Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow… What to say about this book? Because I really do feel as if I should say something. I feel profoundly impacted by what I’ve read, and yet at the same time woefully unprepared to put what I’ve experienced into words. I’m very glad I own this book, because it is one that deserves to be read again. It makes you question yourself, question your reasoning, question morality (both personal and societal), and question where you got any of those ideas in the first place. In fact, it asks far more questions than it answers.
Can there be any good without bad?
Can there be any bad without good?
Who ultimately decides what is good or bad?
How much of what we consider “moral” or “immoral” comes from our own conditioning?
Are we actually capable of independent thought? Or is it all conditioning and genetics?
On the surface, those questions seem pretty depressing, I guess. And none of those questions feel like they were ultimately answered in the story. Which I don’t think is a bad thing. I think it’s good that the reader is asked to draw their own conclusions, that the author is not trying to force his own thoughts down our throats. And it made the story very relatable for me. I found so many parallels between Huxley’s utopia and our own society, not just “feelies” and the banning of books and religion in favor of industry and progress, but even the concepts of sexual independence and loneliness that are addressed. To see things that I had thought of (and still do, to an extent) as good things, steps that the world should take toward peace and understanding, to read about them as extremes was jarring and eye-opening.
As far as the story was concerned, I was annoyed by most of the characters, especially Bernard, who I considered to by the “main” character. But I think that was part of the point, so I’m willing to allow it to slide, and also my intense love of Helmholtz Watson helped make the story more than bearable. As a writer myself, I connected with Helmholtz, empathized with his desire to put out meaning into a world that couldn’t possibly understand, that even he could not fully understand himself. Helmholtz makes me want to write Brave New World fanfiction, that’s how awesome he is 🙂 And the end… well, I think that might be one of the most poetic and beautiful endings I’ve ever read, (view spoiler)[especially considering what we know about how this civilization treats death. The fate of John the Savage is perhaps one of the most tragic things I’ve ever read, not least of which because no one who knew him will even understand enough about his sacrifice to mourn him the way he would have wanted and, I feel, deserved (hide spoiler)]. That’s all I’m going to say about it.
In short, I feel like this book is a masterpiece, and if you have a couple of weeks to set aside, I strongly suggest you at least give it a try. The first four chapters are so terribly uncomfortable and jarring that you can’t possibly look away and really, once you’ve gotten that far, you might as well finish the rest 🙂
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