Brave New World – Book Review

It took me about a month, but I finally finished reading Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, completing my journey through a dystopian future set in London in the year 2540 A.D. BraveNewWorld_FirstEdition

‘The greater a man’s talents, the greater his power to lead astray’

This quote sets the tone for Huxley’s novel, written in 1931, and published a year later in 1932. In the context of the history of the 20th century, the novel served as a unique, and menacing vision of the future during the interwar period between the end of the First World War (1914-1918), and the beginning of the Second World War (1939-1945).

Through his skillful prose, Huxley provides a prescient view of a future where he anticipates the development of various scientific ideas such as reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning. Human lives are controlled by a variety of forces including genetic engineering, indoctrination, and drugs. In fact, the concept of the individual is mired, and ultimately lost in the foundation of an “ideal” society where “everyone belongs to everyone else.”

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“…a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide…making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress.”

Spontaneous human desires, and emotions are nullified by the anesthetizing public mantras, the messengers of the societal indoctrination that pervades Huxley’s world, but it doesn’t matter as “everybody’s happy nowadays.” The reader is provided entry into this bleak, but brave new world, through the daily lives, and attitudes of the major characters in the novel. Through their eyes, the reader is able to identify his/her critical opinions of a biased world where skepticism is in itself a crime, feared as an unnatural, and tainting element of the supposed balance expressed in the societal hierarchy.

Throughout the novel, Huxley borrows heavily from the works of his predecessors. In particular, he draws inspiration from much of Shakespeare’s works, providing several quotations from The Tempest, Troilus and Cressida, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth to name a few. The title of the novel is in fact from Miranda’s speech in The Tempest,

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“O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.”

– William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I, ll.

While Huxley himself speaks of his work’s inspiration from the utopian novels of H.G. Wells, including A Modern Utopia (1905) and Men Like Gods (1923), he disavows Wells’ hopeful vision of the future in place of the darker presentation he provides in his novel. Huxley’s novel also serves as a counterpart to the George Orwell’s 1984. The two novels differentiate themselves in the prescient views they prescribe to the future. While Orwell’s fears are borne of a world that rejects knowledge, Huxley’s fears are beset upon a world that finds knowledge redundant, or rather irrelevant.

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“…most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.”

In conclusion, I believe Huxley feared the loss of the complexities that make human culture unique in exchange for triviality. He expresses this fears through the cyclical, and largely indifferent activities that his characters engage in their daily lives. By reading the book, and finding the various allusions it provides to modern-day society, I was left exhilarated at the daunting responsibility for the future that the current generation faces amidst a rapidly changing world. The triviality that Huxley frequently alludes to in his work is evident in today’s society, dominated by social media, leaving us blind to an extent, and in much need of a reassessment of what may constitute the necessary discussions, decisions, and actions we must partake in, for the greater security of our world, and the human species as a whole.

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“Again the greatest use of a human was to be useful. Not to consume, not to watch, but to do something for someone else that improved their life, even for a few minutes.”
― Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King 

While Huxley may have realized his vision of such a brave new world several years ago, his work remains today as a warning, and as a reminder of the social responsibility every individual shares in the maintenance, and regulation of the world we live in.

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Turning 25…

I am now officially 25 years old. I’d celebrated the annual turn of my biological clock (yesterday) which culminated in the usual exclamation (courtesy of a close “friend” of mine):

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I have a habit, on the eve of my birthday, to recollect, and contemplate upon the memories of the year prior. This year’s celebration came with a twist, as I found myself looking ahead instead to the goals I’ve committed to, and hope to realize by my 26th.

The shortlist would include:

(1) The completion of a new book (as well as the start of a bunch of writing projects spanning various genres such as manga, science fiction, and politics).

(2) The completion of my Masters degree (and the subsequent pursuit for a PhD, in Robotics).

(3) A family reunion in the near future, along with various opportunities for short trips around the world to exotic locations (time-permitting).

It’s an ambitious endeavor, but I’m more than ready to see it through to the end. Having saved up some money to gift myself on this occasion with a portable keyboard (a Yamaha PSRE-W400, to be specific), I’m hoping to play out the melodies of my life of the next year as a beautiful composition,

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that I could one day look back to, and just go,

Jokes aside, I’m very happy. I can’t thank my family, and my girlfriend Leina, enough. You have both supported me at every turn. You are the best! So how did I celebrate?

To be frank, it was quite simple.  I had a great time with Leina, during our Shakespearean date, to a live staging of Romeo, and Juliet by the FreeWillPlayers at William Hawrelak Park (a show I highly recommend to anyone who is in Edmonton.)

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The stage was set for the beautiful Shakespearean tragedy at William Hawrelak Park.

The play was a wonderful reminder of the literature study I had done on the same, almost seven years ago in high school. The project’s requirement was a critical analysis of the play’s major themes, in a report of maybe a few pages. I took things to the extreme, submitting instead, a 50 page act-by-act analysis, along with a personal statement, to my distraught professor.

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I “really” appreciate your enthusiasm, but really..?

Having thoroughly enjoyed the show, it wasn’t long until I took a leaf out of Romeo’s quips,

“If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”
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That’s what I’m talking about!
to woo my partner. Rightfully so,  I was bequeathed my gift, all thanks to your eloquent words, William!

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Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the date. Walking back home from the park, against the backdrop of night, Leina, and I had an open view of the sky, bereft of urban structures, and the flickering dance of stars that grace the heavens during the summer season. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
The stars provide a sense of eternity, in their constant appearance.  I can’t say the same about my life, always in motion, and inviting change at every window of opportunity. Learning to accept this was a difficult process, and played a significant role in my struggle to come to terms with my identity. But, in the end, I’m well aware that without such a struggle, I would not be the man I am today, nor would I be surrounded by the people who have supported me every step of the way.
25?  It is an interesting number. I highly anticipate the adventures that lie ahead.
I’d like to thank my family, my friends, and my partner, Leina, for all their love. You all made my day.
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ARIGATO MINNA!!