Through the eyes of a savage
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.