The first time I read Brave New World, I found the idea of it rather ludicrous; bottled babies, unencumbered sex with whomever, and children endlessly 'conditioned' seemed more fantasy than reality. But on closer inspection of the modern world, these ideas no longer seem so absurd: conception is now often a drunken mistake, marriages and divorces are tossed around like mere pieces of paper, democratic governments pass laws based on the majority's desires, and extreme advancements in genetic research have made the idea of 'model babies' a real possibility. Huxley seems to have written a fairly accurate prediction of the future.
Initially, I found the book quite hard to comprehend. Many books can be skim-read to quickly gain an understanding of their key ideas and themes. This is not so for Brave New World; Huxley’s writing is incredibly profound as well as scientifically factual – so much so that it can give the reader an uncomfortable, creepy feeling that his world may become the truth. Towards the end Huxley demonstrates his knowledge of the ideas of Plato and Nietzsche, and displays his own profound arguments about God.
Huxley's characters allow us to see this new world through different eyes. Through Lenina Crowne, the well-conditioned, perfect citizen of the state, we see how the ordinary people are happy and stable in their conditioned world; Bernard Marx, the anarchist and maverick who wants at the same time to be a part of the state and to be outside of it, shows us the failures of the state. And then there's John “the Savage”, the philosopher of the book – brought up on Shakespeare and religion – who yearns for beauty, truth and knowledge. Through him we see the new world as we would regard it today. With this variety of perspectives, Huxley gives us incredible insight into the optimistic ignorance, cynicism, and philosophy that surrounds his 'new world'.
There are a few holes in Huxley's creation. For one, how could Lenina fall in love with the Savage when she has been conditioned not to love? Then there is Darwin Bonaparte, the photographer who stays in the bushes for seventy-two hours to get a shot of the Savage’s whipping. But how could he do so, when he has been conditioned to detest solitude and discomfort?
Brave New World is Huxley's prediction for our world, but it also fulfills another role: to present a moral choice to mankind. Towards the end of the book, John “the Savage” is given the choice of Utopia or of unimpeded, Stoic freedom. With the former, we would live in a happy yet conditioned and sometimes insane state; with the latter we can live freely, but risk being driven by unhappiness or solitude to the brink of insanity. Huxley believes that true sanity is “a rare phenomenon”, a despairing view that is reflected in the book's message: man cannot save himself from himself. It is for these reasons that Brave New World is not only regarded as a classic of dystopian literature, but also as a philosophical adventure into humankind – and its most likely future.
Brave New World hasn't gone away. Shopping malls stretch as far as the bulldozer can see. On the wilder fringes of the genetic engineering community, there are true believers prattling of the Gen-rich and the Gen-poor – Huxley's Alphas and Epsilons – and busily engaging in schemes for genetic enhancement and – to go Brave New World one better – for immortality. – Margaret Atwood
"Provoking, stimulating, shocking and dazzling – Observer