There are few works in literature, let alone science fiction, that can match the power of the statement Aldous Huxley makes about humanity and its future in his landmark Brave New World. Required reading in schools across the US, Huxley plausibly creates a bright, wonderful future society, then destroys it in one massive proverbial blow. Published in 1932, the book’s reaction to American economic and cultural practice has been largely justified by the ongoing homogenization of world culture, making it one of the most relevant works created to date on the subject of globalization, cultural evolution, and the future of technology’s role in society.
Brave New World, particularly the outset, is largely an exercise in world building. Wholly a futuristic vision, society is organized along much different, though credible lines. Childbirth now possible only for a chosen few, babies are grown in vats and intelligence decanted to Alpha, Beta, Cappa, Delta and Epsilon levels. Epsilons performing the manual labor and Alphas the brain work, society is striated to the maximum. Everyone, however, is able to enjoy sensuality (recreational sex and “feely” movies), socio-religious experiences, drug induced happiness (soma), and materialist consumption in keeping with the Word State’s Commerce Economy. A utopia, Huxley's plot sets about dismantling the vision one ideological brick at a time.
Brave New World opens with Lenina Crowe, an Alpha working with vaccinations in the Hatchery, and Bernard Marx, a colleague whose work focuses on sleep-learning. Bernard likewise an Alpha, complications during birth have left him stunted as an adult, an inferiority complex when dealing with other Alphas developing in tow. Lenina and Bernard’s relationship largely one to introduce readers to the society Huxley envisions, things pick up when Bernard, with the thought of getting romantic with Lenina, invites her to the “wilds” - a reservation in the American hinterland where people are not subject to the World State and live as savages. It is when meeting one of the men there, dubbed John the Savage, that the story takes off, the clash of perspective powering the novel through to its dramatic conclusion.
Setting a good example for science fiction writers of today, Huxley’s attention to detail is irreproachable. Brave New World presents a fully fleshed futuristic setting, from societal norms to technological advances, neologisms to theological concerns. Citizens are exclaiming “Oh Ford!” instead of “Oh Lord!” in honor of the production line’s founder. At the learning centers, youth are engaged in sexual play from an early age, disease and conception not a fear. Anytime depression or negative thoughts occur, drugs are readily available to put a spring back in your step, ready to face the other happy consumers around you. And caste disputes are non-existent. With food and homes available at the same quality by status and social conditioning in place since birth, competition and infighting to scramble through the ranks is unheard of, society at peace.
From an ideological point of view, Huxley accomplishes everything he sets out to accomplish in Brave New World with triumph. Starting with creating a scenario and presenting how characters behave within it, the last paragraph of the novel is a powerful knockout blow to the mechanization of human behavior and frivolity of personal worth. John the Savage the crux upon which the story hinges, experiencing the future through his eyes is both fascinating and terrifying.