[The next one may as well be Lord of the Flies just so I can keep posting Iron Maiden and Metal lyrics.]
'Silent screams laughing here, dying to tell you the Truth. You are PLANNED and you are damned in this Brave New World' - Iron Maiden
The future. 632 in the year of our Ford, and human life is not born, but grown in a laboratory. Through the process of 'Bokanovskyfying' human relations are little more than clones, and literature is forgotten as 'Propaganda' while sports and recreational sex and drugs are used to keep people subdued and stupid. Is this Utopia or Dystopia? Heaven or Hell? This question is at the heart of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
It is a very interesting question too, however I don't think that in this novel the question is elaborated on as well as it could have been. Everything is mechanized, and all of the different classes in the population are kept happy in their positions and are shown to be of varying degrees of intelligence, depending on their position and job; but the book is not long enough to show the people going about their lives and exploring and living in this society. As a result the question of 'Utopia or Dystopia?' does not feel important.
We simply do not get a good enough overview of the society like we do in Brave New World's counterpart Nineteen-Eighty Four, we just see the world of the novel through Bernard Marx and Lenina, two characters who work in the Hatchery.
The effect is to make us feel distant. We are put into the world, shown how people are born, and then introduced to the main characters after four chapters, and then around page 80 in my copy (The Vintage edition) we are sent to a ‘Savage Reservation’ where people live without technology and after four chapters of this we are back in the modern and technology-based consumer society of Brave New World. The characters are not particularly interesting either; but considering the world they live in we perhaps should overlook this.
Also, the entire book goes so quickly past, and there is nothing of the slowness and building menace of Nineteen-Eighty Four, that many people expect from the book and this seems to be the bigger problem with the novel. After some 60 years of publication, and of hearing about what it is, what it is about; people could easily go into the novel not actually knowing what the book really is like.
What is thought of as novel of a horrific yet subtle dystopia, what it is instead is a satire on consumer society. It was supposed to be funny and ridiculous, but the humor in the book is poor at best and will easily go over the heads of readers today; however, the novel is also rather shocking. Much of the shock in the novel comes from the callousness and frankness in which the society operates, and compared to our own it is more of a culture shock than actual shock and horror that modern readers will expect.
Yet: while the novel is more subtle than Orwell's novel it both suffers from this and has as it a point in it's favor. It is not 'chilling' so to speak, it is more, subtlety off. Reading the novel you get the sense that there might be something dark going on behind the scenes but there is nothing in the book to really suggest this, aside from banning literature as 'Propaganda', and could be more paranoia than anything else. However, even this paranoia seems to be poorly founded.
The writing in the novel is impressive. However, the first chapter has some rather weird rhythms that are slightly jarring, and this can potentially upset some readers and turn them off while others might learnt to expect this from the rest of the novel like I did and end up disappointing. However, the writing in the rest of the book flows well and is well considered, however one might get the impression that it is intentionally missing out details. It is a minimalist form of writing in which even important details for mood setting and location seem absent, however this is either a good thing or a bad thing.
Overall it isn’t a bad novel, it just does not seem to be what everyone expects of it. The novel feels wrong at the core, and that it is part of some larger plot, but people expect it to be a dystopian nightmare alike Nineteen-eighty Four. It seems that the novel has actually been let down by it's audience.
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