If you've ever thought much about the various (and sometimes near miraculous) ways people can use to get pregnant in this modern world, it becomes amazing to know that when Brave New World was written, IVF and other modern means of conception weren't even invented. In fact, Robert Edwards, the man who developed In Vitro Fertilisation, was only seven years old when this book was published. I open with these factoids because most of the people of Brave New World were born without use of a female body- essentially, literal test tube babies developed only with use of sperm and eggs, but never ever know the people who those sperm and ovum came from. The word 'mother' in this book is used as a derogatory curse.
So imagine yourself starting out as a baby with no parents- trained in a government facilities to the dictates of your class (Alpha = Smarter, better educated to continue to rule the world, Epsilon = Stunted growth in the plastic womb, trained to be maintenence workers). You are taught to only socialize with your peers, and dislike any other class but your own, except to respect your betters- but how to cram that much social engineering in without the prospect of rebellion? You have machines dictating to you in your sleep. That is the basis of society in Brave New World.
The Plot: (As Seen on Goodreads)
'Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress...'
As you may be able to tell, I loved the ideas in this book. Some of them even have modern day correlations- the Epsilons were basically under-nurtured from the start, which reminded me of a recent report on the severe lead poisoning that is still impacting the people who lived in Freddie Gray's neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland. Luckily, there weren't many more dystopian parallels I found between our world and the one of Brave New World, but this book certainly makes you think about the ones you come across.
The great weaknesses of this book revolve around the fact that it's mostly an idea book. Although some characters are likable, some have a tendency to change their mind on things they'd previously held dear. Other characters are difficult to get to know due to the fact this is, in part at least, a satire. The female characters really aren't anything to celebrate, as they're all very similar- focused on work and changing up the men they're with because being monogamous is bad for you (there's the satire). There isn't much depth to the plot, but you usually don't notice it because your mind is busy taking in the upside down morals and before-its-time ideas.
One of many favorite quotations:
'"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."'
Brave New World is filled with wondrous medical technology ideas. It also uses those ideas to fuel the plot of the book, rather than having much of a cohesive story progression. But, if you look beyond the lack of 'normal' storytelling and character development, it truly has a style all its own, that makes you read on, even when you aren't drooling over the characters. I recommend Brave New World to those who love science fiction, with an emphasis on the science.
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent idea book that's a little short on the usual trappings of fiction.
Content: Ages 16+ for violence, as well as drug (Soma) and sexual references (Zip-Zip, Orgyporgy, you name it). Also, racial slurs.
Page Count: 268 pages