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Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World (original 1932; edition 2007)

by Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood (Introduction)

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34,95845217 (3.96)976
Title:Brave New World
Authors:Aldous Huxley
Other authors:Margaret Atwood (Introduction)
Info:Vintage Classics (2007), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Read in 2012, Mum's books
Tags:fiction, dystopia, sci fi, modern, totalitarianism, Leeds Book Club, borrowed, November

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Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

  1. 672
    Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (chrisharpe, zasmine, MinaKelly, li33ieg, haraldo, Ludi_Ling)
    zasmine: For Orwell was inspired by it. And Orwell's 1984 is as much of a prize as it.
    li33ieg: 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451: 3 essential titles that remind us of the need to keep our individual souls pure.
    Ludi_Ling: Really, the one cannot be mentioned without the other. Actually, apart from the dystopian subject matter, they are very different stories, but serve as a great counterpoint to one another.
  2. 442
    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (phoenix7g, meggyweg, Babou_wk, haraldo)
    Babou_wk: Contre-utopie, société future où l'unique but de la vie est le bonheur. Toute pratique requérant de la réflexion est bannie.
  3. 252
    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (MinaKelly)
  4. 150
    The Giver by Lois Lowry (afyfe)
  5. 131
    Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley (pyrocow)
  6. 153
    We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (hippietrail, tehran)
    hippietrail: The original dystopian novel from which both Huxley and Orwell drew inspiration.
    tehran: Brave New World was largely inspired by Zamyatin's We.
  7. 90
    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Both are benchmarks for dystopian literature.
  8. 60
    The Tempest by William Shakespeare (Sylak)
    Sylak: Caliban in The Tempest has many parallels with John the Savage in Brave New World.
  9. 61
    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (sanddancer)
  10. 50
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (mcenroeucsb)
  11. 40
    This Perfect Day by Ira Levin (KayCliff)
  12. 40
    The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: If you read only one other dystopian SF story, make it this one (well, you should read 1984, too, but you knew that already, didn't you?).
  13. 118
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (fundevogel)
  14. 30
    Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm (rat_in_a_cage)
    rat_in_a_cage: Hinweis auf Rückentext bei »Hier sangen früher Vögel«.
  15. 30
    Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut (Anonymous user)
  16. 20
    Animal Farm by George Orwell (sturlington)
  17. 10
    The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley (John_Vaughan)
  18. 10
    Love among the ruins : a romance of the near future by Evelyn Waugh (KayCliff)
  19. 76
    Stranger in a Strange Land (uncut edition) by Robert A. Heinlein (meggyweg)
  20. 10
    Kallocain by Karin Boye (Mouseear)

(see all 37 recommendations)

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placeholder14 ( )
  jrthebutlertest | Sep 23, 2015 |
A very interesting book.. but admirable concepts!
The ending was pretty vague but I guess it brought the message..
:)I love how it made me think.. ( )
  smiley0905 | Sep 3, 2015 |
One of the few books I’ve returned to repeatedly over the years is Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s audacious dystopian classic. When I was young I read it for pleasure. In college, I read it as part of an independent study project on utopia and dystopia in fiction. A few weeks ago, spurred by a sale at Audible, I decided to read . . . er, listen . . . to it again. Fortuitously, I finished it up just as Banned Book Week began. Given that Brave New World is still one of the most controversial books of all time (in the top 10 books challenged in the United States last year), it seemed like a perfect choice for this week’s Friday Review.

For the unfamiliar, Huxley’s dystopia is developed in a completely different way from the nightmarish authoritarian worlds of, say, 1984 or Anthem. Orwell famously wrote that “[i]f you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” The world of 1984 is grey, depressing, brutal, and no place than any sane person would want to live. Huxley’s world, on the other hand, is at least superficially enticing. Everybody’s happy. Family strife and trauma have been eliminated, since families themselves are obsolete. There’s loads of things to buy and do to keep people occupied outside of work where, by the way, everybody does what they’re designed to do, so nobody gets fed up with their job. Sex as recreation is encouraged, if not mandated. And, if nothing else, there’s soma, a wonder drug that squelches any lingering worries.

Of course, it doesn’t really work out as well as advertised. If it did there’s be no conflict right? Thus no drama, thus no book. We meet characters who are outsiders, even in a world where everyone is so carefully crafted to be one of the horde. Things go completely haywire when a “savage,” that is a man raised outside the carefully crafted world in which most people live, shows up and begins to ask uncomfortable questions. Usually, at this point, I’d say “wackiness ensues,” but any book that ends with a major character killing himself really isn’t all that wacky.

That said, here are a few observations I picked up reading through Brave New World this time.

First, a writerly observation. Huxley starts the book off in a way that just about every “how to” book on writing says you shouldn’t. He doesn’t introduce any of the main characters. He doesn’t kick off the plot to get you hooked. Instead, he spends several chapters data dumping about how the people who live in this world are created and conditioned. It transitions nicely into the introduction of most of the major characters, but I can’t think a modern editor would be pleased with it. Which just goes to show that you follow the rules, unless you’re good enough to break them and get away with it.

A big part of Brave New World is about conditioning. As I said, Huxley spends several chapters at the outset explaining how children are bred, “decanted,” and conditioned via various means into the caste-bound happy adults they will become. What I never really picked up on before was how that conditioning bumps up against a more traditional form of conditioning, in the character of John “the Savage.” Raised on a reservation by a woman from the wider world left behind during vacation, he grows up as hard wired as the two main bottle-raised characters, Lenina and Bernard. That’s particularly evidence in his reaction to Lenina’s sexual advances, his revulsion driven by what he learned about sexuality in the reservation (namely that his mother, who shared Lenina’s conditioning, was outcast and beaten for having sex with several men in the area). Similarly, his drive to seek refuge in Shakespeare seems to come about in the same unthinking way. It all speaks to me as a commentary on how we are all conditioned by our environments, whether intentionally or not.

Which leads to an altogether less comfortable observation. The philosophical climax of the book is a long discussion between John and Mustapha Mond, the Resident World Controller of Western Europe, who basically runs that part of the world, in which they go back and forth about issues of free will, liberty, and the like. Particularly, John asks about the lower caste workers, who do the truly shit jobs. “Don’t they want better out of life?” he asks (I’m paraphrasing). It’s a question that would come to most us, raised as we are on the importance of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Mond’s answer, of course, is “no,” for the simple reason that they are doing the jobs they are conditioned to do, not just physically by psychologically. They don’t know what they’re missing, in other words.

That conversation resonated to me in that it reminds me of the problem of cultural imperialism and human rights. Like I said, most “Western” nations place a high priority on individual liberty, even at the expense of social order or tranquility. But other cultures – I’m thinking of some Asian ones – don’t place the same emphasis on individuals, instead focusing on group dynamics and social functionality. Does Mond’s explanation of why the lower castes aren’t unhappy with their lot apply equally to people who grow up in other cultures who don’t know they’re being denied the individual liberty others take for granted? Of course, the difference between us and them in the real world is much much less than the difference between the Alphas and Deltas of Brave New World. But I’m not sure that doesn’t just dodge the question.

I always viewed John as “our” representative in the book. After all, he’s the character whose upbringing most closely resembles our own. This time through, I came to the conclusion that I don’t want John representing me. He’s a closed minded fundamentalist asshole, only he quotes Shakespeare instead of the Bible. Not that he doesn’t make some potentially valid criticisms of the world he confronts. He’s just written in such a way that he’s not all that sympathetic. Of course, neither are the representatives of the modern world, either. In that sense, Huxley pushes everyone to the extremes of their positions, for whatever reason. It makes the conflicts ring a bit hollow, in the end, and presents an either/or choice, where something more subtle is possible.

John does have one thing going for him, although it ultimately hastens his demise – empathy. When John and his mother return to society with Lenina and Bernard, she quickly slips into a soma-induced coma and dies. In fact, her convalescence causes quite a spectacle, as people aren’t familiar with aging and are conditioned not to be afraid of death. John behaves in quite recognizable ways when his mother dies – he’s grief stricken, angry at those around him who aren’t, and generally miserable.

By contrast, at the end of the book John leaves the city and tries to live a hermit’s existence in the English countryside. That all goes to hell when a small group of workers catch sight of him flogging himself outside (more problems with sex, of course). Word quickly leaks out about the ritual, which a first brings the press to the area and then a collection of gawkers and curiosity seekers. Looking on from helicopters, they don’t see in John what most of us would – a troubled soul in pain trying to deal with something difficult. They see entertainment, because they’ve been conditioned to treat everything outside of work as entertainment, even other people. As a result, there’s no empathy there and they cheer on John’s flogging for the sake of spectacle. It’s quite nauseating, really. Normally we think of dehumanization as something we do to others, but Huxley turns it around.

Ultimately, what I think struck me most on this go round with Brave New World was my willingness to look critically at whether Huxley’s world is really a dystopia. Yes, the idea of a happy, if shallow, existence free from fear and doubt strikes me as inherently wrong in the gut. In fact, my gut reaction to it is similar to my feelings about transhumanism I wrote about a while back. But as in that piece, I have a hard time making a cogent rational argument as to why a world without pain would be a bad thing. Yes, if we were all eternally healthy we’d take it for granted, but is it necessary to be occasionally ill or injured (perhaps seriously) just to appreciate it? Is my reaction to Huxley’s world mere a result of my own conditioning?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to run for president under a “soma for all!” platform anytime soon. In the real world, transitioning to the type of world Huxley proposed would involve so much coercion and violence that, even if the end product would be desirable, the horrors of getting there would be too much. For a fictional world in which to brainstorm ideas, however, I’m much more skeptical of the dystopian label than I’ve been before.

Which just goes to show you why Brave New World endures, both as a work of literature in its own right and as a target for censors. It makes people think, which can lead to all sorts of wackiness.

www.jdbyrne.net ( )
  RaelWV | Aug 16, 2015 |
I've been anxious to read this for years because every English major raves about it. However, it wasn't great. Perhaps it's because I'm such a fan of 1984 and the Giver, but this Utopian novel just seemed lame in comparison. I didn't think the freakish Utopia was really that bad! It seems that someday we may end up conquoring old age and physical flaws of all sorts, which gets me thinking, but is this really so bad? The characters didn't seem to suffer any; only Lenina when she actually did feel love/desire for something unattainable, caused by the unplanned association with the "savage." Yes, the life of the savage and the fordians seemed insane, but the latter seemed less so. We didn't even have a character that was truly dissatisfied with the status quo. The government seemed benevolent and genuine. What is so jolting about this book? I didn't get it.

I'd recommend the Uglies series instead of this one. ( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 14, 2015 |
Humanity is now bred and conditioned to a stratified life. Bernard Marx bucks societal norms of open sex and drug induced escapism via soma.
Lenina Crowne, one of the few ladies intrigued by Bernard, follows him on a getaway to a reservation where a society still exists that do not adhere to these new norms.
The two return with a 'savage' named John who becomes a celebrity immediately. John struggles to cope with life in this brave new world and ultimately fails. ( )
  kingsfan1652 | Aug 6, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 411 (next | show all)
En este libro visionario escrito en 1932, Aldous Huxley imagina una sociedad que utilizaría la genética y el clonaje para el condicionamiento y el control de los individuos. En esta sociedad futurista, todos los niños son concebidos en probetas. Ellos son genéticamente condicionados para pertenecer a una de las 5 categorías de población. De la más inteligente a la más estupida: les Alpha (la elite), los Betas (los ejecutantes), los Gammas (los empleados subalternos), los Deltas y los Epsilones (destinados a trabajos arduos). "El mundo feliz" describe también lo que seria una dictadura perfecta que tendría la apariencia de una democracia, una cárcel sin muros en el cual los prisioneros no sonarían en evadirse. Un sistema de esclavitud donde, gracias al sistema de consumo y el entretenimiento, los esclavos "tendrían el amor de su servitud".
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia
It has remained for Aldous Huxley to build the Utopia to end Utopias-or such Utopias as go to mechanics for their inspiration, at any rate. He has satirized the imminent spiritual trustification of mankind, and has made rowdy and impertinent sport of the World State whose motto shall be Community, Identity, Stability.

» Add other authors (51 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aldous Huxleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bradshaw, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brochmann, GeorgTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hernández, RamónTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heuvelmans, TonAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McAfee, MaraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mok, MauritsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Montagu, AshleyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orras, I. H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Snow, GeorgeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Szentmihályi Szabó, PéterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
York, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Les utopies apparaissent bien plus réalisables qu'on ne le croyait autrefois. Et nous nous trouvons actuellement devant une question bien autrement angoissante : comment éviter leur réalisation définitive ?… Les utopies sont réalisables. La vie marche vers les utopies. Et peut-être un siècle nouveau commence-t-il, un siècle où les intellectuels et la classe cultivée rêveront aux moyens d'éviter les utopies et de retourner à une société non utopique moins 'parfaite' et plus libre.
(—Nicholas Berdiaeff)
First words
A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories.
Unorthodoxy threatens more than the life of a mere individual; it strikes at Society itself.
..."What fun it would be," he thought, "if one didn't have to think about happiness!"
"I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin ... I'm claiming the right to be unhappy". "Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind." ... "I claim them all".
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Brave New World is by Aldous Huxley. If you have H.G. Wells as the author of Brave New World, please correct your data. Thank you.
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Book description
A fantasy of the future which sheds a blazing, critical light on the present - considered to be Aldous Huxley’s most enduring masterpiece.

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060929871, Paperback)

"Community, Identity, Stability" is the motto of Aldous Huxley's utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a "Feelie," a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing and senses his relationship with a young women has the potential to be much more than the confines of their existence allow. Huxley foreshadowed many of the practices and gadgets we take for granted today--let's hope the sterility and absence of individuality he predicted aren't yet to come.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:05 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A fantasy of the future that sheds a blazing critical light on the present--considered to be Aldous Huxley's most enduring masterpiece. Mr. Huxley is eloquent in his declaration of an artist's faith in man, and it is his eloquence, bitter in attack, noble in defense, that, when one has closed the book, one remembers. A Fantastic racy narrative, full of much excellent satire and literary horseplay. It is as sparkling, provocative, as brilliant, in the appropriate sense, as impressive ads the day it was published. This is in part because its prophetic voice has remained surprisingly contemporary, both in its particular forecasts and in its general tone of semiserious alarm. But it is much more because the book succeeds as a work of art. This is surely Huxley's best book.… (more)

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