Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Review: Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is a futuristic dystopian book, comparable but very different to the other most famous dystopian story, 1984.

The world is one of total material freedom, where people are free to drink, do drugs and have promiscuous sex (indeed, one character is told not to be ‘anti-social’ when they maintain a more than one-night relationship with someone).

Family units are things of the past, and looked upon with distaste by the modern citizens. Instead, people are grown and their role in life is genetically determined. The genetic castes run from Alpha (the top dogs) to Epsilons (intellectually sub-normal types who do the dirtiest, lowest grade jobs).

Political freedom is non-existent, in stark contrast to the freedom to shop. In the political/capitalist spheres it actually reminds me slightly of modern day China. By all means, open a business, become a millionaire, buy yourself a mansion, but you still can’t vote and if you call for that right you might just go missing in the middle of the night.

When an outsider (what we might call a normal person) is introduced to this world of material plenty and instant gratification they come to loathe it. The provision of recreational drugs, guaranteed sex and so forth does not outweigh the loss of personal freedom. In Brave New World, the system is dominant in precisely the same way the more savage system of 1984 runs Airstrip One.

Like 1984, the storyline and characters are secondary to the world itself, which is a monstrous realm of trivial gratification and juvenile pleasures.

However, unlike the other dystopian classic, Brave New World has proven, I think, a realistic prospect. China has become an economic superpower without any of those pesky democratic votes. The EU is steadily becoming more integrated, and is led by the unelected and unaccountable, and recently the UK came close to permitting the state to lock people up for 90 days without needing any evidence.

I am not arguing we live in a Brave New World, just that Huxley’s comfortable prison cell world is disturbingly realistic.

For those into dystopian novels and after some others to read (after this, 1984 and Animal Farm) I’d suggest We by Yevgeny Zamyatin and The Iron Heel by Jack London. Both are on my to-read list.


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