Not what I expected but good — 2 years ago
Technologically, it was a bit odd to look at a book supposed to be set around 500 years into the future, and they still don’t have computers/Internet/mobile phones/genetic engineering/nanotechnology/cloning/GPS/antibiotics/IVF/(and as the author later admits) nuclear power … … I mean, of course they didn’t if the first edition was written in 1932, clearly not the author’s fault for missing these,after all, science fiction writers are not infallible soothsayers,but it takes quite an imagination for somebody who has grown up with these things to picture a future without them.
What was more interesting than the technology (although his concept of a form of conception and gestation that is something like a mix of cloning, IVF, and incubating chickens under a heat lamp was intriguing), were his social ideas, with the societies in his book playing the roles of experimental groups. as with the technological predictions, socially we also had to suspend disbelief …they haven’t had a sexual revolution, a civil rights movement, the global spread of AIDS, a fear of over population and China’s one child policy, an awareness of global warming. Interesting, though, that his ideas on uninhibited sexuality came to happen in the 1960s and 1970s.
I had trouble understanding sometimes which side he was on morally. In the foreword of later editions, he expresses remorse for the fact that he had been a proponent of eugenics which he later decried after the Holocaust and the Nazi eugenics research. I did seem to detect a theme that most of the higher caste people seem to be European, and there were an awful lot of Africans in the lower caste groups (and he seems to have something against redheads as well). It seems as if for the most part he was saying that he thought it was great if we could segregate society according to predetermined roles without any room for social mobility. The only people that suffered were the odd exceptions who didn’t quite fit the mould. Then at the end, the lines blurred a bit, but he’s still holding on to this idea that social engineering is perfectly reasonable and achievable.
And then we have the famous soma, which has permeated into popular culture and I have certainly heard of before reading this book. I knew that Huxley had read about the soma of the Vedas, the hallucinogenic substance used for spiritual sacrifices to gods in the ancient Indo-Aryan religious texts. I was expecting there to be more of a moral judgement against using drugs for mind control to make society compliant. I almost wondered whether perhaps he actually thought that it was a good idea? Again, there was only really one character out of the entire society who suffered from soma, and that was only after she had been completely ostracised from society and irreparably depressed. I wonder if perhaps it is damaging tto portray such a wide scale use of such a powerful drug as so benign. Surely there were other people who suffered? Not that he should have to point the finger and say ‘drugs R bad’, but surely there could be issues of tolerance, dependence, a black market to get larger quantities, etc.
Overall I did quite like this book, but I think I came to it with too many preconceived notions about its content.