My rating: 2 of 5 stars
found this sitting on my bookshelf a while ago. I figured I must have read it in the past. I mean, it’s a classic, right? Everyone who reads science fiction has read this, and many who don’t because it’s often an assigned book in school. But I couldn’t really remember much about it, so I decided to give it a re-read. Hmmm, somewhere along the line, I think I missed this one. Nothing about it was familiar. Well, I’ve remedied that now.
The book is a dystopian novel, set in a future society that is ranked on intelligence. People are genetically created and manipulated to fill the social brackets as required. Pregnancy and childbirth are non-existant and treated as horrors of the primitive past. Children are raised in group homes, and indoctrinated to the rules of society from infancy. Sleep learning and psychological conditioning are common. Drugs are an accepted part of daily life, used to keep emotions and thoughts in line with societal norms. Into this world, comes the Savage, a refugee from one of the few remaining rebellious colonies that cling to the old ways of life, without drugs, planned population control, and conditioning. He upsets the norm, and the consequences are tragic for both himself and the people whose lives he has touched closely.
It was an interesting book in many ways. The idea of a perfectly controlled society, with advances in many areas of science is not new in science fiction. Here, it is used to comment on society as a whole, and point out what Huxley saw as faults and failures. He extrapolates a future where individuality is condemned, knowledge is controlled, and power is in the hands of a few. Again, not unusual themes in speculative works.
The problem for me was that it just felt dated, even though it is set in the future. It was published in 1931, so that’s to be expected to a degree, but at least to me, this “future” seems a lot like the past, so it was difficult to maintain the suspension of disbelief necessary to fully get into the story. Not that the technology is here, but just the overall feel of the society- the dress, the setting, the general feeling was not future enough, I guess.
I know it’s still considered one of the hallmark spec fiction novels and appears on many lists of the best of, but it failed to hold my interest and was almost a chore to finish. Part of that is my own preference. While I do like books that challenge ideals and social issues, I still prefer things to happen. And, honestly, not much happens in this one, at least on the surface. I’m not sorry I read it, but it won’t be on any re-read lists for me.
Coming soon: Two’s Company, a sci-fi novel in the space opera tradition. Artificial intelligence, corporate plots, spaceships, a heroine with an attitude. More details soon!
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