Aldous Huxley - Brave New World

Brian G Turner

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Brave New World is essentially about social and genetic conditioning. Whist that may be an interesting topic for reading – and was certainly magnificently far-thinking at the time of release – there isn't really a story here at all.


Essentially, this book is an essay – a treatise on the dangers of biological conditioning – approached through a more personal level of disclosure.


The characters are entirely forgettable – and, really, just constructs to comment on the issues of biological engineering. In fact, when some of the characters actually suggest some personality in the last third of the book, there is actually little to either recommend or identify with.


Is it worth reading? It certainly is in terms of its standing, its far-sightedness, and its general message. But do be warned that it has lost something of its gloss over time. Still, the message remains as pertinent now in our era of genetics.


Just don't be disillusioned – this isn't really a story – it's an endearing oratory on the dangers of social engineering through biological tampering and psychological conditioning. Thankfully, it's not a long book, which helps keep it all the more readable.
 

Dave

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I have just finished it and I tend to agree with you. The first third of the book feels like a lecture. It got interesting when they visited the Mexican reserve but I have to agree about the character development. I felt so little for Mr. Savage that after the last page I just thought, "So what?"

I think the treatise that for everyone to be totally happy in a society they must forgo independence and free thinking still holds true, but even their thoroughly modern society was only held together with the aid of Soma, and to me Soma was just handwavium and unobtainium. There is no drug that has no side effects and gives a high without a corresponding low to follow it.

You can tell how long ago it was written by some of the ideas - we all live in skyscrapers, they still have to find a telephone to make a call, and the radio reporter needs to keep his recording equipment in a tall hat with a huge battery strapped around his waist. I enjoyed it just for that idea alone.
 

EricWard

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It's definitely an interesting companion to 1984, where the same ends are accomplished with fear and pain as opposed to pleasure.

I still get enjoyment out of it, but I never really thought about the essay aspect until seeing this. Huxley was an essayist first and foremost, so I guess you can't fault someone for playing to their strengths. It's really one of those books where the lasting impact and discussion is greater than the story itself.
 

J-Sun

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Huxley didn't bother to hide it later - the "sequel", Brave New World Revisited, was a book-length essay. (Not really a sequel, of course, but an essay on how he saw the projections of Brave New World manifesting in the society of the 1950s.)
 

kythe

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It doesn't bother me that there is little in the way of interesting characterization in "Brave New World". Many older sci fi books were more about ideas than people. The whole "space opera" phenomenon and the "everything has to be an epic" trend really is more new, but not always innovative.

I thought the book was pretty good at expressing the author's views, but I disagree with the message. I don't believe that genetic and social engineering are inherently bad, and a future world involving these issues isn't likely to be as black and white as the world's of the savage vs. civilization.

There is another way to look at it too - it may not be truly futuristic, but just a parody of our current world. Let's face it - social engineering does start before birth (what kind of family you are born into) and continues throughout life. It's what discipline, teaching, and laws are all about. Those who don't fit in with the expectations their parents, friends, colleagues, and the law place on them are ostracized or punished until they either fit in or are removed from society. We are all products of conditioning.

Books like this try to display a dystopian future as a warning, so we learn what we do not want to be like. But we live in a dystopian present already. The "Brave New World" doesn't really portray a horror we need to avoid. It isn't perfect by any means, but neither is the world we live in now. It just has a different set of problems than we do.

After all, most people in the society of "Brave New World" are satisfied with their lives as they are. The few that aren't are sent away to islands that specialize in different things. People may be given a choice of where to go so they can develop as they want to. Everyone "wins". Very few truly come to a sorry end because of how they are living.

The main problem with their society is how stagnant they are. Biologically, all species need diverse DNA for propagation of the species. The emphasis on "sameness" is a step toward extinction. I believe the same is true for ideas. Scientific development has come to a halt, personal and spiritual development no longer exist. Unfortunately I think that will ultimately be the fall of civilization.

It still doesn't have to be the fall of humanity as a whole though, any more than the "dark ages" historically meant the end of the world. It is just a setback in human development until the system fails. There are still "savage reserves" and "islands" where people are allowed to live more natural lives, so all hope of "normal" development is not lost even in this world.
 
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