Seeing as how dystopian novels have been all the rage as of late, at least in YA (think Hunger Games and Divergent) I thought that our book club’s choice of Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, was appropriate. We would be exposed a dystopian novel written in the early 20th century, and maybe we could compare and contrast the differing visions of dystopia.
However, by opening his book with a baby factory (they were literally creating millions of test tube babies, clones, in jars) Huxley almost lost me. It is surprising that I went back and finished the book. Honestly though, I’m glad I did. The beginning was the worst part. From then on things were interesting. I’m not gonna say I liked the book. I didn’t. But I’m glad I read it. Ever read one like that?
Huxley’s vision of dystopia, while focused on societal control like most of them are, focused on controlling the society through happiness. Essentially, they created a world where you didn’t have to be unhappy. Everyone was conditioned to believe the same. While they did essentially have a caste system in place, each person was created specifically for their caste, and for the role in society they were meant to play. They were then conditioned to love what they did. If ever an unpleasant, or less than enjoyable, event occurred they had this wonderful drug called soma which would whisk you away to a place of happiness without any of the ill effects modern drugs might have, like withdrawal symptoms or hangoverish feelings. (Really modern medicine, get on that!)
While most castes were created in batches of clones, so everyone looked the same, Alphas (the upper caste) were brought to term without copies being made. They were completely individual. This of course, is where problems arose within this society. Damn those independent, individual types. They can’t just leave happiness well-enough alone.
I don’t want to give too much away. This society has interesting sports, a complete lack of morality (promiscuity was vigorously encouraged, and if you failed to take advantage of this societal norm, you were strange, an outcast), a prodigious use of helicopters, and of course, a noble savage. You know, someone like us.
Many interesting questions were raised. However, some in my book club found the book to be rather pointless. They expected more of a point, moral, or statement to be made with the ending, and they were rather disappointed. While I admit the ending was disgusting and sad, I felt it fit and was rather appropriate.
If you have read Brave New World, what did you think about the ending? Also, have you read any books that you didn’t really like, but felt were worth reading? I’d love to get some titles from you!