Saturday, April 5, 2014

Vintage Vision: Soma, Synthetic Music and Bokanovsky's Process



Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Genre: Classic/ Dystopian/ Science Fiction
Publication Year: 1932
Rating: 4/5


Allow me to take a moment to explain a little something really quick. I read the HarperPerennial ModernClassics edition of this book. This edition contains Brave New World, Brave New World Revisited, an author profile, recommended reading, and another brief article discussing the book. Also included is the Brave New World preface, written by Huxley and a foreword by Christopher Hitchens.

The Cover:   
This book is (as you can see by the picture) a dark blue. I really like the dark blue. I also like the light blue lettering of the title. I'm an absolute sucker for blue. I'm not quite sure what the point of the goldish spheres/grommets are. I don't know why those are there or if they are supposed to represent something. Perhaps they are just supposed to look good. Perhaps. I like the pages of this edition a lot! They're papery (duh) and uneven...like the one that A Series of Unfortunate Events books have. I just like how it looks, even if it does get a little more difficult to turn the page, since I am not always sure which page is which due to the uneven lengths. Here ends my bookish shallowness when it comes to covers, moving on.  




What's This Book About?
Brave New World is a dystopian science fiction book. It's also a satirical novel. Basically, the world has changed drastically from the one we all live in at present. Scientific advances have changed life as we know it. Thanks to the Bokanovsky process, one egg can split into 8-96 embryos. This means that up to 96 human clones can be created....in a laboratory. So this is basically a world that has a human factory. In this human factory, the humans are all conditioned. They are created a certain way, either perfect or with precise defects that will place them into a certain class of existence. This ranges from Alpha to Epsilon or Delta or maybe they get lucky and become an Alpha Plus. Deltas and Epsilons are shorter in stature, although the main character, Bernard Marx, is a bit shorter than he should be for an Alpha Plus. We still never find out why that is precisely. Promiscuity is the norm in the society. It is rather uncommon for pairs to be together for even 4 months. Even then, the relationships have no commitment to them. Monogamy is highly frowned upon and pregnancy is even worse. Contraceptives are everywhere and sex abounds (don't take this the wrong way, because there are really no erotic or explicit scenes in this book). Mother is a scary thing of the past. Family doesn't exist and the mantra that everyone belongs to everyone is replayed again and again. From birth the people are taught in their sleep by an audio loop that plays and plays until it is ingrained in their subconscious being. This is done for YEARS. Children are conditioned in different ways by the hour. Can you say ultimate and extreme brainwash? There is no God...there is no passion....no love....there is no Shakespeare.....but there is a savage reservation. Located in New Mexico, Bernard and his lady friend pay it a visit. Special permission has to be granted to access it and no one can come out if unauthorized. The Savages live a natural, familiar lifestyle. They are similar to our "natives" and 3 world civilizations of today. This book is basically an overview of this world and shows it to us through the three main characters perspectives.

Meet the Main Cast!!
1) Bernard Marx
2) Lenina Crowne
3) The Savage

1. Bernard Marx is an Alpha Plus male who feels alone and doesn't follow the trends and customs of society. He is kind of a loner and doesn't feel the whole "Everybody belongs to everybody" spiel. He sees beyond the superficiality of that existence.

2. Lenina Crowne is only and repeatedly described as pneumatic. A rather odd description word for a character, but then this whole society and way of being is rather odd to me. She has a thing for Bernard but enjoys society as it is. I'd say she has been successfully conditioned.

3) The Savage (who has the real name of John) is only referred to as the Savage for at least the last half of the book. Actually, upon his entrance into society. He has his own way of thinking and being that doesn't match up to societal standard. He is alienated due to this in every way possible and alienates himself quite a bit.


What Do I Love About This Book?
Brave New World was a really enjoyable book to read. I loved hearing of the society and what its turned into. Its absolutely horrific in my opinion, but that's what makes it so fascinating. Its almost scary that some of the characteristics of that society can actually be found in our own. Not all of them, but certainly a few. This can especially be seen as more and more people cheat on their significant others and as the divorce rate continues to rise. Family size is growing smaller these days too. Some of our entertainment is definitely lacking in my opinion too, which could be a reflection of how simplistic society is becoming. The similarities have staggered me. I didn't really pay too much attention or focus to the satirical aspects. I noticed them present but that's not what kept me reading. I can see the points being made and I just felt that this book was better enjoyed by the fact of its fictionality and creativity. I also liked the opening chapters that introduce the scientific processes that made it all possible. In other reviews I've noted that many others have found the science to be boring or tedious, but I found it to be really interesting and a nice little touch. I felt it was the best way to open the book and without it, I don't think it would be nearly as good.  I also enjoyed how The Savage was constantly talking and referencing Shakespeare. It was a touch that I think was much needed and helped me to really feel a connection with the book since I've read several of Shakespeare's works.

What Needs Work?
Although I really enjoyed this book, I'm seeing a lot of fuss over it being satirical....but I didn't feel like this was a major satire. Yes, there are some points that are clearly marked. Overall though, I just feel like its a good work of fiction. However,......the ending.....I don't know that I'm completely satisfied with it. I'm actually still debating this point. I think that it probably was one of the only ways that it could have gone. I'm not entirely sure that it is what would've happened. Two and two is not adding up to four for me on this point. That's just me of course. It is my preference. I feel like I needed more closure, but I suppose that as long as this fictional society works in the way it does, then the ending is the only way things could turn out.


Brave New World Revisited
I'm going to be honest here...I couldn't quite make it through Brave New World Revisited. I understand what Huxley was trying to do. This section is purely a listing of things that could be detrimental and could turn our society into the one present in Brave New World. Great points, but I found it very tedious and I could've done without its inclusion. I believe Huxley's strengths lie in presenting the human condition through fiction, not putting out informative books based upon them. It would've been much more interesting if he had written a sort of prequel to Brave New World that outlines these factors and how they led to the ultimate shift. That or maybe even a novel to accompany Brave New World as a sort of sequel, to let us know what became of everyone else. I would've enjoyed that much more.

Additional Content
The rest of the extra stuff in this edition wasn't bad. It was enjoyable. There was a short biography about Huxley and a miniature article about the contemporary response to Brave New World. I enjoyed these extra little features. The very last few pages showed other works by Huxley. I might give one or two a try in the far future, but not anytime super soon as I still have a lot of other things to read.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Ok. I really enjoyed this book. I don't agree with a lot of the points other people have made about it on Goodreads. I liked the science involved and I especially liked it as the opening. All the characters are interesting and this is an interesting view on the human condition under certain circumstances. There are a few things I would've liked to have known that never came to light, but I can easily neglect those. There is much debate as to if our present day society is heading towards the kind of society highlighted in a Brave New World. To that I have only this to say....in science there are indicator species. These are the animals or plants that are huge indications of change for the negative. The only way to know is to keep an eye on Shakespeare. The indicator species of our society is the work of Shakespeare. When Shakespeare is no longer studied, discussed, or read, then we'll know that there is a problem. This may seem like a weird thing to say for those who haven't read the book, but I'm sure those who HAVE read it can see the point I am making.

Now I'll leave you off with the back cover of this book (because that was something I really liked about this particular edition).

 



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