I’ll admit I love historic predictions of the future because it is fascinating to me to see what they got right and wrong. Whilst reading Brave New World I was wondering “did Huxley invent this entirely or were there already experiments of this kind in 1931?” Because the world he describes isn’t so far off.
In the year AD 2540 civilisation is no longer born, it is created in test tubes. Each baby is first engineered and then condition to play its own role in society. The world needs Alpha-plus intellectual individuals but it also needs Epsilon semi-morons to man machines. Whole factories can be manned by identical sets of twins all grown specifically to that purpose. “Everyone belongs to everyone else” and thanks to the drug soma nobody is unhappy. Except Bernard Marx. Perhaps a visit to one of the few remaining Savage reservations can cure him of his disillusionment?
Comparisons to 1984 are inevitable mostly because these two novels are very similar. That being said, I enjoyed Brave New World much more and I think that the point it makes is much better said. What I found so relevant in Brave New World, which is missing from Orwell’s novel, is the consumerism. Citizens are conditioned to play country sports, but hate the countryside so that they use the transport network to play their favourite sports but live in the cities where they will consume more goods. Those sports involve complex equipment so that there is always demand for the factories to supply. It is very clever and in many ways I see similar things in our society as well. For example, running is free and yet we still pay huge sums of money ever year to run on the spot indoors because of the psychology of ‘going to the gym’.
The writing of this novel was really engaging. There is a chapter where 3 conversations happen at once but every line is a different conversation. I really enjoyed that. It felt original. It helped to establish this idea of lack of individuality. These individual voices getting lost in the mass of society. I really enjoyed that. And of course the Shakespeare references. Having studied The Tempest twice in my academic life I got rather early on that the title is taken from that play. However, I was surprised the route the Shakespeare references took. Huxley makes quite an important point about art’s role in society and its relationship with happiness. Well I thought it was important. I know I wouldn’t want to live in a world without Shakespeare.
The ending was… okay I guess. In the forward to the edition I read Huxley said he would have written a different ending so I guess I am allowed to say it wasn’t so great. There was a moment when I had high hopes but then no. The nicest surprise was that the ending was set near where Huxley was born, Godalming, which isn’t so far from where I live. In fact many of the local towns and villages get a mention in the last chapter. Nice to know in Huxley’s fictional universe my home town still exists.
Would recommend to: science fiction/dystopia fans.