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Book Review: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

brave new worldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley

Goodreads Description: Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s prophetic novel of natural man in an unnatural world, is one of the twentieth century’s most profound and terrifying evocations of the future. This story of life in a streamlined Eden describes a civilization in which contemporary concepts of freedom and morality have become obsolete.

Modern Library Top 100 Rank: 5

My Review:

The book, written in 1931, is incredibly prophetic beginning with its description of human life created in a lab. No doubt it had seemed like a radical idea at the time, but less than fifty years later the first human would be conceived in a test tube within a sterile environment similar to one Huxley described. It’s a process known as IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), and it has fulfilled the dreams of many couples who couldn’t conceive naturally. With IVF, conception occurs outside the womb with the fertilized egg being returned to the mother’s uterus to develop as nature intended. I applaud science for finding a way to bring hope to couples who have had trouble conceiving, but I hope I don’t live to see a world where a BOKANOVSKY type process comes to fruition. Huxley’s novel takes the process to a terrifying level with its Hatchery and Conditioning center.

First Sentence: “A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.”

The centre is a place where humans are artificially conceived and bottled in jars during gestation. Many are preselected at conception for a lower class, a process known as “bokanovskification”, where they are treated like a commodity and mass-produced in an assembly line of sorts, subjected to substandard environmental conditions at the embryonic stage to cause arrested development in mental and physical acuity, and conditioned via Pavlovian methods after “birth” to be suited and satisfied with their position in life.

Because of this, the family structure no longer exists. “Parent” is a foreign concept along with all the emotional ties of that familial bond. If you are a parent, think of the first time you heard your child say “Mama” or “Dada.” For me, it is one of the most beautiful words in the human language because of the depth of emotion and protective instinct that is tied to it. It stirs up feelings in me that I cannot even begin to put into words.

By artificially controlling the natural development of humans, we lose everything that makes each of us unique and suppress the potential for great ideas and innovation. By disallowing natural bonds to form like parent/child, husband/wife, we destroy the concepts of unconditional love, loyalty, and devotion.  

In the book, the leaders of society have created a utopia where everyone is content. A person’s purpose is manufactured through conditioning for the benefit of the community. Even a person’s emotions can be manufactured by popping a pill called Soma if they are depressed or having a VPS (Violent Passion Surrogate) treatment to stimulate the adrenals.

“What you need,” the Savage went on, “is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here.

Exposing what is mortal and unsure to all that fortune, death and danger, even for an eggshell. Isn’t there something in that?” he asked, looking up at Mustapha Mond. “Quite apart from God—though of course God would be a reason for it. Isn’t there something in living dangerously?”

“There’s 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.”


“Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. 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 of the inconveniences.”

“But I like the 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.”

It’s frightening how prophetic this book is when you think about it. Don’t think so? Let’s name a few mood altering drugs on the market today: Zoloft, Xanax, and Prozac. They’re really not too different from Soma, are they? I haven’t taken any of them, but I’ve heard acquaintances gush about how wonderful they are because they don’t worry about anything. They are just so happy, albeit a “manufactured” happy. What about adrenal stimulation? Video games, anyone? Especially combat games where the threat of death is simulated. The same can be said of horror or action movies.

These things may seem innocuous. After all, antidepressants aid people suffering from depression, video games improve hand-eye coordination, reaction time and decision-making, and movies create empathy; but when we partake in such large doses and they prevent us from dealing with reality, it becomes an issue.  

Yes, Huxley’s Brave New World is frightening indeed, and when I think of the state of morality as displayed by many celebrities, people on reality TV, and society in general, I wonder how far we are from it, really.

4 of 5 stars