I have considerable trouble reading Brave New World as I simultaneously love and utterly detest the novel.
I understand what Huxley is trying to do and I think that he does it well. Brave New World isn’t the double plus, ungood violent oppression of Orwell’s 1984 which would follow but rather, handles the oppressive future with a gentler hand. He replaces violence and harsh repression with the seductive power of pleasure and easy life. Though set far into our future Brave New World is infinitely relatable; feelies and all the soma one can stand may be a step beyond Hollywood’s cult of celebrity and the drunken exploits of college co-eds which fuel Texts From Last Night’s popularity but they are of the same vein. I really appreciate the more delicate hand which his oppressive government controls the population. I like that it’s a more insidious evil, which does not seek to suppress human nature but to exploit the baser elements of it.
On the other hand I hate reading this book. I have hated it since I read it for the first time in the ninth grade. Regardless of how meaningful and important a work it may be I will never recommend it to anyone. From the opening chapter right through to John’s senseless death the entire book makes me feel – for lack of a better word – icky. I know that plenty of really fantastic books aren’t necessarily happy stories, I even like some of them. I’ve just never been able to shake the abject horror that I was first faced with when reading Brave New World. Ultimately I think that it’s the hopelessness of the book which so sets me against it. I find myself struggling to find some point of light, some hope for the strength of the human spirit and find myself utterly unable to. Everyone is fatally flawed and every character I let myself believe in somehow fails me. John the Savage is consumed by his ridiculous idea of the romantic hero. Lenina is, not to put too fine a point on it, an idiot and neither Marx nor Watson has the personal strength to be admirable.
As a result the book is a brutal slog through hundreds of pages of brilliant literature that I can’t stand reading. Intellectually I know what Huxley was trying to achieve and I can even appreciate it but as a reader I rather wish he hadn’t bothered. I would be a happier me if only he’d left the horrifying dystopic societies to the Orwells and Zamyatins of the world.