Title: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Category: Science-fiction novel
10-word summary: A world of pleasure is not enough for human happiness.
About Brave New World
Brave New World is a classic novel published in 1932. But it is a book like no other! It tells the story of a world that exists in the far future, a world that is very different to the world we live in. It is a science-fiction and futuristic novel that captures your imagination and makes you curious about how this highly technological world works.
I will not reveal information about the plot of the story, but I will tell you a few things about the world people live in in this story. They live in a distant future, when the world cherishes scientific progress and technological advancement over anything.
People are no longer born, they are artificially created in labs. There are different social classes and people are genetically engineered to fit into their chosen class. This is a world ruled by laws and orders that people learn as children. They are taught to pursue consumerism and personal pleasure. People also rely on a drug called soma to experience positive emotions whenever they want to.
This Brave New World shows how our world can function in the future. It serves as a warning for how things could go wrong if we subordinate everything to pleasure and instant gratification. This novel is interesting and thought-provoking. Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Sapiens said that Brave New World is a book that becomes more relevant with each passing year – and for good reason. It really made me think about where our world is headed and what would be better or worse in our Brave New World.
Lessons from Brave New World
If pleasure is your priority, you will live a meaningless life
This is perhaps one of my biggest takeaways after reading this book. In our own world, we have to deal with many problems that cause us pain. We get sick, we are poor, we do not get what we want in life and so on. Well, most problems have been eliminated in Brave New World. People are healthy until they become old and die. Whenever they feel sad, they can take a pill of soma and they instantly feel pleasure. They can take as much soma as they want as often as they want. That sounds like a great recipe for happiness, right?
Well, you are wrong. This whole world sounds amazing until you stop and take a closer look. When people take soma, they don’t really experience happiness. They experience a sort of fleeting superficial pleasure. But it never lasts, so they need to take the next pill. The problem with this is that people are essentially drugged most of their life. They numb themselves the first second they feel an unpleasant emotion.
And whether we like it or not, negative emotions are very important. They are signs that tell us we have done something wrong or something is missing from our lives. They prompt us to examine ourselves and think about ways we can improve. Negative emotions are necessary for personal growth.
Not to mention that the struggle makes us proud. Would you be proud to run a marathon if all you had to do was walk for 2 minutes? Would you feel proud for standing on top of a mountain if you got there in a helicopter instead of climbing it? Would you be proud of your fortune if it was handed down to you without having to move a finger?
You see, the struggle, the effort and the pain of working hard and feeling terrible in the process is what allows us to experience pride. That’s the only reason why we are worthy of appreciation when we achieve a certain goal. If you take all that away, you also take away any chance of growth, introspection, pride and achievement.
A prison you enjoy is still a prison
The world that people live in in this novel seems to be great for them – at least, in the beginning. The world was created in such a way that it satisfies many of people’s basic needs. They are healthy, they have a job, they have a place to live, they have soma and they can go out every day. They can also have sex with anyone. It sounds like a great world where people can do whatever they want. But they can do whatever they want only as long as they follow the rules.
There are many laws and traditions that people have to abide by. Most of them are happy to do so, since this world satisfies their basic needs. But if they wanted to live differently, they couldn’t.
The reason why this world works so well is because the people in charge designed such a beautiful, fun prison that most people want to be a part of it. And they are too drugged and too brainwashed to even realize that they are living in a prison – a great one for them maybe – but still a prison.
What I like about Brave New World
1. It is a futuristic novel
I normally only read non-fiction, science-based books. Sometimes I do read novels because they are more easy to read and relaxing. And I have realized that the novels I enjoy the most are science-fiction novels.
But Brave New World is more than a regular sci-fi book. It’s also futuristic. The world presented in the book is extremely different from the world the author lived in almost a century ago. When I read the book, I could not believe that it was published in 1932. Huxley was so ahead of his time and so creative that it seems unreal.
To be honest, I think Brave New World would be sci-fi and futuristic even if it were published today! And I think Huxley must have been a very intelligent person and a great author. Otherwise, he couldn’t have written a great masterpiece that is still relevant 87 years after its publication.
It is true that there are books who have stood the test of time for far longer. But those are timeless books that talk about love, wars and the human condition. Brave New World is different because it talks about a possible future; and yet, it’s still not outdated!
I was honestly impressed with this book also because the world we live in seems to be moving in a direction that he predicted. Many of the rules and habits of the people living in the Brave New World are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in our world. This made me even more impressed with the content of this book.
2. Huxley created an entire world that makes sense
Even sci-fi stories need to make sense. We can accept and be interested in a book or a movie that depicts a strange or impossible world – but only if it makes sense. There are many good stories that we enjoy, but that we come to discard once we take a closer look. Any good story can be ruined by elements that are inconsistent or illogical.
Fortunately, this was not the case with Brave New World. The author managed to create a world that is totally different from the world he experienced or the one we live in. Yet everything seemed to make sense to me.
Huxley explained the rules of the world he created. He explained why the world evolved in that way. He explained what institutions and mechanisms are used to make people abide by certain rules. And he also showed us how the people in power make sure that the social order will not be disturbed.
This is one thing that made me like the book even more. I usually find fault in stories that do not make sense and that’s why I think this book succeeded at that. I may be wrong, but so far I think Brave New World is a very compelling and believable story.
3. It serves as a warning about a potential future
As I said, I don’t really like fiction books. But I do love reading them when they can teach me something about myself or the world we live in. And one of the most important lessons I learned from Brave New World is that we need to be very careful about the world we are creating. If we are not careful, we might end up living in the dystopian world we’ve read about in this book (or worse).
As we are moving closer to making this Brave New World come to life, we need to be careful about the ways we use genetic engineering, instant gratification, the evolution of technology, the use of drugs and so on. It is very easy to work on creating a utopia and end up creating a dystopia – which seems to be the case in the book too.
I think that there are many global events that are shaping the world we will live in in the future. And I am afraid we are often unaware of what we are creating until we have done so. It is often hard to foresee the consequences of our actions and policies. But I think it is necessary that we start to reflect on this more. Otherwise, we might end up living in a world that is harmful or devoid of meaning, but we will be unable to go back.
Reading books that talk about the future can help us imagine likely scenarios and see what works and what doesn’t. Obviously, fiction cannot serve as an accurate roadmap, but it can help increase our awareness and become better at simulating the future.
4. It explores the human mind
Brave New World isn’t a book that only explores a world in a distant future, it also explores the world within ourselves. Huxley often describes what characters are feeling and thinking. He explores their motivations and their struggles. There are a few passages that focus on interesting topics such as individuality, self-awareness, meaning, internal motivation, conflicting ideas and more. I really liked the way Huxley pierced through the characters’ minds and explained their reasoning. I really enjoyed the analyses he made and this made the book even more interesting for me. As I am fascinated by psychology and the way our minds work, I was pleasantly surprised to read a novel that also explores such complex concepts.
What I don’t like about Brave New World
1. I did not understand everything
This is the only thing that made me dislike the book – there were a few parts that I didn’t fully understand. I have read the book in English and English is not my first language. But I seldom have trouble understanding texts in the books I usually read (mostly non-fiction). However, there were a few paragraphs that I didn’t fully comprehend. Maybe it’s because of the language since the book was written in the ‘30s. Or maybe I need to diversify the books I read to get used to different styles and vocabulary.
However, this did not prevent me from enjoying the book. I was still able to understand almost everything in it and I think most people who speak English well can read and enjoy Brave New World.
Quotes from Brave New World
“And that…is the secret of happiness and virtue – liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.”
“If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely.”
“His intellectual eminence carries with it corresponding moral responsibilities. The greater a man’s talents, the greater his power to lead astray.”
“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”
Should You Read Brave New World?
Brave New World is a classic that is still up-to-date. So I think reading it is a good idea. If you are interested in the way our world could evolve and what a utopia/dystopia could look like, then read this book! Moreover, this book won’t just make you reflect on the future, it will probably make you reflect on the world we live in in the present too.