The Setting: London, 600 years in the future
The Story: In a world where people are mass produced at different levels of functionality, all reared and conditioned for consuming goods and easy controlability, a naturally born man confronts civilization.
- Science controls reproduction: Nowadays, in vitro fertilization is a not uncommon process. In that process, fertilization of the egg is done outside the body. Usually, many of these fertilized eggs are implanted in the uterus to increase the odds of conception, frequently resulting in multiples. Now, the budding and totally external process described in the book may be possible – at least the external part – but it will probably never be tested because of ethical concerns. But there is some crazy science going on around the process of baby making these days.
- Soma: The perfect drug. Pleasant and no negative aftereffects. Makes a bad situation seem perfectly okay. Do we have such a drug today? No, but the anti-depressants that so many use today seem to try to approach it. Certainly it seems that we rely more and more on pharmaceuticals to live our lives. And the people of Brave New World rely on soma to get by. It is a hardship to be without, even if there are no physical withdrawl symptoms.
- Ford based society: The world of Brave New World is one in which religion, literature, and free will are severely curtailed. It’s a world where the time starts with the birth of Henry Ford, father of the assembly line. The book mentions a war, a war which had severe impacts on society and the population, so much so that the population chose to re-organize society in a way that might seem monstrous today. Remove the concept of family, create sub-humans and ultra-humans, make pleasure and purchasing the highest good. It seems to me that this vision is a bit unrealistic. In times of great stress, society seems to reorganize itself into tribal structures, where the strong or intimidating lead the rest (or is that too many movies talking?). I have a hard time imagining society choosing to restructure itself in this way, but I can imagine it happening in a sort of gradual way. Starting small and growing into what it becomes in the book.
The Reaction: I read this book multiple times in my teens, but not since high school. So it was an interesting experience to read it again. I think I appreciated it more this time, maybe because I’ve grown more cynical about the world? I don’t know. I always got a little lost near the end, and it happened this time too. I had to go back and read the last couple pages a second time. But it’s a really good book, really effective. Huxley can write, and that was kind of refreshing.
The Cover: Cover design by Roger Zimmermann. Words. Bold. Simple. They say: Modern Classic. But boring for the project. Yawn.
Next Up: Short story: “A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley G. Weinbaum.