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Thursday, October 06, 2016

Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley

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Brave New World was published in 1932, a decade and a half before George Orwell wrote along similar lines in 1984.

Book Review
Brave New World (1932)
by Aldous Huxley

  Brave New World was published 17 years before George Orwell's 1984.   Huxley's depiction of a futuristic totalitarian state may have been the first techno dystopia in fiction or non fiction.  His future dystopia is a combination of mass production and "pure" communism, with a benevolent oligarchic dictatorship ensuring that babies are properly grown in test tubes, the five classes of humanity- alpha through epsilon- are properly indoctrinated via hypno/sleep suggestion and that every has an adequate supply of soma, a drug that sounds pretty much like morphine.

  Compared to Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World is a fairly benign place.  Orwell, of course, was writing with full knowledge of the horrors of World War II, where Huxley was writing during the interwar period where many English intellectuals flirted with totalitarianism of both right and left varieties.   Huxley's most penetrating observations surround his depiction of the pleasure seeking consumer society that wasn't even beginning in the 1930's.   The idea of cheap drugs and free sex began to resonate deeply a generation after Huxley published Brave New World.   Like Herman Hesse, Huxley wrote books in the early part of the 20th century that only fully resonated with it's largest audience decades later.  In this way, he falls into the same category as Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters.

  Although Huxley's techno-dystopia was prescient in many ways, his writing style is more or less derivative of H.G. Wells.   That is nothing to be ashamed of, but the plot and the writing in general is not equal to Orwell in 1984.  Orwell was very deeply involved with the language of totalitarianism, to the point where he generated his own argot for 1984.  Huxley, on the other hand, relies on Shakespeare, from where Huxley derives his title. 

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