Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Classic Fiction
This is one of the most well-loved classics of all time, and most people I follow on Goodreads gave either 4 or 5 stars to it, and it belongs in many people’s Favorites shelves. Many people have actually recommended it to me (Hi, Bia!), but I should have listened to my boyfriend when he said that, although he had really enjoyed the book, I wouldn’t like it all that much. So hold tight, this might be a rant-view. I’ve held back from making my points too long, but still it’s quite an epic rant.
Brave New World is set in the distant future in the UK, where years are marked in Before Ford and After Ford. In this future, women no longer give birth to children and families no longer raise them – the children are created in vitro and then raised by the government, who conditions them into behaving in accordance with their cast (Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Epsilons). Everyone is happy in their cast, and thrive in socializing and forming no emotional bonds to one another. Bernard Marx is an Alpha Plus – he is in the most intelligent cast, and the tallest one, but somehow he came out much shorter than the average Alpha, and as tall as a Gamma. For this reason, he’s a social outcast – which makes him more introspective than his counterparts. Having a crush on Lenina, a beautiful and popular Beta girl, he invites her to see the Savages in New Mexico, where they meet Linda and John, and their lives are changed forever.
This must have been the hardest book ever for me to rate. It started off with the first 10-20% of the book being a solid 5 stars for me, despite the dubious biology which raised more questions than the book cared to answer, but I forgave that, as it’s science fiction, not science unquestionable-and–exact-facts-only. So I brushed them off. Then came the casual, blatant racism, I cringed a little and told myself: it’s from 1932, it’s from 1932… Then came the misogyny, and again I repeated my mantra.
It is irresistible to compare it to 1984. As there are articles on that, I won’t linger much on it, but here are my summarized thoughts:
1984 vs. Brave New World
- Both “forsee” a government in control of the population’s lives to the last detail. While 1984 uses totalitarism, vigilance, violence and repression of sex, BNW uses socialization, drugs, sex, technology and conditioning. The first has a distressed population still in process of adapting to the reality of war and vigilance, the latter has their people perfectly happy and with no desire for change.
- Both have men who are misfits and pretty, young and promiscuous women for protagonists.*rolls eyes* But while in 1984 the man is older, full of thoughts of violence and naïve, in BNW he is young, whiny, superficial. John, the other protagonist in BNW which shows up around the middle of the book, is a naïve, angsty, violent man. I have to say I disliked both protagonists from BNW.
- The execution of 1984 felt much more consistent, whereas in BNW it felt that some scenes were added for shock and no other reason.
I understand that 1984 was written years after and was heavily based on BNW, so maybe that is why I liked its execution better. Also, for all the sexual freedom, there was not one homosexual couple.
Personally, I thought the Savage was not the right choice of a narrator for the second part of the book, at least not in the way it was done. Once again, another novel relying on knowledge of Shakespeare’s work so that we get some context – making it less accessible for non-British readers, who probably have read just a few works, or none at all. Also, from my understanding the character had an “outsider” view of the world, which was supposed to expose the madness of the new world, but I found him highly unreliable, far too passionate, far too Shakespearean, incapable of learning new things or adapting to situations.
Verdict: I decided to give the book 3 stars for its creativity, originality and the fact that it resonates so much with the current times, despite having been written generations ago. It’s not a book for my taste, as I’ve been told, I read books with my 2017 feminist mind and I’m rather critical in general. So I do recommend this read if you enjoy dystopia, unless you are as much of a critical reader as me. It’s a good one for taking to a book club, though – it’s quite short and it touches into a lot of subjects that will generate discussion (here’s a few questions if you guys are interested).