Going into this, I was basically fearing 1984 all over again—I’d been extremely disappointed by Orwell’s novel (though I loved Animal Farm when I first read it), and I was slightly terrified that Brave New World would end up exactly the same way. For the most past, it kept me more interested, although the plot itself was still rather underdeveloped. There was a huge push on political question and answer in the ending chapters, which annoyed and interested me at the same time, and I couldn’t really find anyone to sympathize with or relate to. The world building was amazing, and the writing was interesting, but as a whole, it failed to make me care about the characters or succeed in telling a real story. I think it’s worth a read if you have the time, or have been curious about this particularly famous novel, but it’s not a must-read in my book.
What I Liked: Spoilers!
- • The plot had moments of real depth and feeling. These happened in the height of emotion for me; for instance, one of the main characters, John, has a section where he relates to a lot of Shakespeare’s writing, and talks about the importance of those words to him personally, and I was touched. I had moments of being genuinely sucked into the story because of things like this, and I wish they had come more frequently for me.
- • The world building was phenomenal, even if it did seem to dominate most of the book. The introduction to the novel succeeded in making me hate the Community. One thing people who know me well understand about me is that I’m very family-oriented. I think being a mother is going to be the best thing in the world; I’m a romantic at heart not only because the idea of falling in love sounds magical to me, but also because of everything else that comes along with love and family—children, grandchildren, this endless web of people to love, all connected together. I love that. And I hated the Community so much because they sucked the love out of everything and made the idea of family ugly, deformed, and unwanted. Which, actually, is something our own society tries to do on a much less obvious level nowadays. So when I was faced with seeing childbearing and the power of procreation used and presented in such callous and apathetic ways, of course I was upset. Huxley created a world that made perfect scientific sense, but was still sterile and ugly to me. I hated it, but I appreciate how well done it all was in the course of the story.
What I Didn’t Like:
- • I hated not knowing who our protagonist was supposed to be. I wanted to sympathize with Bernard, one of the Community members who sometimes seems to think differently about love and sex, but he was actually pretty whiny and bigheaded most of the novel. I struggle with this because I know it’s good he has strengths and weaknesses in his personality, but that doesn’t make me like him more. Then, when John, the “savage,” was introduced, I thought for sure this was the guy we needed to care about. But alas, while John was a good guy for awhile, when he realizes what the Community is really about, he flips out—he attacks Linda and Lenina, and we’re either supposed to hate him, too, and accept that everyone in this world is a douchebag, or we’re supposed to condone his actions throughout the end of the novel—which I’m certainly not willing to do. I’m very character-oriented; I need to be able to care about someone, and I couldn’t care about anyone here.
- • 1984 must have taken a page from Huxley, because there was the exact same type of political info dump in this novel as there was in that one. Again, it’s a struggle, because it’s one of the most interesting parts of the book (the ideology behind why and how the society works the way it does), but it’s given to us in such an uninteresting manner. We again have a protagonist (???) ending up with a government official, who knows there used to be better days, but we’re more controlled now, we’re safer this way, I know exactly what we left behind and I’ll make sure we never go back. A chapter or so of question-and-answer that no serious reader wants to deal with. The ideas presented were interesting and unique, but I wanted them to be incorporated into the story, not dumped on me like a mound of dirt.
Overall: So it didn’t exactly knock me out of the park, but it could have been worse. I’m a little disappointed that both the major classic dystopians let me down when I finally read them, but Brave New World was at least more enjoyable to read. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, so I had to rate it right there in the middle. This one felt weird to read at times because the extremely vague and obscure sexual content. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of children (and I do mean children) being encouraged to touch each other in sexual ways, then you may as well steer clear because the rest of the novel didn’t really make the weirdness worth it. So meh, if you don’t already have an interest, don’t worry because you’re not missing too much. There were some beautiful lines and world building, but the story as a whole failed to deliver either a fully developed plot or characters you liked.