Brave New World by Aldous Huxley — Reviewed by Guy Portman
Brave New World is set in a society where everything is controlled. The parentless, manufactured, free-loving population are dependent on a state-endorsed hallucinogenic, happiness drug called Soma. Helicopters serve as the primary mode of transport. Entertainment takes the form of ‘feelies’; films that are tactile. The elite are called Alphas, it is they who hold the best jobs. At the other end of the spectrum are the menial working Epsilons. As for places that are yet to be developed, these are referred to as reservations, their inhabitants ‘savages’.
Alpha-Plus misfit Bernard Marx is an employee of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. Bernard and his colleague Lenina visit a reservation, where they meet Linda and her son, John Savage. Linda hails from ‘civilisation’, but was forced to the reservation whilst pregnant with John, to prevent a scandal. The pair return with the holidaymakers to the new world, where John becomes something of a celebrity.
Brave New World utilises erudite social commentary to explore mankind’s inherent nature. The character John Savage functions as the author’s mouthpiece, critiquing the ‘advanced society’. Huxley’s portentous vision has proven to be prescient in its prediction of a science-controlled, consumer culture. And today, at the dawn of the virtual reality age, another of its forecasts, feelies, is imminent.
Being immediately immersed in Huxley’s dystopian creation with scant explanation was initially a rigorous challenge for this reader. However, he soon came to appreciate this cautionary and contemplative tale.