Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited

Book Number: 
724
Date Fred Read: 
October 2017
Fred's Rating: 
5
Author: 
Aldous Huxley
Total Pages: 
340
Publisher: 
Harper Perennial
Year: 
2004

These books – BNR (1932) and BNWR (1958) – are published as a Harper Perennial Modern Classics. Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963) was the author of many critically acclaimed books of fiction and nonfiction. This edition – BNW (231 pp) and BNWR (108 pp) – also has a 17-pp P.S. section of Insights, Interviews, & More. (For his books I’ve read, click on his name.)

The Amazon website for the paperback edition is

https://www.amazon.com/Brave-New-World-Revisited/dp/0060776099/ref=sr_1_...

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this books' covers at the website above.]

The home page has a summary (click on ‘Read more’). It focuses on Brave New World but only mentions Brave New World Revisited. There are short summaries of both BNW and BRWR further down the home page under ‘From the Back Cover’ that are brief but good. I did not use the home-page option “See all Editorial Reviews." Instead I recommend scrolling down to the first Top Customer Reviews and read the thorough first review by Casey – I found it quite satisfactory.

I recommend using the ‘Look inside’ option and first scan down to the Contents page. It includes only the details for BRWR, which did not surprise me, for I surmise that anyone interested in this double book would have already read BRW. I chose to reread it for I hadn’t reread BNW since my undergrad years in college. (Anyone interested can look at Amazon’s website for the fictional BNW for reviews of it alone.) Although BNWR came out in 1958 – the year I entered college – I was too busy then to read it.Here I give my brief review of BNW, discuss the Foreword, and then move on to BNWR.

Brave New World focuses on a very different future world – one with a few major features: (1) humans are ‘made’ in a lab, for birth is no longer allowed; (2) brainwashing begins before birth and never ceases; (3) only the nearly world-wide Controllers know that books exist (these carefully chosen alphas control everything): (4) except for ruling alphas, other human beings (betas, gammas, deltas, epsilons and most non-ruling alphas) are always with others of their 'class'; being solitary is ‘forbidden’ as it is made repulsive by brainwashing; (5) the key word for all is the drug called ‘soma’ – the wonder drug that makes such control possible. All humans use this drug – the lowly epsilons (nearly zombie-like lowest-level workers) ‘work’ (doing jobs that robots could do faster and better but not cheaper) for six hours a day. They are given each day just after work enough soma to keep them happy with each other until the next workday. Going up the five classes of humans the required work gets more complex. Especially for the ruling alpha controllers who have to be ever alert for deviations from work and soma.

Aldous Huxley’s soma is indeed a miracle drug. Taking just one tablet keeps humans happy. Huxley chose happiness rather than fear as a wiser control. With frequent sex (but never any pregnancies), plus movies (including ‘talkies’ and ‘feelies’) and simple sports that bring pleasure but never real competition, so no losers to be unhappy, human’s attitudes towards this lifestyle avoids any hints of rebellion. Controllers are loved and when anything seems to be out-of-kilter, happy songs are played so that humans are ‘refreshed with altered memories’ while they are asleep, for any necessary changes can be ‘inserted’ into human minds without their realizing it. This may remind you of the brainwashed Pavlov’s dogs; if so, that was Huxley’s intent.

The Contents page shows a 15-pp Foreword by Christopher Hitchens. He reviewed the history of Brave New World and other novels of the future written at that era and the reasons Aldous Huxley felt the need to write Brave New World Revisited. This Foreword is well worth reading, but there are a few pages missing in the paperback edition (pages vii, xiii, xiv, and xx). Here I give the missing first page (vii) of the Foreword: “Aldous Huxley absolutely detested mass culture and popular entertainment, and many of his toughest critical essays, as well as several intense passages in his fiction, consist of sneers and jeers at the cheapness of the cinematic ethic and the vulgarity of commercial music. He chanced to die on the same day as the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963 (being cheated of a proper obituary notice as a result, and sharing the date of decease with C.S. Lewis, chronicler of Narnia) so he missed the televised event which once and for all confirmed the ‘global village.’ But if he were able to return to us, and cast his scornful and lofty gaze on our hedonistic society, he would probably be relatively unsurprised at the way things were going. Sex has been divorced from procreation to a degree hard to imagine in 1963, and the current great debates in the moral sciences concern the implications of reproductive cloning and of the employment of fetal stem-cells in medicine. The study of history is everywhere, but especially in the United States, in steep decline. Public life in the richer societies is routinely compared to the rhythms of spectacle and entertainment. A flickering hunger for authenticity pushes many people to explore the peripheral and shrinking worlds of the ‘indigenous.’ This was all prefigured in Brave New World. So, in a way, was the ‘one child’ policy now followed in Communist China ...”

Pages xviii and xix are omitted. Page xviii is about free and frequent sex and the World Controller in BNW. Page xix has some great lines about the brainwashed humans, or marionettes, in BNW and those who are unhappy – the best parts of BNW. The following from page xiv is very well stated about BNW: “Huxley himself conceded that his fictional characters were no more than puppets to illustrate his points, and this lack of characterization (truly a drawback in his earlier and later novels, most especially in Island, his last and most self-consciously Utopian effort) is paradoxically rather a help in Brave New World. The marionettes do their stuff, giving us a very rapid and complete picture of mindless bliss and its usefulness to power. Then they begin, or some of them are authorized by their carpenter to begin, to experience vague but definite feelings of discontent. They find themselves asking: Is this all there is? The three deficiencies they feel, often without knowing how to name them, are Nature, Religion and Literature. With only chemical and mechanical and sexual comforts provided to them, they sense the absence of challenge and drama and they fall prey to ennui [boredom]. With no concept of a cosmos beyond the immediately human, they are deprived of the chance to feel awed or alienated.” This is well-stated for BNW and has a bit of a plug for Huxley’s book Island.

Also missing from the Foreword is page xix, but which is all about LSD and how the initial excitement about it turned negative, but that Aldous Huxley, who never took any LSD, was aware of the excitement. Here Christopher Hitchens speculates that this excitement may have ‘inspired’ Huxley to invent his soma. I’m sure most readers know people, from yesterday or today, who seek bliss with alcohol and/or strongly addictive drugs. Only in the past few years have we learned that we have an opioid epidemic that’s growing fast. These substances do not have the power of Huxley’s soma, but some people feel the need to ‘tune out’ of today’s world rather than face it or work to improve it.

Finally, I turn to BNWR. This short non-fiction book, as its chapters listed in the Contents page show, describes why Huxley thinks his predicted future is more likely to occur that the futures of World Controllers that use fear instead of drug-induced happiness to achieve and maintain control a world of obedient humans – if one would still call these marionettes truly human. I think Aldous Huxley is correct in that a world of controlled humans would have a greater chance to be self-sustaining than would a world in which fear of authority tries to dominate humanity. Huxley makes some very good points in BNWR. But since Huxley died before the Soviet Union fell apart, something he had predicted to happen – actually fall apart without a WWIII and without nuclear destruction of civilization world-wide. I try to imagine what he would have said had he lived another 20-30 years.

I am now considering rereading the ‘control by fear’ books 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell (reprinted together in 2005), but not Fahrenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury. I had reread the book 1984 back in the year 1984 and I remember most of Fahrenheit 451 quite well. (I’ve been a Bradbury fan for most of my life.) Each of these four dystopic-future novels were made into movies about 50 years ago.

My rereading of Brave New World and this first reading of Brave New World Revisited were readings I’m very glad I’ve done. I rate this double-book at five stars.