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Brave New World: With the Essay "Brave New World Revisited" Kindle Edition
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Now more than ever: Aldous Huxley's enduring masterwork must be read and understood by anyone concerned with preserving the human spirit
"A masterpiece. . . . One of the most prophetic dystopian works." —Wall Street Journal
Aldous Huxley's profoundly important classic of world literature, Brave New World is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically-advanced future where humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order—all at the cost of our freedom, full humanity, and perhaps also our souls. “A genius [who] who spent his life decrying the onward march of the Machine” (The New Yorker), Huxley was a man of incomparable talents: equally an artist, a spiritual seeker, and one of history’s keenest observers of human nature and civilization.
Brave New World, his masterpiece, has enthralled and terrified millions of readers, and retains its urgent relevance to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as a thought-provoking, satisfying work of literature. Written in the shadow of the rise of fascism during the 1930s, Brave New World likewise speaks to a 21st-century world dominated by mass-entertainment, technology, medicine and pharmaceuticals, the arts of persuasion, and the hidden influence of elites.
"Expertly handled by British actor Michael York absolutely engrossing." -- Erick Mertz, Cosmik Debris, Feb/Mar 2003
"Marvelously read by actor Michael York." -- Helen Colwell Adams, Sunday News, June 21, 1998
" pairs Michael Yorks quite talented and experienced voice with an unabridged narration of a work of literature." -- Library Bookwatch, March 2003 --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00JTYQJ3K
- Publisher : Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (July 1, 2014)
- Publication date : July 1, 2014
- Language : English
- File size : 2620 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 136 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #9,979 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Huxley came from an illustrious scientific family with social connections. His grandfather was Thomas Henry Huxley, Darwin’s close friend, publicist and “bulldog”, whose famous smackdown of Bishop Samuel Wilberforce has been relished by rationalists fighting against religious faith ever since. His brother was Julian Huxley, a famous biologist who among other accomplishments wrote a marvelous tome on everything that was then known about biology with H. G. Wells. Steeped in scientific as well as social discourse, possessing a deep knowledge of medical and other scientific research, Aldous was in an ideal position to write a far-reaching novel.
This he duly did. The basic premise of the novel sounds eerily prescient. Sometime in the near future, society has been regimented into a caste system where people are genetically engineered by the state in large state-run reproductive farms. Anticipating ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, only a select few women and men are capable of providing fertile eggs and sperm for this careful social engineering. The higher castes are strong, intelligent and charismatic. The lower castes are turgid, obedient and physically weak. They don’t begrudge those from the upper castes because their genetic engineering has largely removed their propensity toward jealousy and violence. Most notably, because reproduction is now the responsibility of the state, there is no longer a concept of a family, of a father or mother. There is knowledge of these concepts, but it’s regarded as archaic history from a past era and is met with revulsion.
How is this population kept under control? Not shockingly at all, through sex, drugs and rock and roll. Promiscuity is encouraged from childhood onwards and is simply a way of life, and everyone sleeps with everyone else, again without feeling jealousy or resentment (it was this depiction of promiscuity that led the book to be banned in India in the 60s). They flood their bodies with a drug called soma whenever they feel any kind of negative emotion welling up inside and party like there’s no end. They are brainwashed into believing the virtues of these and other interventions by the state through subliminal messages played when they are sleeping; such unconscious brainwashing goes all the way back to their birth. People do die, but out of sight, and when they are still looking young and attractive. Death is little more than a nuisance, a slight distraction from youth, beauty and fun.
Like Neo from ‘The Matrix’, one particular citizen of this society named Bernard Marx starts feeling that there is more to the world than would be apparent from this state of induced bliss. On a tryst with a particularly attractive member of his caste in an Indian reservation in New Mexico, he comes across a man referred to as the savage. The savage is the product of an illegitimate encounter (back when there were parents) between a member of a lower caste and the Director of Hatcheries who oversees all the controlled reproduction. He has grown up without any of the enlightened instruments of the New World, but his mother has kept a copy of Shakespeare with her so he knows all of Shakespeare by heart and frequently quotes it. Marx brings the savage back to his society. The rest of the book describes the savage’s reaction to this supposed utopia and its ultimately tragic consequences. Ultimately he concludes that it’s better to have free will and feel occasionally unhappy, resentful and angry than live in a society where free will is squelched and the population is kept bathed in an induced state of artificial happiness.
The vision of technological control in the novel is sweeping and frighteningly prescient. There is the brainwashing and complacent submission to the status quo that everyone undergoes which is similar to the messages provided in modern times by TV, social media and the 24-hour news cycle. There are the chemical and genetic interventions made by the state right in the embryonic stage to make sure that the embryos grow up with desired physical or mental advantages or deficiencies. These kinds of interventions are the exact kind feared by those wary of CRISPR and other genetic editing technologies. Finally, keeping the population preoccupied, entertained and away from critical thinking through sex and promiscuity is a particularly potent form of societal control that has been appreciated well by Victoria’s Secret, and that will not end with developments in virtual reality.
In some sense, Huxley completely anticipates the social problems engendered by the technological takeover of human jobs by robots and AI. Once human beings are left with nothing to do, how does the state ensure that they are prevented from becoming bored and restless and causing all kinds of trouble? In his book “Homo Deus”, Yuval Harari asks the same questions and concludes that a technocratic society will come up with distractions like virtual reality video games, new psychoactive drugs and novel forms of sexual entertainment that will keep the vast majority of unemployed from becoming bored and potentially hostile. I do not know whether Harari read Huxley, but I do feel more frightened by Huxley than by Harari. One reason I feel more frightened is because of what he leaves out; the book was published in 1932, so it omits any discussion of nuclear weapons which were invented ten years later. The combination of nuclear weapons with limitless societal control through technology makes for a particularly combustible mix.
The biggest prediction of Huxley’s dystopia, and one distinctly different from that made by Orwell or Kafka, is that instead of a socialist state, people’s minds are much more likely to be controlled in the near future by the leaders of technology companies like Google and Facebook who have formed an unholy nexus with the government. With their social media alerts and Fitbits and maps, the tech companies are increasingly telling us how to live our lives and distracting us from free thinking. Instead of communist regimes like the Soviet Union forcibly trampling on individual choice and liberty, we are already gently but willingly ceding our choices, privacy and liberties to machines and algorithms developed by these companies. And just like the state in Huxley and Orwell’s works, the leaders of these corporations will tell us why it’s in our best interests to let technology control our lives and freedom, when all the while it would really be in their best interests to tell us this. Our capitulation to their inventions will look helpful and voluntary and will feel pleasurable and even noble, but it will be no less complete than the capitulation of every individual in “Brave New World” or “1984”. The only question is, will there be any savages left among us to tell us how foolishly we are behaving?
DO NOT PURCHASE THE KINDLE VERSION.
By Stinky Minky on October 12, 2017
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 23, 2020
I accept that the frame of reference from Huxley's era was very different to ours, sadly it doesn't translate very well to this story at all.
The thing about 1984 is the prophetic way in that it describes the 'future', our present day. Orwell's writing style is relaxing to read and allows you to become absorbed in the world that he expertly crafts.
Brave New World does none of this, it is an awkward, difficult read. Not in a fun, challenging way but in a structureless and clumsy manner. It's repeated returns to 'toddler's erotic play' are revealing more of the author's own obsession than a narrative on his predicition of the future.
The main characters are not given any flesh, and I was unable to find any common ground with any of them, and found myself unable to understand any of their, apparently, randomly changing motivations.
This text has very strong undertones of religious zealotry and tries to persuade the reader in favour of religion over all. Further, the constant copy-and-paste paragraphs from Shakespeare became tiresome.
Very disappointed in this book, I persevered in the hope of a satisfactory ending but found it to be rushed, confusing and ridiculous.
If you're looking for a classic that provides a 'prophecy of the future', read 1984 instead, don't bother with Brave New World, you'll only leave disappointed.
And also no art, no literature or true creation of any kind. No gods or spirituality, no adventure or surprises or passion of any kind, ever. No parents or families or friends or intimacy. No scientific advancement. No private thoughts. Everyone is for everyone else. Your time must be shared. You can never experience solitude and reflection. You can never have autonomy. Your words are not your own. Your body is not inviolate. If you are not like this you are shipped off to an island with the few other defective members of society who are like you. Whether that is lucky or unlucky is a matter of perspective.
Effing frightening stuff if ever I heard it. I loved this book more after I finished than when I was reading, because the challenge wasn't in accepting the world the characters inhabited, as it was really easy to digest because of its intentional tone (extraordinarily light, as if you're on a drug inducing you to be that way the entire time, hint hint), but accepting the world around me as being frighteningly familiar to it in some unsettling ways. It deosn't wholly reflect the world right now, but when it does it is in big ways. Though short it feeds enough into the psyche about our society as a whole, how we need suffering for heroism, mutual passion for love, pain and rejection for inspiration, and loss to understand the value of life - without these things creativity and progression are impossible. In Brave New World they are unwanted. Even sitting here now I'm remembering things that have so much more meaning after digesting than they did at the time. I suppose that's a good sign, being able to think...
Having been released in the 40s (and so forgiveness must be given for some more outdated things in it), I'm sure it was a frightening vision of the future like its fellow 1984. Nowadays, maybe it doesn't always get the same reception because we're slipping into a distracted world and are conditioned to not see it coming...even like it... There are so any things I could write now the layers are springing up, but I would probably write an essay. Or a book. It'd probably be something very much like this one.
As an added bonus, there was was also that moment I realised the film Demolition Man was clearly inspired by this book. That was a revelation.
Like 1984, this book shows you into a world where society works very differently. But this book mostly avoids pushing a moral judgement on the reader, leaving you to make up your own mind. And that can be tricky, as some of the aspects of the brave new world are appealing and others are revolting. Which is which will depend on the reader, so it's a great book for discussions!