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Brave New World Paperback – October 17, 2006
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"Community, Identity, Stability" is the motto of Aldous Huxley's utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a "Feelie," a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing and senses his relationship with a young women has the potential to be much more than the confines of their existence allow. Huxley foreshadowed many of the practices and gadgets we take for granted today--let's hope the sterility and absence of individuality he predicted aren't yet to come. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Grade 8 Up-Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a classic science fiction work that continues to be a significant warning to our society today. Tony Britton, the reader, does an excellent job of portraying clinical detachment as the true nature of the human incubators is revealed. The tone lightens during the vacation to the wilderness and the contrast is even more striking. Each character is given a separate personality by Britton's voices. As the story moves from clinical detachment to the human interest of Bernard, the nonconformist, and John, the "Savage," listeners are drawn more deeply into the plot. Finally, the reasoned tones of the Controller explain away all of John's arguments against the civilization, leading to John's death as he cannot reconcile his beliefs to theirs.The abridgement is very well done, and the overall message of the novel is clearly presented. The advanced vocabulary and complex themes lend themselves to class discussion and further research. There is sure to be demand for this classic in schools and public libraries.
Pat Griffith, Schlow Memorial Library, State College, PA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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At my old age I decided to return to the Huxley's book - I remembered only a few things, the caste system, the strange combination of words 'orgy porgy' and a few details.
I am very satisfied I read the book again. I vaguely remember that more than half century ago I most likely skipped the 'philosophical' discussions between Savage and the Controller. They are still very much relevant today - we are surely more close to the 'brave new world' now than decades ago. 1984 was a more proper image of those years and some events of the fifties were vitually described in Koestler's Darkness at Noon.
Now we are back to many issues of the consumer society satirized by Huxley by his extrapolations. We do not have the universal 'soma' but a plethora of illicit or 'prescription' drugs that keep many people in an altered state of apparent happiness.
The thirties of the last century - before Hitler's and Stalin's murderous power grabs - are bit closer to the first decade of 21st century than we may be aware of.
The only issue that is a sheer fantasy in the book is its complete determinism based on environment. Somehow, the society manages to completely (OK, with a few exceptions) determine human lives regardless of genetics, just by manipulating the vats used for gestation. This betrays a certain ideology I consider extremely unrealistic: we surely depend on the conditioning before and after our birth but our genes are as important as the environment. Heredity is mentioned in the book in passing but the whole caste system - extreme to the point of sheer fantasy - has nothing to do with it.
Interesting for an English author who grew up in a society based very much on hereditary privileges. He may have been a prototype for his Mr. Savage - rejecting his society 'values' completely.
"...In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your mortality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears--that's what soma is..." "...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..."
This dialogue between the Controller and the Savage sums up "Brave New World." It is a fantastical place where there is complete societal order, where there is no disease, no famine, and no war. But there is also no freedom. This is the third time I've read this book, and, quite honestly, there are still sections where I have no idea what is going on. This is not the kind of book you can read once (ala Hunger Games) and have it all down. It's the kind of book where you need to read it as you progress in your life, because it will have different meanings for you at different moments, and at various times. For instance, I read this at the end of High School and thought it was the worst book ever. I skimmed much of it as it didn't seem to make any sense. At the advice of a friend, I re-read it in College, and low and behold, it started to make some sense. Now this third time, I can say even more of it clicked.
There are unforgettable sequences, particularly the opening one (i.e. with the babies), the "orgy," and the shock and awe inspired by a "Savage." (MAJOR SPOILER) The character arc for the main protagonist, Bernard Marx, is most interesting, as he turns into what he hates most, then, for whatever reason, doesn't want to leave the Brave New World he at once hated.
I've heard from a lot of people the US is becoming more and more the Brave New World, where we worship consumerism, and are moving away from God.
(MINOR SPOILERS) I would say that while we've certainly had our freedom chipped away from within (i.e. the Patriot Act), we remain one of the more free societies on earth. We aren't yet hatched and forced into castes. I hear you protesting: but, Americans do make the sign of the A, while some 50 million (give or take) pop Zoloft daily, and contraception is being thrown at our teenagers. (In BNW the sign of the T, as in Model-T Ford, is placed instead of the sign of the cross, and today's equivalent would undoubtedly be Apple; soma is used to placate the masses and I'm assuming would be equivalent to a Zoloft, though at times, particularly during the orgy or during the "holidays," it sounds more like Ecstacy or Special K.) Alas, this is another reason BNW is a 5-star classic; it has in a lot of ways held true for the structure of our society today. (END SPOILERS)
My recommendation is to read this book. There will be sections where you say to yourself, "I have no idea what's happening, or who's talking," but stick with it. It all comes together, and the unforgettable parts make it worth it, particularly the middle and the very end.