WBN 62: Brave New World

Well, thanks to two busy weekends in a row, and a pretty busy week in the middle, I’ve fallen seriously behind on my reading! It took me over a week to read Dracula, and Brave New World about 5 or 6 days. It’s extremely disheartening but I’m looking forward to getting back on track this week.

Brave New World was written by Aldous Huxley in the 1930s and depicts a world where people are not born, but grown in factories, and are split into hierarchies according to the work they will go. The lower hierarchies (Deltas and Epsilons) are sabotaged during the growth process so that they won’t develop fully and will be happy to do menial tasks. They are produced in batches of thousands of identical children. All citizens are conditioned in their sleep to love their society, to be as productive as possible, to enjoy their work, to never become attached to anyone else and to take drugs whenever they feel angry or upset. The main characters are Bernard, an oddball Alpha with short man syndrome and Lenina, a shallow vaccination worker who accompanies him to New Mexico, where they visit a reservation (an area considered too remote or not cost effective to undergo the ‘civilisation’ process). Here, they meet John, whose mother was dumped in the reservation when she was pregnant with him. He has been rejected by the people on the reservation and his entire worldview is based on the works of Shakespeare, which he has pretty much learned by heart as it is the only book he has.

It’s very 1984 – although Orwell’s novel was written later, I think his has become the definer of the genre.

I think one of the reasons I found Brave New World took so long to read was just because I didn’t feel very passionate about it care that much about any of the characters. It was an extremely interesting premise, particularly considering how long ago the author set it down, and the writing itself is exquisite in places. But I found Lenina irritating and Bernard inconsistent. I wasn’t sure who I was meant to be rooting for as the only reasonable characters in the end seemed to be Helmholtz (Bernard’s friend) and possibly Mustapha Mond (the World Controller), and both of those were supporting characters at best. The point – that this society is simply a logical extension of the one Huxley lived in and we live in: consumerist, hedonistic and self-absorbed – is interesting but perhaps overstated. And the word pneumatic is strangely overused, to the point where it gets annoying!

Probably I just wasn’t in the right mood for this book as I think ordinarily I would have enjoyed it. I think I’m starting to see each book as a task to be completed instead of an opportunity to learn something and enjoy discovering new authors or new meanings to books I’ve read before.

Anyhow, I’ve got a good few pages into Faulks’ A Week in December now and really enjoying it so far. Really looking forward to finding out how all these characters wind into each others’ lives!

EDIT: Just realised A Week in December isn’t even on the list. So, so frustrating. Argh.

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Filed under Books, World Book Night challenge

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