Tag Archives: Control

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 Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

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.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
“Brave New World” Aldous Huxley | inesawolf
Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” Inspires Iron Maiden | From Novels to Notes
Book Review: “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley | The Z-Axis

Read Along With Me #1: The Maze Runner by James Dashner Chapters 20-29

12 Jun

ReadAlong1MazeI’m having so much fun with this Read-Along! The participating bloggers have been so great and those of you casually reading our blogs (I know you’re out there!) have been very encouraging. If you’re interested in joining, it’s not too late yet. You can still hop aboard. Check out the Read-Along page for some more information and send me an email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com if you’re interested in joining. On with the questions!

Question from Sultana: What level of control do you think the Creators have over the minds of those in the Maze? I ask not only because of the memory wipe on them, but also because of Alby’s incident where he choked himself but felt like somebody else was choking him so as not to reveal information about the Changing.
I had similar thoughts on that section. It seemed like creator-control that Alby was unable to speak about what he remembered. I don’t know how I would describe the control, but there seems to be a high level of it in this world. I’m not sure if I think it’s mind control or some high technology level, but I think there’s something. We could even take this a step further and say that the creators controlled Alby when he shot Ben. Who knows?

Question from Ashlee: Chuck made a comment to Thomas that he needs to quit acting weird so the others will stop taking notice of him. Do you think Thomas has a big target on his back in a good way or a bad way? The Keepers seemed to be split about if he’s there to help them or to destroy them, but what do you think the other boys in the Glade are wanting to do with this new kid who’s breaking the rules and showing everyone up?
I think initially, the target on his back was a bad thing, but I believe that’s starting to change. When weird things started happening after Thomas arrived, I think the others were weary of him and thought he brought bad luck. Now, after he’s proven himself int he maze, I think the target has turned to a good thing. I think the leadership is a bit more accepting of him than the average Glader, but I hope that will soon change

Question from Barb: It bothers me that the author states the characters’ emotions rather than describe how they feel.  Is this typical of Young Adult Fiction?  I haven’t read much Young Adult Fiction in a very long time (besides Harry Potter of course).  I feel like Thomas’s emotions are very sudden because there is no build up to the author’s statements. At the end of Chapter 30, “Thomas stood up to pace around the little room, fuming with an intense desire to keep his promise.”  The page before that he “hated with a passion he didn’t know a human could feel.”  Maybe adolescents just change emotions that quickly so the author has no time to build up to the shift. Does this bother you too?
I’ve noticed this in some Young Adult fiction but I hadn’t seen it yet in this one. I think sudden emotional change is normally characteristic of poor writers more than of YA novelists and I’m not sure how I feel about Dashner’s writing just yet. With my writing friends, we refer to the journey from one emotion to another as ’emotional blocking.’ I don’t think Dashner does emotional blocking particularly well but I’d hesitate to say that that’s characteristic of YA novels and more an author’s trait. It’s important to make your character’s reactions seem believable and it reflects negatively on Dashner that his readers don’t see this.

Question from Nicole: On page 175, Alby tells them to “protect the maps.” Maps of the maze? But I thought that the maze changed every single day?
I wonder if the Runners are looking for a pattern, whether one exists or not, and plot the maze each day. If there are things that change about it consistently, maybe they can plan on certain changes. Maybe the outer bounds of the maze don’t change so they believe the exit doesn’t move, only the path to the exit. I think there’s a lot of reasons they would want to map the maze each day and I hope we get to see those maps soon.

Question from Katherine: It seems pretty clear that weird stuff is going on in the outside world if somebody bothered to create the Glade/Maze, engineer Grievers, ship people and supplies… etc. I mean, people generally don’t do that stuff if everything’s hunky dory. But Thomas’s memories all seem pretty normal (movie theaters, farms, marathons). Are they fake? Implanted? Thomas himself mentions that maybe the memories revealed by the Changing are actually too horrible to think about…
I think I said in an earlier post that I feel like Thomas’s memories are almost too cookie-cutter. They’re very typical and free of emotion, which makes me think they’re implanted. I think there’s something really terrible going on in the outside world that these boys are hoping to find a cure for. I only hope they succeed

Question from Claudia (a new member of our little party): Let’s say, you were given the opportunity to question one character from this story with guaranteed honest answers, what character would you choose and what questions would you ask?
Gally. I feel like his Changing was particularly eventful and he remembers a lot that he’s not saying. Another caveat of the situation would have to be that the Creators can’t stop him from telling me anything!

Question from Lynn: Why can the girl speak to Thomas and nobody else can hear?
I don’t think she’s really unconscious. I think her inability to speak and talk is a result of the Creators putting her in such a state. I feel like mind-to-mind communication must be a thin in the world these boys come from and part of their forgetting is how to use this skill. I think Teresa is in a semi-unconscious state that makes it so she cannot communicate verbally but she’s still in enough control of her body to talk to Thomas in this way.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think about the book so far. Check out the other blogs here and on the hub page to see what others are saying.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!