Brave New World Book CoverAldous Huxley

“The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma.”

Aldous Huxley’s mighty novel of a soulless, streamlined Eden is the twentieth century’s most brilliant, profound and terrifying evocation of the future our civilization may be creating. Brave New World is Huxley’s prophetic vision of natural man in an unnatural world, where freedom lies dead and all our concepts of morality are forgotten—an open-eyed, shocking look at a frighteningly possible tomorrow.

For years, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World had been on my list of “Books I Must Read Before I Die”. It’s one of those classic socio-political satires that everyone seems to reference when talking about this so-called “modern era”, like 1984 and Animal Farm, only it wasn’t written by the same guy. Brave New World has a sci-fi bent to it, indeed, but the tone of things leans more towards George Orwell than H. G. Wells. Matter of fact, Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World as a satirical counterpoint to Wells’ Utopian novels A Modern Utopia and Men Like Gods. So, when I found a 1963 Bantam Classics reprint edition for $2 at Half Price Books, I snagged me the copy and set out to see what all the hype was all about.

First thing I want to do is ask, how many people I’ve heard reference the title of this book have actually read this? Not too many, I’m guessing. But that’s besides the point. After having read this novel, I now see how the genre of Science Fiction can be used to present a picture of what might be (or might have been) in such a way that, it’s rather uncanny how sometimes the things depicted in the stories come to pass.

In Brave New World, we’re introduced to a society that is perfected to the point of sterile, where human babies are grown, then conditioned since birth to fill the roll they were predetermined to fill. Where everyone is homogenized to the point of societal apathy, where any kind of deviation from the social norm results in a panicked meltdown of epic proportions. Where drug use is not only encouraged, but mandated to keep everyone mellow. So what happens when a “savage” is let into this perfect, sterile society? The phrase “culture shock” may be a bit of an understatement, for both parties involved.

It’s hard to believe that this book was written by the same guy who wrote The Doors of Perception, the drug culture treatise that inspired one Jim Morrison to help form The Doors. But, then again, given the man’s philosophies in life, it’s not too surprising with the themes and imagery going on in this book. As a story itself, it’s a short but very effective tale of a none-too-distant society that prizes personal satisfaction and pleasure over everything else. It’s very tongue-in-cheek, rather nihilistic, and slightly disturbing as far as the accuracy with the depiction of the societies depicted. More so than with Orwell’s 1984, methinks.