5 April 2012

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

"O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in't!"

                      - Miranda, The Tempest

This book, which was first published in 1932, would spark the tide of dystopian literature that followed in eras that, let's face it, weren't too happy with life in general.

What we need to remember, when reading this classic, is that some of the concepts that are included hadn't even been invented yet. It was first found that hormones could control ovulation in the 30s, but the first oral contraceptive was first introduced to the public in the 60s, a good 30 years after the book was finished. Huxley was writing about things that may seem to be old to us, but at the time they were new, exciting and radical ideas.

The story is based in a futuristic Britain, where cities, towns, even villages comprise of multistory buildings. Where Soma, a drug with no bad side effects, makes everyone happy. Where babies are mass produced from tubes and everybody belongs to everybody else. And the way the whole society is put together is simply fascinating. The babies are divided into their social classes as soon as they are conceived, and are conditioned to fit in to them perfectly. Some will have alcohol in their blood surrogate, some may be deprived of nutrients at a certain stage of their development.This is all totally normal. And necessary for a fully functioning and happy community. Because after all, if an Epsilon had too high an IQ, why on earth would he want to clean for a living?

We have a small group of main characters in the story that round it out nicely for us. We see he world through very different viewpoints; a normal Delta citizen, who is almost perfectly conditioned, an Alpha-plus who isn't happy with the world at all, the boss who keeps the world turning, and the savage- a man from an undisturbed civilisation very similar to that of a Native American tribe, who is brought into the futuristic world.

While the story isn't particularly thrilling for a modern reader, they may be able to gain an insight into Huxley's mind, and what he thought about his own civilisation. The book really makes you think about the power of government control and about how someone from and African tribe, for example, would react to our own civilisation if they had it forced upon them. And the result is rather shocking, I have to say.

I find that the parallels and differences with Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' are extremely interesting. There is a savage who is clearly misunderstood, but instead of forcing him into slavery, the people in the book are fascinated by him and welcome him into their civilisation. The clear references to many of his texts are also interesting. I like the way that the savage uses the quotes as arguments for his own feelings. Huxley must have been extremely moved and must have read Shakespeare avidly to use them so many times within his work.

To conclude, I think that this is a book that is worth reading for those of you who like the genre and want a more adult read than the current dystopian fiction has on offer. The concepts are interesting and the story is good, though not nearly as action-packed as modern books and with a lot more conversation.

Still, I give it a 7/10.