Brought to you by the letter ‘B’
This month I’m going to review an oldie but goodie – Aldous Huxley’s satirical masterpiece Brave New World. The novel, written in 1931, has stood the test of time and is regularly found on lists such as the Modern Library’s “100 best English language novels of the 20th century”, the Observer’s “Top 100 greatest novels of all time” and Channel 4’s 1000 greatest novels of the first half of the 20th century part one of two hour-long Christmas specials. The last one might be made up, but you get the picture.
In the 1930s it was widely believed that in the future all would be well. This was reflected by the ideals portrayed in utopian literature at the time. Inspired by such ideals in H G. Wells’ novels A Modern Utopia (1905) and Men Like Gods (1923), Huxley set about writing a parody of the novels in reaction to Wells’ utopias, referring to his novel as a ‘negative utopia’ (now known as dystopian). Brave New World is essentially a warning against such optimistic beliefs.
Set in London AD 2540 (632 A.F “After Ford”), when you begin to read Huxley’s Brave New World a stark comparison with present-day society gradually reveals itself. Designer drugs, social conditioning and consumerism are all elements of society Huxley recognised present in 1931 and are ever-present today. Mottos like “ending is better than mending” and “a gramme is better than a damn” reflect how consumerism and designer drugs have become a social norm in the year 632 A.F. We may not have the same mottos word-for-word as the people in life After Ford, but I can see many similarities between Brave New World and today’s society. In a world where Huxley prophesied obsessions with consumerism, sex without emotional attachments and test-tube babies, his fictional world is uncomfortably closer to reality now than when the book was first published in 1932.
We’re all familiar with the classic horror story format. You know, the classic American horror where at some point in the story a blonde bimbo will run up the stairs instead of out the BLOODY door. If you want a realistic horror, something that will terrify you because you can actually see it happening in the future; a story where, even if you are cynical, you can immerse yourself in an excellently crafted piece of literature, then please read Brave New World.
The novel has been on my ‘to read’ list for a while now. Once I had read it I felt like I had wasted time not reading it – almost as if I had missed out on a defining life moment! For me, this is the marking of a truly brilliant piece of literature. If I have to give it a rating, I’ll give Brave New World what it deserves: 10/10 – because nothing beats a classic!