First published back in 1932, British author Aldous Huxley’s novel ‘Brave New World’ quickly became hailed as a literary classic and has certainly stood the test of time ever since.  However the novel has not gone without its controversies, having been banned in Ireland and India for some time as well as attempts to have it removed from a number of school’s syllabuses along with an accusation of plagiarism from Polish author Antoni Smuszkiewicz.

DLS Synopsis:
The year is 2540 AD (or 632 AF as it is now known), and the world is a very different place from our own time.  The population is now unified under the global citizenship of the World State, where the population numbers are controlled by the exclusive use of Human Hatcheries and Conditioning Centres.  As such, the population is permanently set at no more than an absolute global limit of two billion individuals at any one time, allowing for a rich and plentiful society for everyone.

Society and has become totally fabricated from birth all the way to death, with the World State designating the position in society that each individual will sit, with manipulation of the foetuses suppressing the lower ranking individuals.  The highest members of the elaborate social system dictated and controlled by the World State are known as the Alphas.  These privileged individuals are allowed to develop naturally, without the added tampering of the foetuses. 

In order to maintain a constant happiness throughout this carefully controlled world society, a drug named ‘Soma’ is distributed to everyone.  Along with this chemically induced happiness, the World State has ensured that no record of any past is maintained, so that no unfavourable comparison upon the current state of life can be made.  Sexual intercourse is also now nothing more than an everyday recreational sport – with no procreational purpose, only for the sheer enjoyment it provides.  After all, a blindly happy and easily fulfilled civilisation is a working civilisation.

In this controlled environment, Bernard Marx finds himself at odds with the rest of his Alpha peers.  He feels different than the rest of the high class society.  He has no desire to conform to the rules and obligations set down by the World State.  And as such he is increasingly feeling disconnected with their supposedly utopian society.

Lenina Crowne has become the mainstay of Marx’s recent thoughts.  The fact is that he’s slowly falling in love with this young employee from the Hatchery.  And after dating a fellow Hatchery scientist named Henry Foster for the past four months, Lenina finds herself being encouraged to accept Marx’s advances.

As the couple embark upon a light-hearted relationship with each other, Bernard decides to take the young woman to a ‘Savage Reservation’ located in New Mexico.  After obtaining the necessary permit from his boss, the Director of Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, the couple travel to the reservation where they witness the strange native community of the Malpais. 

And it’s here, amongst the forgotten people of this backward society, that Bernard and Lenina first encounter Linda – a woman who had herself once been a part of the World State.  Now living amongst the Malpais, the woman has adopted their strange customs and lives as part of this long-forgotten community.  But it’s the revelation that this woman has a natural son that really shocks the two tourists.  A son that was brought to the world by the forgotten practice of pregnancy and birth.

But the Malpais people are unhappy with having Linda and her son amongst their people.  Having been conditioned to have intercourse with whoever she wants, and whenever she wants, Linda’s lifestyle has already proved incompatible with the native’s.  Furthermore, her son John, who is now eighteen years of age, is still being treated as an outsider due to the pale colour of his skin. 

And so, with the Linda and ‘John the Savage’ now desiring to come back into the fold of the World State, Bernard decides to arrange the necessary permissions to take the two supposed Savages out of the reservation and bring them back with him to London.  Knowing that he is likely to be reassigned to Iceland anyway because of his non-conforming ways, Bernard believes that bringing Linda and her natural son into the tightly controlled society of the World State will upset the powers that be.  After all, John the Savage is in fact the son of The Director...

DLS Review:
First thing that needs to be said about ‘Brave New World’ is that it’s a literary classic.  And rightly so.  Huxley has created a veritable masterpiece in elaborately contrived utopian/dystopian fiction.  Why the two opposing terms?  It’s a dystopian society that’s been carefully fabricated to appear to be a utopian one.  And the sheer immensity of the questions that are raised and brutal points that are brought out into the open are what make this novel so spectacular.

The novel starts off with somewhat of a heavy hand, laying down the premise and social backdrop for the novel.  This takes the reader through a full six chapters of shocking and ingeniously inspired principles, which form the immensely elaborate and potentially disturbing vision of a future for humanity.

Huxley incorporates a whole host of poignant themes within these initial pages, exploring notions such as the loss of identity, freedom, genetic engineering, fabricated false happiness, psychological conditioning, as well as a mountain of other such actively engaging elements.  The novel is a pure catalyst for thought-provoking debate.  Its hard-hitting principles, although magnified by the futuristic setting, are frighteningly relevant to our own time and lives.

Predating Orwell’s frightening vision of a claustrophobic dystopian future in his classic novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ (1949), Huxley’s own vision is perhaps more of a sly mixed-bag.  On the one hand everyone is kept in a perpetual state of happiness, however false and fabricated.  But it’s not an oppressive misery, which is surely a positive thing?  However, people’s lives in the book are devoid of any ‘real’ emotions.  Family and our natural want for loving relationships have been abandoned – and pretty much made illegal.  It’s these human touches that have been diluted out of everyone’s lives.  And it’s sad and damn near terrifying.

Splitting away from this hard-to-swallow-new-life are the Malpais.  Mere savages in the eyes of the conditioned minds; these people have been left to exist without the control of the World State dictating exactly how their lives should go.  Now, the so-called ‘savages’ are seen as nothing more than a holidaymakers-point-of-interest, in the same vein as animals at a zoo.  But this is not so for one man.  And this is where the story really begins to take on the most thought-provoking of angles.

I have to admit that I have a very fond connection with the novel.  Having read the book in my younger years, during a period when I was experimenting with the whole ‘Modern Primitive’ way of life, I found much solace in the direction that Huxley took the book.  It rang a resounding bell within me.  Confronting and addressing issues that I was at the time very much obsessing upon.  Huxley seemed to highlight everything that seemed ultimately important to me right then.  Opening up a Pandora’s Box for my thoughts to explode outwards from.
 
There’s so much of great importance that is brought to the table, examined and ultimately questioned throughout the length of the book.  It’s more than a great story and a damn compelling read.  It constantly makes the reader stop and think.  It keeps pushing further and further, to get to the very crux of the matter, without suffocating the reader with the author’s own personal views on the matter.  It just opens the doors and lets the reader take it from there.

And this, along with an utterly compelling and engaging storyline, is what makes ‘Brave New World’ such a monumental piece of fiction for me.  And I will always cherish the novel as one that has impacted me so dramatically.

The tale has since been adapted into two films (1980 and 1988) both using the story’s original title, as well as a radio play in 1956.

The novel runs for a total of 288 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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