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Monday, February 22, 2010

Brave New World

Brave New World Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this great dystopian book in my attempt to tick off great 20th century novels one by one. The conceptual aspect of the world Huxley envisions is imaginative, fascinating, and occasionally brilliant--government which controls its subjects through genetic engineering aided by pleasure, oblivion and ecstasy. Rather than pain and repression keeping people down, conformity, free love, and constant engagement of the senses are the weapons wielded by the powers that be.

Huxley's modern writing style, jumping around from one place and person to another at a lightning-quick pace, is fun to read and the book went by breezily and with a good deal of excitement.

But I just wasn't convinced by Huxley's characters, who were all rather detached and unpleasant (as opposed to the MCs in "1984" whom one just loves and identify with so much) nor did I buy his rather prudish concerns with the fate of humanity. Yes, it's true that we like to distract ourselves from life with drugs and sex, but no, the "everybody has everybody" philosophy his society espouses, and the breaking down of clans, friendships and family units such a philosophy entails, would never go over so easily with any populace, no matter when or where. We are too clinging, too imperfect.

I think Lois Lowry's YA masterpiece"The Giver" is a much, much better stab at the same concept--a world regulated without pain or loss, but without love also.

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  1. Ah, one of the tomes I read in the psych ward :)

  2. Anonymous11:50 PM

    Sarah, interesting you cited the Radcliffe list. I prefer Radcliffe too for many of the same reasons, especially because that panel was more open to genre fiction (e.g. Wind in the Willows, LOTR). As far as not agreeing with rankings, that's always a tough question. The EW new classics list placed On Beauty (19 or 21) and Case Histories (~30) way ahead of Gilead (85), but if you look at metacritic the latter actually received superior critical reception.

  3. That's exactly why I love the Radcliffe list. Women, people of color, genre fiction, without giving short shrift to the Joyces and Fitzgeralds. But yes, the ranking aspect is always ridiculous with all those lists. Who's to say Gone With the Wind > Lawrence of Arabia, etc etc?