What’s it all about?:
Far in the future, the World Controllers have finally created the ideal society. In laboratories worldwide, genetic science has brought the human race to perfection. From the Alpha-Plus mandarin class to the Epsilon-Minus Semi-Morons, designed to perform menial tasks, man is bred and educated to be blissfully content with his pre-destined role.
But, in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, Bernard Marx is unhappy. Harbouring an unnatural desire for solitude, feeling only distaste for the endless pleasures of compulsory promiscuity, Bernard has an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…
What did I think?:
I cannot believe I haven’t read this book until now, it’s a brilliant science fiction “warning” story about the dangers of human manipulation, written in 1931 yet still original and fresh today. The engineering of our species operates not only on a genetic level, but on a psychological level, where humans are conditioned from infancy by means of the whispering of subliminal messages during sleep. Humans are designed and programmed for different levels of employment – the Alpha Pluses with their higher brain power, down to the Epsilon Minuses who perform more servile roles. The author explains that to carry this out, the Epsilon’s brains are deprived of oxygen in the embryonic stage, which I found particularly shocking. Individuals are kept quiet or negative feelings are suppressed by the use of a “soma” drug which is taken liberally and quite extensively.
The characters in this novel are incredibly intriguing, stand-outs include Bernard Marx, an Alpha Plus who seems unhappy with the system, Lenina who enjoys being promiscuous and attractive to men, and John (or Mr Savage), a visitor from a world outside the system that (shock horror!) still have mothers, marriage and Shakespeare. The Shakespeare becomes particularly important to John, as he fantasises about Lenina and himself in a Romeo and Juliet scenario but also dwells on Othello and King Lear. As he is given the tour of the “brave new world” his mood becomes darker and lower as he discovers what lengths humans have gone to while engineering the species. Bernard just plain disappoints me as he seems to change his attitude from disdain about his position in life to pure hypocrisy when he becomes surrounded by women and friends. I find myself still thinking and analysing this novel a while after I’ve finished it which is definitely the sign of a good book for me.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):