Monday, July 27, 2020

Review: BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley

Rating: 2/5 stars

I’ve tended to really enjoy classical dystopian novels, such as 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale, so I thought Brave New World would be a new favorite. Futuristic science and technology in a “utopian” society that many claim is prophetic of our day? That sounds right up my alley.

Unfortunately, most of this book didn’t make any sense to me.

I did enjoy reading about the scientific and technological advances of this world, but a lot of what was discussed went right over my head. The entire first chapter is about how people are made. Humans are no longer viviparous (producing offspring inside the body of the parent), so eggs are fertilized in a bath and placed into a decanter and onto a conveyor belt where they undergo treatments to help them grow. The eggs then undergo Bokanovsky’s Process, allowing them to multiply up to 16,000 times, thus creating a bunch of identical embryos. There is no such thing as a mother or a father anymore in this society. This was all very fascinating to read about and had me intrigued to keep learning more about this world and why things are this way.

I quickly learned that there is no main character in this book. Each chapter is about something going on in someone’s life; sometimes we see the same people we did in previous chapters and sometimes not. The POV is third-person omniscient, even within the same paragraph, and it was kind of jarring. It pulled me out of the story, but maybe that was the point though, to view this society from the outside and simply observe. I’m not sure.

Some parts at the beginning were uncomfortable to read because this society is very sexual and they encourage young children to play sexual games with each other. Their motto is “everyone belongs to everyone else,” so of course literally everyone is sleeping with everyone else all the time. The less civilized regions are the ones who practice consent and monogamy, and they are deeply looked down upon for that. This super bothered me, especially the bits about the kids (I’m talking 7-8 years old) engaging in “erotic play.” There is a bit of commentary on this later on from one character who is described as being more intellectual than others and the way these sexually-bred people act is “infantile,” and they are encouraged to act that way. I was never sure what was going on here or why this group of people was bred and raised to act that way. 

Despite my discomfort and the weird start to this book, eventually I started to get more into it but I still had no idea what was going on. I didn’t feel like there was a central plot or anything, and some of the scenes I was reading purely made no sense. I would reread them and I swear I could not tell you what the words on the page were telling me, nor why those passages were included in the book because I didn’t feel like they added anything to the story.

This entirety of Brave New World is very strange; it didn’t go at all how I expected it to go. Part of me wishes I had read it in a class-setting to get some clarity on what was going on, but part of me is also glad it was never required reading because I probably would have liked it less when I was younger. After I finished the book, I watched a summary and analysis video that discussed the themes and the governmental control of the society herein. It made a lot more sense and I kind of wish I had watched that before I read the book so I could follow along and understand the story better, but oh well. I still would really enjoy a book-club-type discussion about Brave New World because I think there’s a lot to unpack here that is going completely unnoticed by me. I’ve seen a lot of people say that Huxley’s novel was prophetic of our day today and that we are currently living in a “brave new world,” and I just want to talk more about the parallels and why that’s true.

Ultimately, I won’t be rereading Brave New World like I will be with 1984, my all-time favorite dystopian, but I am still glad I read it and experienced the weirdness that it is. I am quite looking forward to the new tv show though, as I think that format will be able to communicate the story in a more accessible way for me to understand.

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