Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Posted May 17, 2014 in Book Review / 2 Comments

Brave New World by Aldous HuxleyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Published by Harper Perennial Modern Classics on July 5th 2003 (first in 1958)
Genres: Classics, Dystopia, Science fiction
Pages: 340
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift
Buy on Amazon
The astonishing novel Brave New World, originally published in 1932, presents Aldous Huxley's vision of the future -- of a world utterly transformed. Through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering, people are genetically designed to be passive and therefore consistently useful to the ruling class. This powerful work of speculative fiction sheds a blazing critical light on the present and is considered to be Huxley's most enduring masterpiece.
Following Brave New World is the nonfiction work Brave New World Revisited, first published in 1958. It is a fascinating work in which Huxley uses his tremendous knowledge of human relations to compare the modern-day world with the prophetic fantasy envisioned inBrave New World, including threats to humanity, such as overpopulation, propaganda, and chemical persuasion.
Main Points
Writing Style
The writing was all right. Once you got past the beginning, it was understandable for the most part. The introduction in the first few chapters was very technical and a bit confusing, but it was very helpful in world-building.

Plot (no life-changing spoilers)
Okay. How shall I sum this up so it’s short, sweet, and understandable? 
Hm. A very structured society. A caste system. Each caste is conditioned from birth (or creation- it’s basically a test-tube-baby society) to be happy with their caste and think certain things, mainly along the lines of life is great. Happiness is of the utmost importance, and all the negative things in society have been eliminated. They have a happiness drug called soma that they take whenever they want. Their lives are the perfect balance of work and leisure (which is limited in activities). Being alone is evil. The whole concept of mothers/fathers/family is evil and kind of gross. Everybody belongs to everybody else. They make love to whomever they want and don’t form lasting strong relationships (lest they have a family- oh the horror!).
I think I’ve covered everything.
And then of course there’s dear old Bernard, the one dissenter in the society. There always has to be one. He doesn’t necessarily fall for the propaganda that the others do, and is consequently shunned by a lot of people.
But Lenina is intrigued. She doesn’t understand him, but she likes him. She says he is ‘queer’ and ‘odd’. 
You know, I hate to spoil this for you, but dear Lenina doesn’t ever change. This isn’t a story of her learning to go against the society that shaped her. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s about Bernard. The main character role seems to shift from him to another later on.
It all starts when they go to the Savage Reservation. Bernard and Lenina go on holiday there, and meet John, the son of a woman who was once part of their society before becoming lost and saved by the Savages (Native Americans). John is basically the white boy who has grown up with the Native customs, but he has heard of their structured society (I’ll call it London). He goes back with them and the second part of the story is about his transition and rebellion. Of course, he isn’t conditioned, so he can’t understand these people and their weird mannerisms at all. 
The ending, though. We have a massive breakthrough- John talking reality with the World Controller, who isn’t brainwashed but rather does the brainwashing- and then the sudden ending. I felt like it could have opened up a whole nother chapter. I felt like we needed to see more of Bernard, who kind of takes the backseat to John in the second half of the story. In fact, I’m not even sure exactly what did happen in the end. It was all so vague and so sudden (to me at least). But after the breakthrough, I was kind of ready for it to end. So I guess it was fitting and satisfying.
The main theme- or controversial issue- of this book was most likely the way society viewed sexuality. It was completely opposite how society today views it. Family was taboo (because people were all test-tube babies! Who needs family?) and being a slut was glorified, even expected. Even required. Children were taught from a young age about sexual matters. It was part of their conditioning. They also had death-conditioning, so that death would be viewed as just part of the process and nothing to be feared. So some parts of the conditioning (brainwashing) were good and some were bad. I suppose.
Let me do a comparison real quick. The matter of brainwashing=happiness was also a key issue in the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. The question was this: Is it better to be brainwashed and happy, or right-minded and able to experience ALL the emotions? How important is happiness, really? In Brave New World, it became apparent that happiness was the entire point of everything. Each member of each caste was conditioned so they would be perfectly satisfied with the caste they were in, even if it was the lowest of the low. All the problems in society were eliminated by the World Controllers so the people would be happy. They were given rations of soma to take as they pleased. Soma, the happiness-inducing drug. Everything seemed to serve to maintain happiness.
But hey. If everybody’s happy, nobody is.
Lenina: She was a bit of a disappointment, actually. She had very little character growth, if any.
John: I thought he was going to be the hero and save everyone from brainwashing, but it just wasn’t that kind of book. Instead, he turns out to be super religious and even resorts to flagellation which I thought was a bit much. Not exactly where I expected it to go.
Bernard: I also thought he was going to be some kind of hero (in the first half, at least) but then he becomes this really weak characters who isn’t all that loyal…Well, that at least was predictable.
The world-building was amazing. The whole first two chapters were devoted to it, and while the language was scientific, technical and confusing, it got better and overall it was very well done. It was fairly believable. Pretty much every aspect of life was accounted for.

Good vs. Bad


  • setting
  • plot
  • writing
  • themes

Less than perfect:
  • ending
  • technical language
  • characters

Bottom Line
This was a well-written exploration of futuristic possibilities involving social structuring, values, and happiness (among others). The world-building was excellent, very detailed. The characters, however, lacked growth throughout the novel and the ending was rather abrupt and not totally clear. Would I read more by this author? Not likely. Would I recommend this book to others? If they enjoy the philosophical sort of books.

About Aldous Huxley

Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. He spent the latter part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1963. Best known for his novels and wide-ranging output of essays, he also published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts. Through his novels and essays Huxley functioned as an examiner and sometimes critic of social mores, norms and ideals. Huxley was a humanist but was also interested towards the end of his life in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism. By the end of his life Huxley was considered, in some academic circles, a leader of modern thought and an intellectual of the highest rank.

Overall: four-stars


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2 Comments on "Brave New World by Aldous Huxley"

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Nicole Hewitt

I remember really loving Brave New World, but I’d never heard of Brave New World revisited. I’ll have to check that out!

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Alicia the Awesome

It’s basically a series of essays that Huxley wrote years after Brave New World was published, examining some of the themes in the story (that had come to pass or still hadn’t) in greater detail. It’s quite interesting, you should check it out!