Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Summary from Goodreads:
"Community, Identity, Stability" is the motto of Aldous Huxley's utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a "Feelie," a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing and senses his relationship with a young women has the potential to be much more than the confines of their existence allow. Huxley foreshadowed many of the practices and gadgets we take for granted today--let's hope the sterility and absence of individuality he predicted aren't yet to come.
As I previously stated, I wanted to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for a couple of reasons. First, because my fifteen year old son has read it twice and I had never read it. And second, as someone with a degree in literature, I felt that this was one of those books that should have been required reading, but was not. I'm not sure why I hadn't read it for myself -- I really like dystopian fiction. I read Island by Adlous Huxley last year and it was kind of a slog for me. Perhaps that is a reason I kept delaying reading Brave New World.
The first third of Brave New World was a bit difficult to get through because it took some time to get familiar with this strange new world. I did enjoy the book as a whole and it has given me much to think about. This strange world that the inhabitants view as wonderful, peaceful, happy, seems horrific to me. But so many of the horrific things are not so different (except in degree) from our present, particularly the prevalence of media and pharmaceuticals in their lives.
The really strange and creepy thing that stands out about this world is how the population is divided up into strict castes - Alphas, Betas, Deltas, etc. Each caste is physically distinct from the others and also have intellectual grades to go along with their rank. I was particularly disturbed by the way these castes were created on purpose in the lab and then how they were programmed to behave and to think in certain ways. It was basically torture. And the Alphas just kept saying that the lower castes liked what they did and didn't want anything more, etc. And, of course, that was all true -- after all the brainwashing and mental programming done to them. Any doubt or emotion that might cause a disruption in the system was dealt with by handing out more soma. I don't want to give too much away about what happens in the story, but the bottom line is that I think this is a very important and disturbing book that everyone should read.