(Slight spoilers for those who have not read the novel.)
Brave New World was always one of those books I wanted to read but never got around to it. When I was in school I left it off my to-be-read list mostly because I figured sooner or later I would have to read it for class. But it never appeared on any syllabus. Now I am out of school and walked past it in the bookstore and figured it was time for me to finally read this one.
All I knew about the book was that it was a “classic,” dystopian genre novel. I knew it involved the idea of basically cloning people, but that was all I knew. What it is truly about is what makes a human, human and how in our pursuit for everything to be perfect and happy we may lose the essential elements of what it means to be human.
Brave New World takes place in a future where human life is literally manufactured. There are no more natural births in “civilized,” society. Every person comes from a test tube. They are then conditioned to fall into a certain place within the society. No one questions it because they are raised to understand their place and like it. There are no issues, everything just operates at a steady pace without question. If anyone begins to doubt life or is unhappy they are able to take a drug called “soma,” that drugs them up and makes them forget their problems. Society operates like a machine, all the parts moving together without an issue. Life is about consuming and producing and that is all.
Bernard is an Alpha-Plus, one of the highest ranks, that does not quite fit into the mold that he is supposed to fit into. He questions aspects of society and wonders if their way of life is actually right. At first, it seems like Bernard is going to be the one that fights against society and tries to change things.
But then he takes. Lenian, to what is called a Savage Reservation. Here is where those who are not “civilized,” live. They are native people who are not manufactured but are born. There they meet John, who is actually a product of two members of “civilized,” society. His mother came out to the reservation with a man from the society and was left behind. She happened to be pregnant and gave birth to John and was forced to live on the reservation. John was raised on the reservation but never fit in because he was an outside. So when Bernard offers to bring him back to civilization he jumps at the chance.
John loves the idea of civilization until he actually experiences it. His mother has lost all connection to life and when she is back all she does is drug herself up. She can’t bear to live life anymore so she doesn’t. John hates that the “doctors,” let her constantly use the drug. He doesn’t understand why they won’t help her. They don’t understand why he cares so much about her.
John is at her bedside when she dies and he sees first hand the way this new world works. Her death is barely registered. The children are being conditioned to not care about death. He can’t understand why no one is upset or shows any real emotion. He is furious at the way the whole thing is handled and he freaks out. He tries to force everyone to understand that they are nothing but slaves to drugs and this society, but no one listens or cares. They have no idea how to listen to his words because they can not think for themselves.
After his mission is aborted he is brought into the office of the Controller who tries to explain this new way of life to John. He tries to explain that what they have done is taken the responsibility of living away from everyone and created what they consider a utopia. No one worries, no one hurts and no one cares. This allows the world to just keep moving forward without incident.
John does not think this is the way life should be. This is not the way he grew up and he does not understand this way of life. He knows that for life to have meaning, there has to be a yin and yang. There has to be bad to make the good worth something. And good in itself has to mean something.
The Controller points out to John that wanting inconveniences in life is a slippery slope, it opens the door for so many others things to happen as well. Asking for the right to be unhappy is also asking for, “…. the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; and 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.” (pg 240).
All of those above things are a human right. This sums up the idea of the novel well. Life is literally manufactured in this world so does that mean that these people are actually human? What makes someone human? Is it just the biology of a person? Or is it free-will and the ability to have a meaningful life full of happiness and sorrow? These people are alive, but they aren’t truly living. They are just existing. Nothing happens to them. Nothing means anything to them. No one person means anything. John can’t understand that idea. Life to him has to have more meaning.
It was interesting in this novel because Bernard started it seeming to be the one that was going to question everything. He didn’t understand why things were the way they were, but that didn’t last too long. Once he returned with John and introduced him around he became a pseudo-celebrity and was no longer an outcast. That is what Bernard ultimately wanted. He wanted to be accepted into society. He stopped caring about the inconsistencies and questioning anything. He couldn’t step out of society because he didn’t have anywhere to go. He didn’t know any other way of life. This one way of life was literally ingrained into him and trying to walk away was not something that was possible for him.
It is not uncommon for people who move from one culture to another to have trouble adjusting. Life is different, values are different and that change is something humans have a hard time adjusting to. You have to understand that life is not the way you know it and that is has changed. Neither John nor Bernard had the ability to adjust with their surroundings. They both have a set way of living in their minds and trying to change is no possible.
John can’t get used to a world where nothing truly means anything. For him, that is not living. He wants to run, but he has nowhere to go. There is no life left for him to live.
This novel as an interesting read. It made me think of what exactly makes a human, human. While it also shed light on why cultures clash and the difficult of changing a known way of life.
One of my favorite things is to have a pile of books waiting for me in my apartment. I anticipate the adventures that I will go on when I am able to dive into their pages. There is a certain air of anticipation in the air when I have a pile of books that are waiting to be read. These are not the only books in my apartment that haven’t be read but they are the ones that I am most anxious to dive into right now.
The first book on my list is Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (A.K.A. J.K. Rowling). I have written about my love for J.K. Rowling
in previous posts. I have also written reviews for the previous two books in her Cormoran Strike series of novels. There was no question that I would be reading this right after it came out. This is probably the one I am most excited to read. While I am not a huge fan of detective novels, the way she dives into the the two main characters lives as well as giving us a intriguing mystery is just fantastic. The summary of this one makes it seem like the mystery here hits much closer to our characters, which means we will be diving deeper into them and learning more their lives which should be great. I am sure it will only take me a few days to finish this one and when I do I will defiantly be posting a review of it!.
The second book on my list is The Phantom TollBooth By Norton Jester. I haven’t read it in a long time. I generally try to read new books but sometimes I have to go back to old favorites to see how they have changed for me. I actually dreamt about this book for some reason and woke up with a very strong desire to read it. I actually had to buy it again because I am not entirely sure where my original copy ended up, (there is a good possibly it is buried in my mom’s teaching closet. It was easier to buy it again then try to dig it out). I am excited to read this one again and see how much different it is for me now that I am older. Many times our favorites books take on a whole new life when we read them with new eyes and minds shaped by age and experience. I am eager to see how this resonates with me now.
The third book on my list is The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman is another one of my favorite authors. I have reviewed a number of his books. He is a master at looking at the world through intriquing and different eyes. I admire the way he writes and the directions his stories take. I actually saw him speak about a week ago. I have not read his graphic novel series but after hearing him talk I had a strong desire to find out what it was all about. I know it is loved and heard a number of people mentioning it during the talk. I’ve read the summary and love the concept and am eager to meet these unique characters in this story.
The fourth book on my list is Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. I read and reviewed Horns by him and I really enjoyed that book. It was horror but not overly frightening. It was an interesting story about a man’s decent into the darker side of himself. I was hooked by it and wanted to give another one of his book’s a try. I’ve heard good things about Heart-Shaped Box, though I am a little weary of reading this one. That is only because I have heard it is scary and I am not that great with true dark horror. I tend to get scared easily but I still want to give this one a shot and see if maybe I can open the door to more horror stories for myself.
The sixth book on my list is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This is just a classic book that I have never gotten around to reading. I was never assigned it in school and always had something else I wanted to read before this one. But I was in the bookstore getting something else and saw this on the shelf and decided it was time for me to read it. So I bought it. I do love the dystopian novel genre and I know this is a classic in that area. This is more of me catching up on a book that I have been putting off for too long.
The last book on my list right now is Burning Dawn by Gena Showalter. Showalter is my favorite author in the paranormal romance genre. It is a genre, that I guess, you could call my guilty pleasure. The Lord of the Underworld is my favorite series but this series is good as well. This is the third in The Angles of the Dark series. It is a series that is in the same universe as the Lord series and concerns the trials and tribulations of angels and their romances. These series give me my romance shot with a fun paranormal twist.
Shameless Plug Time:
That is my current list of what I plan on reading over the next few weeks. Do you need something to add to your to-read pile? Why not check out my new short story collection, Is There More? under my penname Brittney Rz ? If you enjoy stories in the vein of Twilight Zone where reality is just a bit off,you will enjoy these stories. It is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iBooks. This weekend (Friday-Sunday) the e-book will be on sale for only $0.99! So why not take a chance and check it out? If you do and enjoy it, a review would be much appreciated!
What is on your to-read list? Which is your favorite of the ones on my current list?