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Brave New World Paperback – October 18, 2006
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From the Back Cover
Aldous Huxley's tour de force, Brave New World is a darkly satiric vision of a "utopian" future—where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying entertainment.
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Huxley came from an illustrious scientific family with social connections. His grandfather was Thomas Henry Huxley, Darwin’s close friend, publicist and “bulldog”, whose famous smackdown of Bishop Samuel Wilberforce has been relished by rationalists fighting against religious faith ever since. His brother was Julian Huxley, a famous biologist who among other accomplishments wrote a marvelous tome on everything that was then known about biology with H. G. Wells. Steeped in scientific as well as social discourse, possessing a deep knowledge of medical and other scientific research, Aldous was in an ideal position to write a far-reaching novel.
This he duly did. The basic premise of the novel sounds eerily prescient. Sometime in the near future, society has been regimented into a caste system where people are genetically engineered by the state in large state-run reproductive farms. Anticipating ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, only a select few women and men are capable of providing fertile eggs and sperm for this careful social engineering. The higher castes are strong, intelligent and charismatic. The lower castes are turgid, obedient and physically weak. They don’t begrudge those from the upper castes because their genetic engineering has largely removed their propensity toward jealousy and violence. Most notably, because reproduction is now the responsibility of the state, there is no longer a concept of a family, of a father or mother. There is knowledge of these concepts, but it’s regarded as archaic history from a past era and is met with revulsion.
How is this population kept under control? Not shockingly at all, through sex, drugs and rock and roll. Promiscuity is encouraged from childhood onwards and is simply a way of life, and everyone sleeps with everyone else, again without feeling jealousy or resentment (it was this depiction of promiscuity that led the book to be banned in India in the 60s). They flood their bodies with a drug called soma whenever they feel any kind of negative emotion welling up inside and party like there’s no end. They are brainwashed into believing the virtues of these and other interventions by the state through subliminal messages played when they are sleeping; such unconscious brainwashing goes all the way back to their birth. People do die, but out of sight, and when they are still looking young and attractive. Death is little more than a nuisance, a slight distraction from youth, beauty and fun.
Like Neo from ‘The Matrix’, one particular citizen of this society named Bernard Marx starts feeling that there is more to the world than would be apparent from this state of induced bliss. On a tryst with a particularly attractive member of his caste in an Indian reservation in New Mexico, he comes across a man referred to as the savage. The savage is the product of an illegitimate encounter (back when there were parents) between a member of a lower caste and the Director of Hatcheries who oversees all the controlled reproduction. He has grown up without any of the enlightened instruments of the New World, but his mother has kept a copy of Shakespeare with her so he knows all of Shakespeare by heart and frequently quotes it. Marx brings the savage back to his society. The rest of the book describes the savage’s reaction to this supposed utopia and its ultimately tragic consequences. Ultimately he concludes that it’s better to have free will and feel occasionally unhappy, resentful and angry than live in a society where free will is squelched and the population is kept bathed in an induced state of artificial happiness.
The vision of technological control in the novel is sweeping and frighteningly prescient. There is the brainwashing and complacent submission to the status quo that everyone undergoes which is similar to the messages provided in modern times by TV, social media and the 24-hour news cycle. There are the chemical and genetic interventions made by the state right in the embryonic stage to make sure that the embryos grow up with desired physical or mental advantages or deficiencies. These kinds of interventions are the exact kind feared by those wary of CRISPR and other genetic editing technologies. Finally, keeping the population preoccupied, entertained and away from critical thinking through sex and promiscuity is a particularly potent form of societal control that has been appreciated well by Victoria’s Secret, and that will not end with developments in virtual reality.
In some sense, Huxley completely anticipates the social problems engendered by the technological takeover of human jobs by robots and AI. Once human beings are left with nothing to do, how does the state ensure that they are prevented from becoming bored and restless and causing all kinds of trouble? In his book “Homo Deus”, Yuval Harari asks the same questions and concludes that a technocratic society will come up with distractions like virtual reality video games, new psychoactive drugs and novel forms of sexual entertainment that will keep the vast majority of unemployed from becoming bored and potentially hostile. I do not know whether Harari read Huxley, but I do feel more frightened by Huxley than by Harari. One reason I feel more frightened is because of what he leaves out; the book was published in 1932, so it omits any discussion of nuclear weapons which were invented ten years later. The combination of nuclear weapons with limitless societal control through technology makes for a particularly combustible mix.
The biggest prediction of Huxley’s dystopia, and one distinctly different from that made by Orwell or Kafka, is that instead of a socialist state, people’s minds are much more likely to be controlled in the near future by the leaders of technology companies like Google and Facebook who have formed an unholy nexus with the government. With their social media alerts and Fitbits and maps, the tech companies are increasingly telling us how to live our lives and distracting us from free thinking. Instead of communist regimes like the Soviet Union forcibly trampling on individual choice and liberty, we are already gently but willingly ceding our choices, privacy and liberties to machines and algorithms developed by these companies. And just like the state in Huxley and Orwell’s works, the leaders of these corporations will tell us why it’s in our best interests to let technology control our lives and freedom, when all the while it would really be in their best interests to tell us this. Our capitulation to their inventions will look helpful and voluntary and will feel pleasurable and even noble, but it will be no less complete than the capitulation of every individual in “Brave New World” or “1984”. The only question is, will there be any savages left among us to tell us how foolishly we are behaving?
DO NOT PURCHASE THE KINDLE VERSION.
This review is about the physical printed book, which is
"Brave New World: Special Edition"
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
I'd say this is the worst book I ever held in my hands. It is a complete nonsense, it is made by someone who never read a book in his life and doesn't know why would other people do that. They downloaded a free EPUB from some site on the internet and turned into a printed book.
There are no page numbers. There is a table of contents, like Chapter One, Chapter Two, but no numbers in it nor on the pages.
The text is printed in tiny Times New Roman with long lines and inadequate line spacing. it is almost impossible to read.
It all looks like a pirated text in an MS Word file.
The "Special Edition" is misleading. There is zero additional content in the book, not a word.
The original epigraph is missing.
A sailing ship painting on the cover. Seriously? Do they think it is a nautical novel?
I couldn't read it and I would be ashamed to donate it. It belongs to the recycle bin.
Stay away from this "CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform" joke of a publisher
Top international reviews
A beautifully crafted work of dark humour and foreboding, Huxley takes us to a future ( we don't know how far ahead as the year is given as AF631.) where humans are factory farmed. Their future caste established from conception, by selective nourishment or poisoning of the foetus throughout its growth (in a bottle).
Family doesn't exist, the very thought is repugnant. Children are conditioned to behave as befits the caste. Alpha pluses run the world with Epsilon semi-morons at the bottom of the ladder. All are kept in line with a dose of "soma" a happy pill that keeps the population under control.
No one really cares for anyone, everyone sleeps with everyone and the world is full of pretty,plastic music and calming aromas.
The question is what would happen if a normal person (a savage) dropped into this perfect world?
And also no art, no literature or true creation of any kind. No gods or spirituality, no adventure or surprises or passion of any kind, ever. No parents or families or friends or intimacy. No scientific advancement. No private thoughts. Everyone is for everyone else. Your time must be shared. You can never experience solitude and reflection. You can never have autonomy. Your words are not your own. Your body is not inviolate. If you are not like this you are shipped off to an island with the few other defective members of society who are like you. Whether that is lucky or unlucky is a matter of perspective.
Effing frightening stuff if ever I heard it. I loved this book more after I finished than when I was reading, because the challenge wasn't in accepting the world the characters inhabited, as it was really easy to digest because of its intentional tone (extraordinarily light, as if you're on a drug inducing you to be that way the entire time, hint hint), but accepting the world around me as being frighteningly familiar to it in some unsettling ways. It deosn't wholly reflect the world right now, but when it does it is in big ways. Though short it feeds enough into the psyche about our society as a whole, how we need suffering for heroism, mutual passion for love, pain and rejection for inspiration, and loss to understand the value of life - without these things creativity and progression are impossible. In Brave New World they are unwanted. Even sitting here now I'm remembering things that have so much more meaning after digesting than they did at the time. I suppose that's a good sign, being able to think...
Having been released in the 40s (and so forgiveness must be given for some more outdated things in it), I'm sure it was a frightening vision of the future like its fellow 1984. Nowadays, maybe it doesn't always get the same reception because we're slipping into a distracted world and are conditioned to not see it coming...even like it... There are so any things I could write now the layers are springing up, but I would probably write an essay. Or a book. It'd probably be something very much like this one.
As an added bonus, there was was also that moment I realised the film Demolition Man was clearly inspired by this book. That was a revelation.
So why only three stars? Well, although his vision of the future is still essential reading, Huxley's storytelling comes across extremely flat, and many of his points are woefully under-explored. None of the characters seems remotely relatable; most of the citizens of this brave new world are impossible to identify with (which makes sense given their conditioning) but the 'savage' should be the one character who explores the world from our 'primitive' point of view. His behaviour, however, is unconvincing and he makes some inexplicable choices, even when trying to frame his actions in a 1930s mindset.
There are some discussions about art, suffering and freedom but the 'savage' mostly loses these debates and Huxley never tries to show why his version of the future is so bad. By the way he leaves the story it seems that he feels that this is not a 'good' future but he never actually explores very far below the surface and fails to put across his own point of view completely. Whilst leaving things to the reader to decide is often the best policy, here it just feels like Huxley took an easy way out. He presents a future where everybody is happy, and the worst punishment is being sent to an 'island' with other like-minded people; this fails to present any downsides as nobody feels oppressed or downtrodden and even the lowest workers are conditioned to enjoy their lot in life. Orwell's 1984 makes us genuinely worried for the future and comes with a depth and clarity that leaves you thinking; Huxley's vision is far more superficial and lacks any feeling of depth or real conviction. Is Brave New World a warning or a manifesto? Huxley takes neither position and ends up leaving the reader cold.
It is a great work by a truly gifted author and intellectual but, as with many a gifted author, AH has a tendency at times to overwriting, turgidity and driving his messages home with a sledgehammer, beating one over the head with it time after time.
Published 85 years ago, AH’s “Brave New World” is one in which life is focussed on consumption, enabled by automated mass production; babies are produced in factories, in test tubes, and raised in state run dormitories; even talk of sexual reproduction and words such as mother, father and family are considered smutty; sex is purely a recreational activity; members of different strata of society are “manufactured”, by means of chemical manipulation and cloning of foetuses, and conditioned, by subliminal auditory messaging and aversion therapy, to be perfectly adapted to and completely happy with their lot; disease and the debilitating effects of aging have been eradicated; any concept of god has been eradicated; for relaxation and for when anything goes wrong, the happy drug “soma” is available – as one of the ten World Controllers puts it:
“The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma.”
The Savage, born and brought up on a squalid, backward, First Nation American (hope I got the PC stuff right there) reservation, comes slap bang into conflict with this, as summed up in a conversation between him and the Controller:
“‘But I like the inconveniences.’ ‘We don’t,’ said the Controller. ‘We prefer to do things comfortably.’ ‘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.’ ‘In fact,’ said Mustapha Mond, ‘you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.’ ‘All right, then,’ said the Savage defiantly, ‘I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.’ ‘Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.’ There was a long silence. ‘I claim them all,’ said the Savage at last.”
A lot of AH’s “Brave New World” is now within, or almost within, our reach, through genetic engineering, cloning, etc. – amazingly prescient and more than a bit scary.
Huxley's proposition for the future still works (for me) scientifically, even though written in 1932. It does not seem to have dated.
More importantly it works socially, postulating a very interesting genuinely possible outcome for society. Even more interesting is its timing: 1932, between the wars with the memories of WW1, the rise of facism & WW2 on the way, with mechanised manufacturing becoming supreme.
DON'T read the numerous introductions first! They are great but are full of spoilers. Margaret Atwood, along with Huxley's 1946 intro, are excellent afterwords!
It is just my opinion, but I don’t think ‘Brave New World’ is perfect – hence, the 4-star rating. It’s unbalanced, the pace feels too dragged at times, and it loses itself in minor details and situations that don’t bring much to the plot. 1984 makes a much better job in that sense: it strikes the reader with violence.
Brave New World does it, and does it well, but there are a few characters who feel flat, and a few others who have a stunning (d)evolution. It is a classic of dystopian literature, inspiring and mind blowing in the disturbing details of its society. And that is why I love it so much.
Writing anti-utopia stories properly is not easy. Huxley did it, in a way that will probably stick with me forever. And if you look beyond the story, you might see a few disturbing similarities with today’s society too – not too many. But they’re enough to make you startle as you approach the ending and its beautiful monologues on culture, freedom, and happiness.
But if you love dystopian literature and its classics, you MUST read ‘Brave New World’. The way it puts religion and ‘fordism’ in contrast, so different in their similarities, is pure genius and food for the mind. Read it if you like the genre, give it a chance regardless if you don’t.
Huxley presents us with an interesting vision of the future and I was fascinated by the parts on creating humans and programming them to have different levels of existence, essentially showing humans and robots. In fact I was really enjoying the book until we got to the colonies and discovered the Savage and brought him back to the ‘civilised world’. I then found myself losing interest and I struggled to care about the characters in any real detail.
Given that this book was written such a long time ago, it still reads well today but the storyline and characters were not that gripping for me.
Bearing in mind this book was first published in 1931 it is no wonder that some of the "predictions" appear quaint, or sometimes outlandish. This is not a science-fiction story it is about how, in a future world, the State controls its citizens. The "predictions" are secondary to the plot.
The story is set in the twenty-sixth century in a world free from War, Famine, Disease, Poverty and everybody has a job, but this comes at a price. The State controls your every move from even before you are born! It pre-determines your status and then after birth conditions each citizen to faithfully execute their designated job. In this society everybody is happy not least because the State provides all with drugs to ameliorate loneliness and unhappiness. There is no unrest unless the state sponsored drug supply is interrupted. In other words carefree happiness is guaranteed if you do as you are told.
Transplanted into this Brave New World is a man born outside this idyll. This man is unfettered by conditioning, or technology, and is known as "The Savage". His raw human emotions are unable to comprehend the modern morality. The thrust of the novel is about how he tries to reconcile these differences.
Although well written this story is not all easy reading. It breaks down taboos , such as sex and death, and turns the standards of the nineteenth century on its head. However, it is thought provoking. I don't think the author fully answers all the questions he raises, but leaves it up to the reader. Is that not the sign of a good read?
No spoilers but the ending is worth waiting for and it's a book that has been with me throughout my life. So I bought it for my father, and he's reading it incessantly, and the book itself looks really posh. Worth it just for the presentation even if not for the story!
The story revolves around Bernard, unhappy with the conditioning regime, realises he doesn't really fit in. He visits the land of savages and meets John and his mother Linda, a former member of the civilised world. John and Linda return with Bernard to experience the 'perfect life', and to experience everything that 'Ford' has created.
I found this book interesting but slightly scary, sad in parts leading to a heartbreaking end. I am glad I have read this intriguing dystopian classic everyone seems to praise so highly.
I won't spoil it for anyone else by story details, I respect the art too much for that. However. In my opinion, this is on the whole drivel. I found it at times extremely difficult to follow the confused narrative and the denouement to be very rushed and VERY unsatisfactory. In fact, it comes across as if it had to be finished by a deadline and the author ran out of time!
feel anything for themselves but could feel vicariously and be entertained by feeling.
Perhaps it felt all the more significant because of the dystopia the world is experiencing in 2020 due to Covid19.
Would definitely recommend.
Well worth picking up...