I’m only halfway through Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, so my opinion of the book may change, but I highly doubt it. I was holding the book off for a day when I knew that I wanted to sit down and read something that I would love. I was excited to dive into the “best dystopian book since 1984” and even more excited to see his hyperbolic perspective on the world. From page one, I was disappointed. If you’ve read the entire book, then please hold on for this and then read my follow-up when I finish it because I understand how this review may be a little skewed.
I feel like Huxley has done a terrible job explaining the characters and the repercussions of the world that he’s developed. Starting with the world, clearly destroying individuality is atrocious and mass-producing almost identical kids is psychotic when looked at from someone who lives today, but I’m halfway through this boring ass book and they haven’t shown me why it’s bad. They have barely talked about gas-bombs, and talk about electrocuting kids at a young age to change their Pavlovian response to a few things, but the world itself seems… fine? The only person who sees it as a problem is Bertrand Marx, and I don’t think that that’s enough. In 1984, Winston Smith tries his hardest to contain himself and hide his issue with the world, for fear of being found out and taken to an unknown place because he knows once that happens, he’s quite simply fucked. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury shows how having a simple piece of contraband can lead to a chase from a massive robotic dog with poison in it. Neither of those books are perfect, but early on you see the consequences of not following the status quo. In Brave New World, he mentions Iceland as a negative destination, but for what? There’s no fear or suspense from the reader, just impatience because of another piece of information that goes nowhere. By page 100, I wished Chekhov’s gun would shoot me in the temple so that I could see some pay off.
Also, this early on in the book, I’m annoyed by the characters. Again, in 1984, there were other relatable characters, and the ones you hated, you hated because they were mindless conformists. In Fahrenheit 451, the massive screens leave a sense of unnerving after you set the book down. You see the brainwashing and the weird ambiance that it creates in every household. You may hate the characters, but they serve purpose. In Brave New World, keeping people happy with a pill doesn’t seem inherently bad because it doesn’t lead to anything terrible except the forward momentum of a confused and misinformed society. Anytime Lenina has dialogue, I want to rip my eyes out of my skull. She’s obnoxious and although she may have some character change later in the book, her presence ruins the whole experience of getting to see how the savages operate.
Part of me feels that Huxley’s use of sex in the book is perverted to a fault. If you wanted to tell me that diminishing sex to something with no emotion is terrible, then I’m inclined to believe you. I’ve become much more in touch with my emotional side over the passed year and the thought of sex has a status of appreciation and love, and it can be beautiful in a relationship if treated with respect. Even in other cultures today it’s viewed as more and less taboo around the world, and that’s fine. Huxley’s view seems to be, if you have sex without emotion then society devolves into a machine with boring, unfeeling cogs and I think that that’s just ridiculous and very closed-minded.
I can see from a mile away what the second half of the book is going to be… savages are more human because they operate with a more balanced use of emotion and logic, while the other, “greater” population is less happy because they’ve stripped the emotions from them. It’s not a world-changing view. If anything, I think it’s much too simple for how Huxley writes, which to me is in a very highfalutin and unnecessarily complex way. It’s not hard to understand, but I feel like the language that he uses is why people think that the book is such a masterpiece and that causes them to overlook the underdeveloped characters, plot and world.