Brave New World (by Aldous Huxley) = 4/5
Brave New World is set in a future where everyone is happy because they’ve been conditioned or programmed to be satisfied with their lot in life. I think that makes it a utopia? Anyway, the story follows a couple of different characters to provide insight on various aspects of life and perceptions of people living in this world. These people take doses of soma, a pill that keeps them happy, and society is stratified based on privilege and quality of life. Different castes receive different doses of soma and are expected to perform labor assigned to them at conception. Everyone is genetically engineered to exist at just the right intellectual and physical capabilities to perform the work expected of their castes–no more, no less. Higher class individuals (Alphas) have plenty of free time to watch “feelies” (movies with physical and olfactory effects), participate in orgies, go adventuring, and be happy, with a minimal amount of real work. No one reads, because books tie people to the past and the Controller wants everyone to focus on what’s new. Also, “mother” and “father” and “parents” are “smutty” words, because everyone is raised in their age group and genetically engineered.
The basic plot follows the discovery and introduction of a “savage” (John) to civilization. A casual couple (Bernard and Lenina) discover John while out on an adventure to a reservation and learn he is likely the offspring of the Controller and a lower caste woman, who was then left behind at the reservation. Bernard and Lenina bring John back to society, where he becomes a curiosity known as “The Savage” and falls in love with Lenina. There is more to the story, of course, but, as per usual, I will avoid spoiling the ending.
Overall, I enjoyed Brave New World. I never would have guessed it was written in the 1930s, although a few word choices and racial references made it feel like something from the mid-20th century at times. The narration is accessible and conversational (much easier to read than 1984), and I read the book very quickly. I would recommend Brave New World to someone looking for a science fiction classic that isn’t an arduous read, or anyone interested in how one might write a utopia. I would not recommend it for anyone looking for a light-hearted, happy read.
TL;DR: Brave New World presents a rigid utopia and shows what might happen when the status quo is challenged and people start asking questions.
Review originally written 21 September 2017