Monday, November 30, 2015

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley


This book was part of a very long list of suggested reading that my English teacher handed out when I was in Year 10. Obviously, given that "dystopian" wasn't really a genre in 1998, my teacher told us that it was a classic sci-fi story, and I immediately dismissed it as too boring to read because sci-fi novels meant spaceships, and that meant snoozeville. 

Oh, fifteen year old Kirsti. How foolish you were. 

In a lot of ways, it's not surprising that this book ends up on banned books lists as often as it does. The dystopian society that Huxley created is a fairly disturbing one. Humans are grown in laboratories, and their social status determined before they're even created. Those doomed to be menial Epsilons are cloned dozens of times and bred to be stupid and unquestioning, living only for the drugs provided to them by the government. Meanwhile, the Alphas and Betas receive hours of subliminal messages as children about how much better it is being their caste. 

All children are encouraged to participate in "erotic play", which creeped me out more than a little bit, and the whole society has a very casual attitude to sex. Relationships are discouraged in favour of a string of hook ups with people at your own level in society, and the whole world is basically a capitalist's dream.

The "real" world - where people form relationships, have children, and grow old - is confined to reservations for Indigenous populations, and these reservations are treated almost like a zoo by the Alphas and Betas. And yet it's the "noble savage" character who shows the most signs of what readers at the time of publication would consider a civilised attitude. He quotes Shakespeare, is disgusted by the decadence and throw-away attitude of the "civilised" world, and wants nothing more than a monogamous relationship and to know his father.

It's a disturbing book a lot of the time, and the ending was particularly chilling. Basically, I was expecting to be bored by this, but I found it the complete opposite.

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

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