This is really the novel that started the utopia/dystopia sub-genre of fiction (and science fiction in particular), and we’re lucky that it’s still on a lot of required reading lists in secondary schools. Not for the efforts of the prudes and their ilk though; it STILL gets occasional efforts by the misanthropes out there who would prefer the world be like the one described in the book.
For the era, this is a surprisingly well-written and forthright book about the subject. People have no parents, and are grown in factories (an idea stolen by The Matrix, of course). People are discouraged from birth from reading. People learn about sex and are promiscuous 24/7 – no relationships other than physical are tolerated. People are bred to perform certain jobs and that is their lot in life. The few who are different are either exiled to islands or are part of “reservations” where people still practice the old ways. People are encouraged to maintain their “happiness” levels through a powerful drug called soma. Henry Ford is their god (this was written a long time before things like Ford’s fascist sympathies were revealed).
The main characters are two outcasts: Bernard, who isn’t quite the physical Adonis he was bred to be and is rather insecure about that fact, and John, called the Savage, who was actually born to one of the perfect citizens who became lost on one of the reservations during a vacation. Bernard brings John back to his society and tries to use him to become the talk of the town. John just wants to understand his origins and what his purpose might be, but finds himself on the outside of two societies instead of one.
Brave New World is really one of those pivotal books that EVERYONE needs to read. It blurs the line between science fiction and “literature” to the point that it is one of the few books that it would be hard to not classify as either. Huxley’s ideas have laid the groundwork for thousands of other stories, from Fahrenheit 451 to the aforementioned Matrix.
It’s quite simply a good book that makes you think. What more needs to be said?