Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1932. That’s eighty years ago, but the book reads like it could have been written yesterday – Huxley’s book predicts, among other things, the future of genetic engineering and the action blockbuster.
I think I liked this one better than 1984, the book traditionally considered to be this one’s counterpart. Not really sure why this is, but it’s probably because this one has a clearer outsider character (the Savage) who can view the world Huxley created through his separate perspective. Also, I find Huxley’s view of the dystopian future more believable – while it’s perfectly realistic that we’ll all end up living in a Big Brother-controlled police state, it’s more likely that such control won’t be necessary because we’ll be too apathetic to do anything about it.
I will give the last word to Neil Postman, who discussed the differences between Orwell and Huxley’s views of the future much more eloquently than I can:
“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.
Orwell feared those who would deprive us information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.
As Huxley remarked in ‘Brave New World revisited,’ the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’
In ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ people are controlled by inflicting pain. In ‘Brave New World’ people are controlled by inflicting pleasure.
In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”
Verdict: five out of five stars