The world has changed. There are no longer mothers or fathers, because children are developed in test-tubes, their destinies pre-determined for them before even conception. Multitudes of twins are decanted and raised as Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons. All children receive mental conditioning with their own class and according to it. When they grow up, they assume jobs that are in accordance with their training and – more importantly – their designation.
The first significant character introduced is Lenina Crowne whose friend is concerned for her because she isn’t having enough people. She has been dating a man lately for several dates and no one else. To rectify the situation, Lenina consents to going to a Mexican reservation with Bernard Marx where they find a civilized woman who was left behind by his boyfriend years ago. She was pregnant at the time and without contraceptives she was forced to carry to term and his son is now an adult. It is there that the story really begins. Bernard wants to bring the woman and her son to civilization to use as a weapon against his boss who is scheming for his downfall. The son is desperately in love with Lenina and eager to see the civilized world.
As can be expected, it does not end well. The civilized world is hellbent on instant satisfaction and stability. There is no art, no religion, no real science. Everyone is addicted to a synthetic drug called soma. In small doses it dampens negative experiences and in larger doses it allows you to go on small hallucinogenic holidays.
This was an odd book. It’s clear why it has been a science fiction mainstay for the last 80 years. It was also interesting to see how women are thought of and the touch stones to modern society. In a society where sexual desire is thought to be healthy and normal, even for women, motherhood on the other hand is played off as something that is taboo and obscene. In our society, where motherhood is seen as normal and healthy, female sexuality is still seen as somehow obscene and taboo. This can be seen in the recent hulabaloo around the pill debate as well as more subtly in the DC Comics New 52.
I finished this a while ago but I’m not sure what I think about it. It’s definitely something everyone should read and it’s a book that raises a lot of thoughts. It’s no wonder it’s been banned in a lot of places. For example in India, it has been banned and Huxley termed as a pronographer, which seems a bit ironic coming from the country that created the Kama Sutra. The book is also not only a product of its time but also seems quite advanced scientifically in many ways. I may have to write another post about this book sometime later when I manage to decide whether the civilization described is a dystopia or a utopia. Right now I think I’m not supposed to think it’s either.
YA/MG Science Fiction
Adult Science Fiction
Science Fiction Classic – Pre-1950s
Science Fiction Modern Classic – 1951-1992
Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe
Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster