character development, dialogue, and structure it's in many ways forgettable. What makes the novel interesting is its timelessness. We now face new threats, from terrorism to nuclear war, but the novel's core message is a relevant today as it was in 1932.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A nightmarish utopia,
In "Brave New World," Aldous Huxley illustrates his vision of the future in which rapid advances in science and technology lead to increasing public confusion, which causes governments to impose more and more control until they become entirely totalitarian. As society becomes more industrialized, products become more homogeneous and standardized, art and expression become less important, and personal individuality is gradually lost. In such a world, a government would attempt to keep its population as happy and content as possible by "conditioning" the people from birth to accept and love their assigned work and their respective places in society. Such people would need to be deprived of emotional stimulation so as not to get any subversive ideas, so artistic expression would have to be curtailed. (There is no need for art in a society of people who are always happy and content.) The perpetuation of civilization and society would have to be more important than the value of the individual.
The novel's main action is in London in the year A.F. 632 (it doesn't take long to figure out what A.F. stands for). Human reproduction and gestation is handled in laboratories where bottled embryos are separated into caste systems, from Alpha (the highest) to Epsilon (the lowest). All embryos are conditioned for certain jobs; Alphas are conditioned to be the most intelligent and receive the most education, while Epsilons are reserved for the most menial jobs. The different castes are segregated and identified by the color of the clothes they wear. To keep everybody happy and ensure civil obedience, a depression-fighting drug called "soma" is officially distributed. There is no art for art's sake; the only music that exists is always synthetic and is purely functional, as are the "feelies," movies with tactile and aromatic as well as visual and aural signals.
A keen point of interest is the book's reference to Henry Ford. Ford, one of the great industrialists, is a symbol of the semination of the industrialized society of the Brave New World, a sort of patron saint of the assembly line and mass production. The fact that "Ford" rhymes with "Lord" provides the novel with its prevalent running joke. Huxley seems to have had the same kind of sarcastic or facetious respect for Ford that many people today have for Bill Gates.
While the beginning of the novel serves to describe the Society and introduce a few main characters, the novel's conflict arises when a "Savage" named John, who was born and raised outside of the industrialized world in a New Mexico Indian reservation, is brought to London as a subject for study. From reading Shakespeare as a youth, John has acquired compassion, sensitivity, and artistic and religious aesthetic (Huxley almost seems to imply that Shakespeare is a sort of gateway to a higher consciousness), and is horrified by the lack of emotion and morality of the inhabitants of the Brave New World. John makes a conscious decision to foresake the synthetic happiness of the Brave New World and return to living freely and naturally, but he finds that he cannot escape public scrutiny so easily.
Huxley's writing has an almost cinematic quality; he is like a cutting-edge film director who edits scenes and shifts focus between various characters quickly for maximum dramatic effect. Even his images of large mechanical systems are poetic and, from an engineering standpoint, accurately detailed. To me, that's the icing on the cake for this richly conceived treatise on a nightmarish utopia.
104 of 122 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Because this IS a Brave New World,
About 70 years ago Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World, in hopes of setting off a "semi-serious alarm" as to what will happen in the future. This book deals with the problems of religion, science, art, politics, sex, drugs, and mostly every aspect that can effect one's life. And needless to say most of his predictions came true. This really amazes me and should really amaze anybody who reads it. However, I don't recommend Brave New World to most people. For several reasons, one being that this book is written in a VERY whimsical style. For example, in the end of Chapter 3, snippets of conversations are taken and jumbled up (this may seem easy to tackle; but trust me, it isn't). Second, the book is very confusing at times, this isn't a book you can read with the radio is on, you need all you attention toward the book (or else deciphering it is impossible). Third, the book has MANY very deep meanings. Huxley some how placed all of the problems of society into a book 250 pages, and you could easily assume that it is chuck full of content. Personally this is one of my favorite books. Brave New World's style is very original, nothing like I have read before. Its message it bitingly powerful, and shows exactly what this world is headed for. But for everybody who says this is better than Orwell's 1984 (or vice versa) are mistaken. The books have very little in common. Orwell is taking about totalitarianism and its various faults, Huxley is talking about the effects of Social Utopianism. So for anybody who hasn't read either, don't be mistaken by the fools who think otherwise.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars By Ford, Don't Bogart the Soma!,
This was one of those books that I know that I should have read, half convinced myself that I had read, told everybody that I had read, but in fact hadn't. I finally got around to it. Although Huxley's novel might not merit the label of "great literature," it is a book that has exerted an amazing influence on the intellectual world of the twentieth century and in light of recent events, remains as relevant as ever. Huxley's world of science gone amuck - where traditional ideas of morality have been forgotten, where new birth is gestated in bottles on conveyor belts, where individuality has been annihilated, and where well being and hope are dispensed in a pill - has conveniently served the purposes of those who like to argue their own political, economic and moral stances. Thus, those fervent proponents of capitalism and the western traditions see Huxley's utopia as a perfect model for those "ungodly" communist and socialist states where the individual is sacrificed for the common good; those same socialist and communist proponents see this same utopia as a model for the greedy capitalist states where consumption and exploitation have become a religion; and those moralists among us, of course, see the Brave New World as an example of what happens when traditional values of family, sex, and marriage are cast to the winds.
Huxley approaches his subject from the viewpoint of a scientist and the style of the novel is that of scientific exposition. Little concern is given to character development or to the use of descriptive prose to create atmosphere or emotion. The plot plods along just like one of the conveyor belts in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, and just when the reader gets a little weary, the author astutely throws in a bit of titilation to re-gain the reader's flagging attention.
Even this reader sees Huxley's utopia in a special way. After the events of 9/11 it appears that the American public, conditioned by the present administration, has made security paramount in their lives. Huxley's World State's motto is COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY, all of which seems innocuous enough. These traits can be viewed as being admirable. But this motto is much more than just another motto; it was created as an aftermath to a cataclysmic war in which anthrax bombs were exploding with a sound "hardly louder than the popping of a paper bag." The Resident Controller for Western Europe, musing on the war, states that "liberalism, of course, was dead of anthrax." I just hope that this pre-occupation with security will not create a new motto for a new American society, one that sacrifices individual liberties for the notion that we must be secure above all else, a condition ephemeral at best. Huxley's world, as he was to remark some years after the book's initial apperance, is probably closer than anybody could have imagined.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Reviewed by bookshelfish.blogspot.com,
This review is from: Brave New World (Paperback)
This is one of those books that I have been wanting to read for about twenty years, have started a few times, have been somewhat uneasy about my ignorance of - and now, finally, I did it. Was it worth the long wait? Did I spend my time wondering just what on earth had been the delay, delighting in a classic that had almost gotten away from me, ready to pass it on to friends and review it glowingly for you, my trusting public?
A Brave New World is, in my opinion, one of the most overrated books I have ever read. There are so many flaws in this story and silliness in the writing I scarcely know where to begin. It isn't that there are no redeeming factors to it - although there are few. However, to have this book anywhere near a list of classics or must reads, or (I can hardly believe it) greatest books of the twentieth century, is laughable. Yes, I do realize that sometimes a good book can suffer because of it's lofty reputation and often will not quite live up to what the reader expects. With that in mind, I tried to be objective and shelve any preconceived ideas I had about it. Even taking this rather liberal view, though, I just did not like it.
To start, my first objection is the lack of depth to this new world. The picture Huxley paints is incomplete. At no time does one lose oneself in this society, feeling the air the characters breath and tasting the food they taste. One doesn't cry when they cry or laugh when they laugh. It all remains sort of cerebral. The characters are weak, perhaps intentionally so. There is nobody to like or dislike, there is no protagonist. The whole thing reads like a first draft that desperately needs to be fleshed out a bit.
Furthermore,the one thing that Huxley seems to really want to hit us over the head with is sex. The characters all "have" each other all the time, having another person being as routine as going to coffee with them. The problem is this is quite literally the overarching idea of the whole book. If one can recall anything of A Brave New World weeks after reading the book, it is that sex is readily available (as are drugs). Apparently, if you glean nothing else from this book, you really, really need to glean that much. This free love is celebrated very easily because the theories of Freud have been manipulated and adapted to the point that the notion of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers is obsolete; birth control is carried on a woman's person all the time and everyone is completely autonomous. It is an interesting subject and one that could have been explored much better if Huxley had wanted to; but he seems satisfied with an almost adolescent preoccupation with highly attractive women armed with birth control and ready to fornicate all the time. The concept never gets much further than that.
The world Huxley imagines is one where all languages except English have ceased to exist (although there are different castes of peoples which bear such titles as Alpha, Beta, etc.) This inconsistency is never addressed. What Huxley must have thought was a clever play on words in switching "Lord" (God) for "Ford" (creator of the assembly line) is repeated ad nauseam throughout the book. Laboratories produce scores of identical twins all designed to enjoy factory work, and children are reared in state-run nurseries where they are brainwashed in their sleep and - Huxley never avoiding a chance to mention sex - they are encouraged to engage in erotic play with another. These amateurish ideas are littered throughout the book and make it more of a comedy than a commentary. Further reducing the book's sophistication is the amazing coincidence of the main characters running into a "savage" on one of their trips who just happens to be the spawn of one their own kind (a civilized person). The odysseys of this savage into the modern world is a storyline for which I simply had difficulty drumming up enthusiasm. It revealed nothing of human nature other than pat, simplistic assertions that it is better to live life properly, pain and all, than to spend it having random sex and taking drugs. Which I do not find to be an earth shattering theses.
To compare this book to 1984, which many do, is an insult to a book that I consider to be a masterpiece. I have re-read 1984 many times and never fail to enjoy it; I had difficulty reading A Brave New World even once. While there is some enjoyment to be found in the ideas put forth in this "classic", it is about the same amount of enjoyment one would get from reading a paper written by a junior in high school entitled, 'What I think the Future Would Look Like,' - a paper that would, no doubt, be censored by her teacher for being too preoccupied with sex and excessive in uninteresting puns.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking,
By A Customer
I often rate a book/movie/etc by what new ideas it offers to me as a reader, and this book gets the highest rating based on that criterion alone. Huxley's ideas on how a utopian state would function is thoroughly absorbing. Take, for example, how Huxley describes the "conditioning" of the kids so that they behave in a certain way. The scene in the beginning of the book in which the babies are conditioned to hate books and flowers is chilling and amazing. The nature of relationships in this world are also interesting, as people are encouraged to have as many partners as possible and are forbidden to actually "love" a person. That is definitely a teenage boy's wet dream. Huxley could have really dug deep and explored the nature of relationships in this world, but he doesn't do so. He is more interested in the institutions that keep the people in a permanent state of happiness, than in the people themselves. This could be a reason why, while ideas and processes are well-described in this book, character development often suffers.
Comparisons with 1984 cannot be avoided. Brave New World is better at describing the workings of the state and how the different "departments" of the state function to control the people in the state. 1984, on the other hand, tells its tale more from the point of view of the people being controlled, which is why it gives the reader a better emotional connection with its well-developed characters and relationships. In conclusion, I would say both books are must-reads as they will offer different things to you as a reader.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Paperback - October 17, 2006)