Review

9. BRAVE NEW WORLD By Aldous Huxley

Futuristic dystopian novels have been knocking about since the dawn of civilisation, and some even brilliantly foretold the future decades ahead of time, notably Orwell, Alan Moore, Bradbury, and of course Huxley.

Brave New World tells a story of a futuristic world set in 2500 where genetic engineering is the only way humans are created. Meticulously, humans are conditioned to fit into certain social classes without aspiring for more or contemplating change. Entertainment, sex, and recreational drugs are advertised through hypnopaedic methods to fill in their spare time and eradicate from the root any hint of dread they might feel. Humans don’t age, they don’t get sick, they don’t get emotionally attached to one another in a way that could become —by their understanding— dysfunctional. There are no families, no gods, and no need for anything artistic or beautiful. The way the world is so diligently controlled to maintain order gets the social outcast, Brandon Marx (I’m not entirely sure if Marx is a coincidence) frustrated. He visits a savage reservation and so the story begins.

I’ve made a joke when I started reading it, saying I was reading the Tory manifesto, and to be honest, it does seem like a Tory wet dream —the slogan used in the book even has the word stability in it. Maintaining stability, getting everything and everyone under control, keeping the “savages” closed off in a reservation, implementing and reinforcing social strata, institutionalised racism, and media propaganda, and so on.

Technology has been directed towards creating a perfect world, and the methods used, while ostensibly inhumane, the overall contentment of the community has rendered such abstract concepts as immorality or oppression redundant. Nonsensical.

The flawlessness of this book, however in my opinion, is exactly where it has fallen short. The author has opted for perfection over beauty, substance over style, so much that I found the book to be painfully tedious and even soporific —no exaggeration, I fell asleep reading it so many times. It started off with a spark that slowly dwindled after the end of the first couple of chapters because nothing really goes on. There’s hardly any character development, no conflict, even the rebellious characters are restricted by their own conditioning, they fade out one after the other and the only thing left is the community.

It’s not your average entertaining book. If you’re reading this for entertainment, stop reading after Chapter II because there’s all you need to know about how. Beyond that, it’s all about why. That’s where it gets controversial and thought provoking. The question of whether civilisation really is the best thing for humanity —something I’ve often wondered myself, having been raised in a developing country. Drawing a parallel, I often see the Western world the way one would view the New World, with everything readily available and all the problems either solved or compensated for. I sigh in frustration and say, “everything’s so easy!” to which I’m often met with a scoff and a “you say that like it’s a bad thing.”

3/5
Recommended, definitely.

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Review

8. MOTHER NIGHT By Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut is a master of wit, and of the best authors to have ever existed. There are many aspects of his style that are singular, but what fascinates me the most is his perfect timing. While most writers know what to say, he knows when to say it.

Through his minimalistic prose, introduction of unforgettable characters and events imbued by the trademark Vonnegutesque bleakness, nihilistic pessimism with the occasional glimpse of hope and dark humour, he’s captured the woes of war, love, and subsequent despair of the two in the roller-coaster of emotions that is Mother Night.

The story is told as the confessions of Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a Nazi war criminal, or so he was told. As the mockery of something as serious as Nazi propaganda plays out, the lines are blurred, and the only thing made abundantly clear much as it is often a recurring theme in Vonnegut’s books is that WWII was a fucking bonkers era in history.

Mother Night is a book to read in one sitting*. It is short and simple, but will challenge the reader, change the way one views the dichotomy of good and evil, and the helplessness of man. It is a book that will stay with you forever.

5/5 for sure.

*I didn’t read it in one sitting, personal reasons, although I wish I had.

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