Book Review: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (3/5). Finally catching up on classics

28 Jul

I was skeptical when my carpool buddy picked this title. I’ve never read this classic and frankly have never heard too many rave reviews of it. Nevertheless, I thought letting her pick the first book would be a good move as she’s never done audiobooks before.

Cover Image via

Cover Image via

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Four hundred years from now, we’ll all be savages. The civilized people will play elevator squash instead of tennis and will be decanted instead of born. They will take Soma instead of alcohol and everyone will be happy. Or at least, that’s what Aldous Huxley believes. In his dystopian world, the relationships between men and women have changed drastically and love is considered an antiquated idea.

In this world, Lenina Crowne has found peace and what she considers a happy life. Shen her lover, Bernard, takes her to visit the savages in America, she’s more worried about the number of elevator squash courts at the hotel than how the trip will change her. Bernard and Lenina find a woman named Linda who was previously a member of civilized society but who was shamed when she became pregnant. She has raised her son, John, on the sanctuary property. Bernard decides to bring Linda and John back with him to London as a sort of social experiment. While Linda is ecstatic to return, John has trouble adjusting to civilized life. He had been the odd-one-out among the savages for his learned ways and he’s the oddball among the civilized for his savage tendencies. Needless to say, John has a hard time adjusting.

I didn’t expect this book to be so funny! Really, to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. The narrator really helped as he did a great job with the work. I think there was a lot of setup so that the reader could understand the world the way Huxley saw it and for a while I did feel it dragged. I guess there’s a fine balance to hit for this because I felt China Mieville didn’t give enough. I liked it enough, though I’m not sure I’d call it a ‘favorite’ or ‘must read.’

All of the characters were so over the top and crazy that they seemed unbelievable, but I think that was part of their charm. They come from a world that’s so incredibly different from our own, that they should seem unreal. I wish John had been a bit more relatable, but his background was different from our own. I think the story would have been more impactful if John and Linda had been raised in a setting similar to the modern world (or whenever Huxley wrote the book). Then we would have had one character to latch onto; a dog in the fight.

I didn’t particularly like any of the characters because they were so shallow. I understand they were supposed to be that way, but it doesn’t make me like any of them. I guess Helmholtz would be my favorite because he seemed more level-headed than the rest. Unlike Bernard, he indulged in some of the pleasures of the civilized world at first while keeping himself more grounded than characters like Lenina. When Bernard goes crazy with his new-found fame toward the end, Helmholtz seems like the one grounded. I liked him as a foil for Bernard.

Aldous Huxley Image from The Independant

Aldous Huxley
Image from The Independent

I liked the book best at the beginning when the reader was learning about Huxley’s London. I could laugh at the ‘sign of the T’ and decanting and all that. I think it dragged on a bit, but it was a great example of ‘show, don’t tell’ for a writer.

I didn’t like the later half of the book, after John moved to London. I felt like he was a trained animal in a cage the entire time and I felt bad for him more than anything. It wasn’t funny any more and that took away a lot of my enjoyment of the story.

I’m still trying to digest Huxley’s overall theme. I noticed a lot of little ones; nostalgia, commitment, and control seem like the biggest ones to me. Nostalgia in the form of Linda, who yearned to return to civilized London and refused to adjust to life with the savages even after being there for years. It destroyed her in the end. John’s demise was also partially due to nostalgia because he was yearning to go back to the savages by the end and wanted to live the way he’d grown up.

Lenina and John had a misunderstanding of commitment that led to the sad ending of the story. In Lenina’s world, there were no commitments. Men and women didn’t commit to each other and it seemed that anyone can change their mind over their decisions at any time with minimal consequences. John came from a world where a decision was hard to go back from and he didn’t trust Lenina’s commitment to him. Oops.

Control is an obvious theme of this book where people aren’t trusted enough to have children and the government has a say in almost every facet of life. To one point, there was very little that people had to worry about and Lenina and Bernard’s greatest fears were not food, water, and shelter, but rather the sport facilities at hotels and how their apartments smelled. On the other hand the characters became interchangeable because they were so alike. They’d been conditioned to not have personalities and without personalities and passions, there’s less room for innovation and creative change.

Writer’s Takeaway: Wow, there’s so much to go on with this book. Huxley wrote this book in 1931 so before anyone thinks this is part of a ‘dystopian trend,’ consider that Huxley defined this genre more than followed it. His imagination is a bit different from Panem or the Divergent experiments, but it’s unique and original. As writers we shouldn’t be afraid to write something radical and new. Huxley wrote during the great depression when people were yearning for a happier, better future. It’s been argued that dystopian is popular today due to the ‘Great Recession’ and unrest with the political and economic situation in the current economy. What a wonderful parallel.

I do think the exposition in this story was a bit drawn out, but that’s really my only complaint. It was very well-balanced and written.

Enjoyable, but not something I’d re-read. Three out of five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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7 Responses to “Book Review: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (3/5). Finally catching up on classics”

  1. alenaslife July 28, 2014 at 3:57 PM #

    I appreciate your comments. Still not sure I want to read this but I’m inspired to continue trying to read more classics.


    • Sam July 28, 2014 at 4:50 PM #

      I’m so bad at reading classics. This was a struggle for me. I’ll have to find my motivation to keep reading.


      • alenaslife July 28, 2014 at 6:39 PM #

        It’s so hard not to apply a modern sensibility to these books. I can never fall into the book because lim always reminding myself not to judge characters by today’s standards.


      • Sam July 28, 2014 at 6:41 PM #

        Very true! I also find myself more interested in reading authors who are still writing. If I like one book, I have some to look forward to and won’t have to resort to re-reading as soon.


  2. Angus Miranda August 11, 2014 at 2:20 AM #

    Have you read 1984 by George Orwell? It’s usually compared and contrasted with this work. I prefer 1984 in terms of writing, but I think Brave New World is closer to its prediction today’s society.


    • Sam August 11, 2014 at 6:24 AM #

      I read 1984 in high school so it has been a bit, but I think I prefer it as well. The plot of this one seemed too silly to me. And funny enough, I think 1984 is closer to current society. I’ve heard most people greatly prefer one over the other


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