|A Brave New World, by Aldous|
Huxley. My copy was an ebook.
See below for photo credit.
by Crowbot, [CC BY-SA 2.0],
The characters were way too simple for my liking, even the ones who were supposed to be deep or well rounded. The Savage, for instance, is arguably one of the most well rounded characters in the book, but he wound up being little more than an angry young man, obsessed with purity and self punishment.
There was quite a bit of sexism in how women were portrayed as well. I can't begin to tell you how many times I wanted to tell Lenina and Linda to quit obsessing over men. I found myself wondering if that was really how Aldous viewed women, or if they were just serving as tools to show how superficial the fictional world really was.
There was also a sort of heavy handed judgementalism about anything against the typical monogamous relationship still favored in today's world. Even though sleeping around was the new normal, it wasn't hard to see the undercurrent of distaste about it from the beginning. When the Savage was introduced, that dislike went from a hidden flow to a fire hose at full blast.
Irritation with characters aside, I'm pretty sure much of the above can be explained by a combination of the era in which the book was written and deep seated cultural ideals still in effect today.
I did, however, like his use of social indoctrination, drugs-as-a-crutch and creating a sort of caste system from birth. Like in the book 1984, these types of manipulative techniques touch upon the similarities of today's world.
After all, we are buried under messages of how to act based on gender or social class and what to think of others who are different from us practically from birth. When we get physically or emotionally sick, we often turn to pills right away, seeking alternatives first. Even many newborns are bathed in medication, whether its epidural meds inadvertently fed to them through the umbilical cord followed by medication to counteract those effects, or antibiotics to treat unknown fevers which may be caused by the Hep. B vaccine they might not have even needed.
Speaking of babies, the concept of family, pregnancy or being born to a mother instead of in a lab was seen as obscene. When I first read that, I thought of countries like Brazil, where their C-section rate is around 82%. The US rate is also far higher than what the WHO suggests, but it's nowhere near that high. This is partially because of convenience, since a c-section is quicker than natural birth and it can be scheduled, and partially out of a cultural revulsion over natural delivery.
It's that revulsion in our world that stuck with me in relation to the obscenity of having a mother in the book.
The prevalence of cloning in the book can be interpreted as an interesting comment on the conformity resulting from these messages. If you ever stop to people watch in certain areas, or even do a search on popular celebrities, you might notice a certain, unnerving conformity in personal style.
I also found his take on eugenics interesting.
Instead of completely eradicating those viewed as "imperfect", the scientists instead bred them in great numbers, while encouraging intellectual disabilities and physical imperfections from embryo-hood. The large number of imperfect people were then used as labor for the comparatively tiny number of "Alpha-Pluses". The alphas were created by the best egg and sperm cells available, allowed to develop in ideal conditions and then trained to be leaders.
In this way, a supposedly perfect world was created. There was no war, no famine and everyone was given a job to do. Of course, if you strayed outside of your role or refused to take the medication everyone else was, you were singled out and made to suffer.
Although humans naturally want a stable and safe world in which to live, the lack of diversity and innovation would make our lives unbearably hollow. That's why the drug is used in the book - to keep the population sedated and content, therefore keeping their society stable.
I also found it clever to see how Ford was essentially deified. His assembly line method of production was taken to an extreme in that world, and he took the place of an unseen God. Spirituality was banished to be replaced with sensual pleasures and strictly regulated science. It makes sense that the father of mass production would be put on a pedestal in such a world.
Of course, I wouldn't advise reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at the same time. It gets confusing to move from Ford the god figure to Ford Prefect the hitchhiker.
Anyway, back to Brave New World.
Overall, it was a pretty decent book and quite thought provoking. Although I didn't care for the writing itself or the characters, I'd suggest it to anyone looking for an interesting take on some of the more disturbing aspects of today's world.