Format read: audiobook
Content warnings: racism
This novel from 1932 is somewhat disturbing to read today. No, scratch that. It’s definitely disturbing.
It depicts a near-future scenario in which all humans are bred in labs and genetically altered for their specific role in society. The family has been erased. So has religion, romance/love, and pretty much all intense emotion. Disease and poverty are eradicated. The “perfect drug” has been created that eliminates anxiety, stress, and depression with zero side effects.
The story flips back and forth between several different perspectives which makes it difficult to follow in the beginning, but it does provide a lot of necessary background and worldbuilding. Because this is technically a classic, I don’t want to get too much into the plot, since it can easily be found with a quick google.
I don’t know anything about the background of this book or what the author’s intent was. It can be take one of two ways: the “Brave New World” is an inevitable, utopian ideal humanity is working toward, or–and I think this more likely–it is a criticism of “modern” life (circa 1932), and takes the changes happening in society to an extreme. It reminds me of the arguments I heard against marriage equality prior to the federal ruling here in the states– “What’s next? People marrying dogs?” “They’ll force it on us eventually. We’ll all have to be gay!” (Yes, those are real statements I heard.) It’s a logical argument taken to an illogical conclusion.
It reads like a handbook of child abuse, brainwashing, and classism as young children are “trained” for their roles, including such techniques as depriving fetuses of oxygen and using electric shocks to teach those destined for “lower” ranking jobs that books are bad.
In addition, there is a “savage” reservation (roughly overlapping with the Navajo, Apache, and Hopi reservation currently in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah). In this book, however, “savage” does’t refer specifically to native populations (though they do make up the majority) but to any “undesirable” populations that refused to accept the new world order. To this end, the reservation is a melting pot that combines many cultures that no longer exist elsewhere in the world. It’s also the only place where people can still get sick and children are still conceived and born (as opposed to “decanted”).
And no one leaves.
Tourists are allowed in to observe the “strange and mysterious” behaviors, but those who live on the reservation will be killed if they attempt to leave.
I can’t go into too much detail here because it will set me off on a rant. This book disgusted and angered me. I hated reading it. I would almost call it traumatizing.
At the same time, I think the message it contains, particularly in the current international political climate, is something that deserves consideration.
Did I enjoy reading it? Absolutely not.
Was it important? Hell yes.
This is not a book to enter into lightly, so if you are having mental health issues, especially regarding anxiety, I would say to skip this. But if you think you can handle it, it does bring up a lot of good points.