Sunday, July 4, 2010

Brave New World

I bought “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley (1932) a long time ago solely based on its status as a dystopian classic, which had to have been a little more than a year and a half ago. Today, in the midst of the composition of my own dystopian novel, I’ve decided to go through the classics of that genre to get a feel of how they approached the subject and picked this one out first. I can’t deny that it was certainly a well-written novel, especially considering the fact that I disagree with it politically.

In this “anti-utopian” future that takes place a century or two after Huxley wrote it, social stability is created and conditioned at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Center. Here, people are “decanted” (instead of reproduced in a woman after she has sex with a man), biologically cultured and multiplied through scientific applications such as Bokanovsky’s Process (where an embryo is made to bud out other eggs/embryos) and Podsnap’s Technique (where the process of the embryo growth is accelerated). With the end product of all this seeming to solely be simple “happiness”, or in reality, coming to the obligation to go back into the Central London Hatchery to work for them and pump out humans in the same way oneself has, the adventure starts when worker Bernard Marx begins to outward express his desire “to know what passion is”, much to the dismay of public manner and prudence, reflected in the character of Lenina, a promiscuous Hatchery worker (the general norm and obligated behavior of this society is promiscuity). Marx becomes tired of rote, daily life and begins actively seeking a way to shake his society up.

In a letter to George Orwell, Huxley wrote that the point of this novel was show the different, more efficient methods a violent boot-on-your-face, death-for-nothing totalitarian government would take to control their population, such as “hypnopaedia” (recordings that play in people’s ears as they sleep to hypnotize them into having beliefs), and a drug called “soma” that keeps people pacified when confronted with existential questions or crisis of reality. But, it seems to me that Huxley is suggesting that the government would switch over from a heavily right-wing approach in politics to a communist one. In the back notes of the edition I have, it’s recorded that someone named Granville Hicks of the Communist Party of USA said this novel was a product of Huxley speaking from his upper-class, educated background with no experience or understanding of the suffering of the masses.

The character who becomes a rebel of this society, John the Savage, a Shakespeare-quoting Anglo-Saxon who was raised on an Indian reservation, is brought by Bernard into London’s “civilized” society of people repeating Ford’s ideas of Community, Identity, Stability and hates it. He hates it because people are “decanted” (born) and fated to live 100% comforted lives without any kind of exposure to danger or sense of mortality and suspense. Reading this passage, I then questioned the validity of purposefully putting people through these circumstances versus just naturally letting life perform that job (which Huxley seems to think will not happen in Communism, as depicted in this novel), but in the context that the Savage presented this idea, I understood.

At any rate, I’m sure there is enough interpretive discussion of the content to fill up 15 Microsoft Word pages single-spaced, but my goal here is to direct focus on the text as a novel and piece of entertainment. The characters and the ideas the represented were interesting, and for some reason I kept picturing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing the character of Helmholtz Watson from the way he is described in the text (you read it and tell me what you think. Worthy of note is the fact that popular director Ridley Scott is working on a film adaptation of this book). The novel, with its delving into the scientific process of making humans with machines on an assembly line, is at first enlightening and interesting but starts to feel like it’s going on way longer than it supposed to. Luckily, this kind of exposition is never revisited. It keeps a moderate pace: not glossing over plot aspects (of which there really isn’t any) or characters or structures of this dystopian London quickly and sloppily, but not painfully going over each and every detail of everything either. I cannot say it’s a favorite of mine, but something certainly worth picking up and checking out.

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Bollocks, what's your bloody take on things then?