‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley is one of the most famous dystopian novels of all time. I’m generally not a fan of science-fiction but this book is undeniably a classic. Set in London hundreds of years in the future in which humans are conditioned in a caste system of Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons, ‘Brave New World’ initially presents an ‘ideal’ World State to the reader. But below-average Alpha, Bernard Marx, believes there is something missing in this society where everybody is supposedly ‘happy’. The arrival of John ‘the Savage’ from outside the World State inevitably raises even more questions about just how ‘ideal’ this society really is.
As opposed to the more optimistic utopian visions of the future of H.G. Wells, some aspects of the society presented in the novel such as the total absence of individuality are still as nightmarish today as they were in the 1930s. But other aspects have already become a reality such as test-tube babies albeit in a less sinister context than Huxley had anticipated. However, even Huxley himself was alarmed by how quickly his predictions of the consumer society and more sexual promiscuity had come true.
Unlike George Orwell’s vision of the future in ‘1984’ where a totalitarian government controls everything by force, the citizens of the World State in ‘Brave New World’ are so content with the way things are that they have no understanding of the concept of freedom. As the consequences of the World State’s policies begin to unravel, the reader sees just how disturbing the situation really is, in spite of the fact that the characters themselves do not exactly live in constant fear having already been so highly conditioned.
‘Brave New World’ was scarily prophetic and ahead of its time when it was first published in 1932. Eighty years later, it still provokes just as many questions today and may even be more relevant now than it was in the 1930s. Overall, ‘Brave New World’ is a highly unsettling but worthwhile read.