I don’t know why I finished reading this book. Maybe it’s because it’s a classic, maybe it’s because I hate to be a quitter or maybe it’s because I’m a masochist. The book was boring, narcissistic, bounced from character to character in a way that was sometimes hard to follow and never really built any relationship with any of them. It reminded me of Pulp Fiction, where it bounced from Uma Thurman to John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson repeatedly, but none of them were on the screen for more than 1/3 of the movie. Although that’s a cult classic, I thought it really missed some of the immersion that it could have had. Let me focus on a few points in the book that I found particularly annoying.
Let me start with the language. Huxley used language that I feel is highfalutin, as I said in Part 1. That’s not a problem in itself. It’s fine to use longer and more complex words. It can really develop a character and show how they speak, but when every character uses the same language in a world where books aren’t widely read, it seems out of place. It would be authentic if the world dedicated their free time to books, but instead it was to escapism and sex. Plus, when you use complex words, they stand out more if you use them repeatedly. If I use the word “happy” one-hundred times in a book, it doesn’t seem out of place because people say “happy” much more than they say “delightful”, “wonderful” or any other synonym like that. The word that stuck out to me the most was indefatigable. I found three cases in the book. Granted, the book is a little over two-hundred pages, but the fact that it stood out like that is telling. Even close synonyms like inexhaustible stood out because they were so similar and held the same meaning. It made his writing feel redundant in the worst way. Another word stuck out to me even more. He was trying to say “milk” – a basic, simple word -but instead of using the word “milk”… he used “pasteurized external secretion.” Honestly, what the fuck is that. That’s ridiculous. It’s not always the right choice to use longer words, especially because no one EVER speaks like that.
My next point is the actual message of the book. The last bit of the books is the Savage speaking with the Controller. The Savage has transitioned from speaking in broken English at times when he lived in his reservation to flawless, Shakespearean English and I find that hilariously stupid, but that’s not the point. The main message just seems to be the internal conflict of Huxley debating between morality in logic versus morality in emotion. At times he thinks that happiness, no matter how it’s obtained, is the best thing for humanity, while at other times he thinks that allowing emotion to flourish is better, even if it means struggle and occasional unhappiness. It leaves a confusing message for the reader because he never really expands upon either sides until the end. It reminded me of what I thought was the most boring part of 1984, which was when Orwell decided to spend thirty pages reading through the new worlds book giving needless exposition. In Brave New World, I felt no need to make my own conclusions or think further about his dystopia. I didn’t think that Huxley’s thoughts were resoundingly pure and genius. I didn’t think that his book was a classic. I thought that the book ended in an uneventful way and left me with only thoughts of the wasted time that I spent on it.
My last complaint is the use of God/a god/commercialism in the book. The use of Ford in place of God is absurd. It felt like Huxley was going for an element of seriousness by implying that materialism has come so far that a great progression of one man led to a new type of worship, but I practically laughed out loud when I first read it and every other time it made me angry because of how judgmental it all seemed. I know the book was published in 1932 and the perception of religion in the eyes of the people has shifted immensely since then, whether you hold some religious views or don’t, but the idea that if ideals shift away from religion, they must be replaced by a religious appreciation for material is pessimistic at best and, ironically enough, shows a total lack of faith in humanity.
The reason that 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Fahrenheit 451 and other novels in the same genre have such an impact is because they fight so hard for what they believe in, but are inevitably crushed by society anyway. Brave New World just shows people struggling with their internal emotions and are then granted freedom from the system. The society built is clearly disturbed, but the reason that the other books that I mentioned do so well is because you become attached to the characters and they risk everything, while in Huxley’s eyes, all that matters is thinking, therefore becoming. Let me compare it to something in real life; Self-immolation, or the act of lighting oneself on fire as a form of protest, of Tibetan Monks shows impact and why people need to listen. Simply stating that something is bad and then escaping to a distant place does nothing. If Jesus said that he would take on the worlds sins and then instead of crucifixion, he moved to France, would he be followed today? If when Martin Luther King Jr. saw the errors in American judgement and ideals, thought “I wish this was different” and then fled to a more accepting country, would civil rights have progressed like they have? Absolutely not. So is running from the machine without trying to fix it in a Brave New World doing anything to enlighten the reader or the world that he belongs to? Absolutely fucking not. He may have died but it was for him and only him. There was so much more that could have happened but every time Huxley could have wowed, he fell short. Reading it was a waste of my time and it missed the moral lessons that it barely tried to reach.
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.