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Review: Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Even though he lives in a world where happiness – and mindlessness – is the central focus, Bernard Marx is unhappy.  Because he was born an intelligent alpha, but has the physical stature of a much lower-classed citizen, he has never been the focus for women, has often been mocked, and finds himself discontented with everything around him.  He decides to go to New Mexico, where he can meet savages, people who exist as they did before the World Controllers took over.  Perhaps the people he discovers there will teach him to be happy and cure him of his mindless existence.

I’m a big fan of dystopias like this.  I loved The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and 1984 by George Orwell, among others.  I didn’t have the exact same reaction to this book, and I found my answer in the introduction.
This world is eerily creepy; genetic engineering is certainly better than it was when Huxley was writing, and so his opening sequence, where guests are taken through a child-making factory as the embryos are divided and conformed to certain expectations, then brainwashed to love their status in life, is extraordinarily effective.  I had a lot of hope for the rest of the book as I was reading it, but almost as soon as we were introduced to the characters, my hopes virtually fizzled.
For one thing, Huxley hasn’t decided whether or not it’s capitalism or communism that is horrible, and this is what the introduction clarified for me.  Neither of the two theories portrayed in the book is highlighted as more prominent or more satisfying.  Both existences are virtually meaningless, and so rather than making me worried about the future of the world, I just ended up conflicted and dissatisfied with what has been created here.
Worse, I didn’t have anyone to root for.  The characters wind up unhappy wherever they are.  The worst part is when Bernard comes back from the reservation and becomes totally content; in other words, he’s just shallow.  He doesn’t have any real dispute with his world except that a mistake meant he didn’t fit in properly.  So there is no real focal point for the reader to target, no one to sympathize with and hope for their escape.  As a result, the world, which could have been so affecting, falls totally flat.
As a result, I definitely didn’t like Brave New World as much as I’d hoped.  I’m glad I borrowed it from the library and didn’t spend money on it.

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