Brave New World
By Aldous Huxley
First Published: 1932
Review © 2010 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Science Fiction, Utopian/Dystopian, Literature
Brave New World is one of the few science fiction classics that are also generally considered a classic of literature. This novel, along with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 are probably the most famous literature classics that also fall into the science fiction category. All three are also in the subcategory of utopian/dystopian fiction. Besides the fact that these 3 novels contain quality writing, they also all contain scary projections or warnings about where the future could lead. Nineteen Eighty-Four is the most famous of these novels with the iconic image of “Big Brother” but for my money, Brave New World is the best.
Brave New World starts off with a tour of a new kind of factory that produces human babies through methods of mass production. Natural birth has been completely eliminated in civilized countries. Test tube reproduction has been optimized with the ability to divide the fertilized eggs to create up to 96 identical eggs from the original. This allows whole factories to be staffed with identical workers. In addition, different levels of intelligence are purposefully developed so that jobs can be matched to workers with an appropriate intelligence for the job. I could go on but for more fascinating details, you should read the novel.
The novel continues with further descriptions of a civilization that has finally succeeded in eliminating war. It has also eliminated traditional religions which have been replaced with consumerism and instant gratification of all needs. If any individual starts to experience discontentment or unhappiness, they can pop a few Soma pills, a drug that help make anyone feel good and forget about all troubles. Huxley does a great job of creating a fully realized future described with a generous amount of satire as he finds ways to poke fun at just about every aspect of society.
Within this fascinating future, we meet Bernard who is very unusual in that something happened during his test tube gestation which left him in with a substandard physique. He also has personality issues from not being like everyone else that cause him unhappiness. Somehow he manages to convince an attractive co-worker to go with him on a vacation to visit a “savage” reservation where American Indians continue to live traditionally apart from the civilized world. When Bernard finds a young “half breed” named John among the Indians, he brings him back to England where John becomes a celebrity as a curiosity. John experiences extreme culture shock and is horrified with many of the sacrifices civilization has made in order to create a stable society. However, John, dubbed “Mr. Savage” by the press, finds it impossible to convince civilized people that his ideas have any merit.The most fascinating aspect of Brave New World is how many of Huxley’s imagined projections have actually come into existence or have very strong parallels to our present world. This includes test tube babies, the rise of rampant consumerism, the rise of multinational corporations that threaten to dominate world politics, the focus on instant gratification, the increasing reliance on mood altering drugs, etc. Reading this novel stimulates thoughts on just about every subject. If you haven’t read Brave New World, do yourself a favor and read it. It might not fall into the category of a pure pleasure read but everyone should take the time to be exposed to the ideas in this book in order to get an idea of how far our current world has traveled on the path to Huxley’s future.