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17 January 2011 @ 12:47 am
Recently read: Brave New World  
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Somehow I hadn't previously gotten around to reading this classic dystopian novel, and I read it mostly to fill in that hole in my education. That put me in the interesting position of being familiar with lots of references to Brave New World (aside from the usual mainstream references, places like Cyteen and even the Paranoia RPG). So I was finally able to put these references into their proper context.

In terms of story, the narrative isn't all that compelling, but the book isn't fundamentally about the story: It's about a view into a dystopian world, where society is managed for stability and happiness, albeit not in a manner that is particularly appealing to outsiders. The character of the "savage" is presumably introduced to make that point, and it does highlight the elements of that world that really are abhorrent (but which might seem nice at first glance).

The book has clearly aged (it was first published nearly 80 years ago), but probably not in ways that matter. The biology in particular seems implausible, and social norms have changed to limit some of the impact. Promiscuity is much less taboo than it was, for example.

A comparison to 1984 is pretty much inevitable: They're both classic views as to how a government might mismanage society, and at a metaphorical level, they're both warnings that need to be listened too. Neither the drift towards a police state, nor the bread-and-circuses (and more) approach to pacifying a society is a good thing, and both trends demand vigilant opposition.

Recommended: This is at the very least a book that educated citizens should be familiar with, and it's quite readable, too.
robszewczyk on January 17th, 2011 03:20 am (UTC)
I wonder if this is related ot the episode of Star Trek we recently watched (Season I, with the Landrew computer controlling the world to be mindlessly peaceful). (I obviously haven't read it yet)
jon_leonardjon_leonard on January 17th, 2011 04:44 am (UTC)
It seems a pretty good match. The name of the planet is evidence, too: The castes in Brave New World are from Alpha (the smartest citizens) through Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon (semi-morons).

It's unclear that with post 1930s automation you need low-caste citizens to do drudgery, but they may be socially necessary (and this is discussed in the book, too.)