Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

  General / Favorable Reviews
  Critical Reviews
  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. .

-Michael J. Mazza


  ...not the most over rated novel ever written - but it comes close.  ***

Because Brave New World and 1984 both tread on similar ground, comparisons are inevitable. The novels are very different in tone though, reflecting the period in which they were written. Orwell's cold war era novel presents a world that is bleak and brutal and heavily influenced by events in Soviet Russia. Orwell wanted 1984 to be a realistic portrayal of what the world would be like under a totalitarian regime.

Brave New World was written in 1931, before the world became aware of Stalin's atrocities, before the rise of Hitler, and before WW II, and as a result it is hopelessly naive compared to cold war era novels, like 1984.

Some reviews would have you believe that Huxley has predicted the future with startling accuracy - but this is just ridiculous. Anyone can read any novel set in the future and find at least some part of it reminiscent of the way things are today. It's not much different than reading your horoscope and convincing yourself that it was written just for you. The world Huxley presents in Brave New World bares only a superficial resemblance to present day (or any likely future).

But I don't actually think Huxley was trying to predict the future. He wanted to say something about Britain's rigid class structure, about the materialistic nature of society, and about what it means to be happy. He set his novel in the future so he could exaggerate aspects of society as a form of social commentary. Brave New World is satire. It was never meant to be realistic.

Novels like Brave New World and 1984 spend a considerable amount of time explaining the way things are in the imagined future. This can be interesting, but it's no substitute for a story. Brave New World, unfortunately, lacks a strong narrative flow. Our protagonist isn't even introduced until half way through the novel.

Brave New World isn't terrible but the lack of a clear voice and the absence of even one likeable character made it difficult for me to feel engaged. John, the savage rebel is so earnest and idealistic and has such a pathetically romanticized view of the world that I didn't find him particularly interesting. The ending of the novel was inevitable, given the character's obsession with the tragedies of William Shakespeare. I suppose we are meant to be moved by the events in the final few pages - but I wasn't. This is the biggest problem with the novel. Huxley may give us a vision of the future that is intriguing, but he doesn't deliver a story that engages us or give us a character we can care about.

Brave New World is worth reading as a curiosity but despite its potential, Huxley's novel fails to deliver on its promise.

-J. Noburn



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