Saturday, 6 March 2010

A Brave New World

No. 3
A Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley

Read or Re-read?
Shamefully, this is the first time I have ever read A Brave New World. I inherited a very lovely original Penguin Classic and it has sat on the BookShelf until this week.

A Fascinating Fact
Brave New World's iconic title derives from Miranda's speech in Shakespeare's The Tempest.

The Blurb
The book is set in London in "the year of our Ford 632" (that's AD 2540 to us). Most of the worlds population live unified under The World State, a consumer driven 'utopia' where natural conception ahas been done away with, and children are instead bred in test tubes and sorted at embryonic stage in to different castes: Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons.
Only Alphas are created using untampered cells. All lower castes are effectively clones subject to varying degrees of oxygen deprivation and conditioning to produce a hierarchy of intelligence.

From childhood, all babies are conditioned to embrace consumerism, ("ending is better than mending") and when they need a break they indulge in Soma, a hallucinogenic drug that takes them away on 'holidays'.

Enter Bernard Marx, an Alpha plus psychologist harbouring the distinct impression that life just isn't quite as it should be. A little short and swarthy for the usual Alpha male stereotype, Bernard decides in order to woo Lenina, a pretty, pneumatic (not my word!) Beta, he will take her to a Savage Reservation. This is where those not under The World State live.

With seduction off the menu (Lenina being seriously unimpressed) they are amazed to find a former World State member and her son living amongst the tribe, having got separated from a visiting party year earlier. Pregnant by a high ranking member of the State she had to give birth and raise (god forbid!) her son John.

Bernard decides to take them back to London and quickly enjoys his new celebrity status as the discoverer of the 'Savages'. John however, is horrified by the soulless order, lack of faith and sexual promiscuity.

The book ends with John falling more and more disgusted by this version of civilisation and ends up living in isolation in an abandoned Light House, where he attempts to atone for the sins he has witnessed and experienced.


Is it a keeper?
Despite the heavy subject matter and intricate plot, with its many layers of reference and metaphor, I found A Brave New World an incredibly accessible read. It's fascinating that a book written in 1931 could so accurately predict some elements of the future. It is genuinely funny too, a real show case for Huxley's inner satirist.

Quite simply, I adored it.

More like this
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
The Hand Maids Tale - Margaret Atwood
Gattica (film)


  1. Nice review of a good book. Mind if I steal elements of your review format for my first complete review on Wednesday?

  2. Fantastic review of a classic. Thank you for posting. It is a few years since I read this and I read it as part of a programme of Dystopian novels - even so it really lefta mark on me and I think it is a fine read. Lovely edition you have got there as well.

    thanks for sharing


  3. Glad you liked the review! Trying a new format. It's quite hard to write reviews when there are so many far superior book blogs out there. Have decided that I'm not going to even try to compete, instead just focus re discovering old classics!