by Aldous Huxley
First sentence: “A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories.”
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I’ve known for years that I ought to read Brave New World, that it’s a Classic, and one of those books that are the Foundations of Science Fiction. M has read it twice, though Hubby has yet to read it all the way through (shocking!). Thankfully, the Nook voted to read this one this past month, and I was able to take time away from my Cybils duties to squeeze in a bit of Huxley.
And my mind was boggled.
First off because this story was published in 1932. People! Aside from a some archaic treatment of Native Americans (a bit on the glorification side, and he called them Savages), it was mind-blowingly modern. His core ideas: that through science we would develop classes of humans, and brain wash them to be happy/content in their situation in life; that we would, through public policy, get rid of individualism and thereby ridding the world of wars and disagreements; that we, through tradition and education, would get rid of families and home, are all still issues that, for better or worse, are discussed today.
I’m not sure, in the end, whether or not I “got” it. Sometimes the structure was overly jumpy, and it left my scratching my head, wondering what on earth was going on. (*cough*chapterthree*cough*) But, it was fascinating to discuss, debating the merits of contentment with the merits of art and conflict. (I’m in the We Like Things Messy and Individual Camp.)
In fact, my favorite passage comes when John Savage (the guy who grew up outside of the Society) talks to Mustapha Mond (the World Controller):
“Isn’t there something in living dangerously?”
“There is a great deal in it,” the Controller replied. “Men and women must have their adrenals stimulated from time to time.”
“What?” questioned the Savage, uncomprehending.
“It’s one of the conditions of perfect health. That’s why we’ve made the V. P. S. treatments compulsory.”
“V. P. S.?”
“Violent passion Surrogate. Regularly once a moth. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It’s the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any inconveniences.”
“We don’t,” said the Controller. “We prefer to do things comfortably.”
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”
And there you have it, in a nutshell. Brilliant.