Abandoned Book: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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Brave New World by Aldous Huxley on the 101 Great Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers list, and I know I’ve seen it on many other “must-read” lists. I never read it in high school when many people apparently did, so I thought I should give it a go now. But I just cannot.

I’ve listened to three chapters of the audiobook, and I have yet to meet a solid, identifiable character. The dialog is forced and the setting is an unrecognizable scene many hundred years in the future. Huxley has spent three chapters “telling” me about the setting and characters. Thus far, it reminds me very much of Foundation by Isaac Asimov, which I disliked when I read it a few months ago.

None of those things I mentioned would, by itself, make this book bad. I often enjoy books without solid characters (Thomas More’s Utopia, reviewed last month, was a conversation about a country’s social habits, so there was essentially no characterization and I still enjoyed it). I can ignore forced dialog when I’m enjoying a story (much of the dialog in children’s literature isn’t very believable or well done, I’ve noticed). I have enjoyed futuristic novels in the past (such as We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, reviewed here). ย I have even enjoyed a futuristic novel with a blatant moral/philosophical message (Anthem by Ayn Rand, reviewed here).

But Brave New World has failed every enjoyability test. By excluding a clear plot and clear characters that I can identify with from the beginning, Huxley has failed to engage me in his book. The forced, fake dialog isn’t surrounded by any type of story to keep me interested. I suspect there may be some story once the scene is properly set, but I’ve lost patience waiting for that.

And so, I’m giving up on the audio after an hour of listening (the book is a total of eight or nine hours). I’ve been told that Brave New World is more of a societal study, which does still sound interesting to me. I only wish Huxley could have included some actual characterization or plot to make it interesting. Maybe in the future, I’ll skim the physical book; listening to it is tedious and painfully boring.

At this point, I’d rather reread Thomas More. And that’s saying something.

Have you read Brave New World? Did you like it? Why or why not?

Why do you think Brave New World is considered a classic?

Reviewed on May 19, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I did read this when I was in highschool, and my general feeling was that it wasn’t “all that”. It has more of a sci-fi bent than 1984, but at the time I couldn’t help but compare the two, and Brave New World kept coming up short. I thought it was very heavy-handed and apart from growing people in jars, I remember essentially nothing about it. I think there is better dystopian fiction – both in terms of writing and depth. I’m not saying reading the book is a waste of time – again, like Lord of the Rings, it’s clear why it’s taught in highschool – but if you’re really not enjoying it, I don’t think you have any kind of obligation to continue on with it.

  • I read this book when I was a teenager, many years ago, but what I remember had both a plot and actual characters. Maybe the audiobook format isn’t so good for this book, if all the interesting stuff is at the end of the book?

  • Steph, I recently started 1984 and I’m finding it a lot more rewarding. I guess the sci-fi bent of Huxley’s book just really isn’t for me. And the growing babies in jars is all that the first three chapters is about, so that’s probably why it’s memorable. Huxley spends a looooong time setting up that scene. I guess it must be important.

    Yes, I’m sure there is a good reason for high schoolers to read it. I’m just not in to it enough to continue right now.

    Paula, I’m sure it does have a plot. I just don’t like how he’s taking forever setting it up! Maybe at some I’ll read the physical book so I can skim the boring sections. It just doesn’t bode well for me when I read a book that 1/10 in to it doesn’t have one solid character yet.

    Do you normally like science fiction? I’m wondering if this is just a book best saved for sci fi fans.

  • Aw, I’m sorry you didn’t like it Rebecca. I agree with Paula – it might be the audioformat. I loved this book in high school, thought it was far better than 1984, which was the companion book we read. It didn’t feel at all like science fiction to me. I mean, there’s a little bit about the babies in the bottles in the beginning, but all the rest is very social, and very little sci-fi. I don’t remember much about the first couple chapters – it’s been abotu 13 years since I read the book – but I remember a lot about the middle and end and just really loved it. I’m sorry it didn’t work for you. ๐Ÿ™

  • I read this one in high school as well and what I remember about it is the social commentary (“the year of our Ford” still makes me laugh). I thought that part was interesting, but don’t remember much about the story except the recreational sex (hey – I was a high schooler!). I also don’t remember a main character standing out like I do in 1984.

    Speaking of, I’m so glad you’re reading 1984. I am convinced that it is super important for everyone to read. As you read it, you will come across all kinds of things that are regularly refernced in our current society (the most obvious being “Big Brother”). I can’t wait to hear what you think of it.

  • Amanda, OK, so I’ll have to get the physical book and skim it. Maybe it just was the beginning. But wow, what a loooooooong beginning!

    AK, I am enjoying 1984 thus far. I think I may have read it before because it does seem familiar.

    Kathy, I can see the need for it to be read in school, but yeah, if it continues as it began, it may have been one I complained about too!

  • I haven’t read this, even though I’ve been wanting to, just because it’s such a classic. The reason why I haven’t yet is that the premise is so sci-fi that it doesn’t interest me at all. Maybe you’re right, maybe this is best enjoyed by sci-fi readers, not me. After your review (which is very helpful), I might not bother with this and just take it off my wishlist without feeling guilty. Thanks.

  • Rebecca, at the time I read Brave New World I was very much into this kind of books, 1984, Kalocain (by swedish author Karin Boye), Fahrenheit 451, and a lot of other dystopian tales of the future. It just fit in nicely with the others.

    I do read a lot of science fiction, but I actually read a lot of book of all kinds. I don’t think Brave New World is hard-core SF, the way I remember it, it’s mostly social commentary, not a lot of weird science.

  • I really liked the book. In fact, I read it earlier this year, and my review can be found here .

    I guess the beginning is kind-of slow, but once the plot kicks-off, and you’re introduced to Marx, the story actually begins. Lots of the characters are inspired by famous people like Henry Ford, Freud, Napoleon etc, and that, in my opinion makes it more interesting to read.

    That’s just me though!

  • Paula, I think I’m nearly convinced to give it another try. Maybe just the beginning came across as sci fi. If I read the hard copy, I could skim the boring sci fi stuff.

    uncertainprinciples, I don’t think I remember a “Marx.” Must need to read a little further. Thanks for linking to your review. I’ll go check it out, and I may give Brave New World another chance.

  • I just reviewed the audio version of this book a couple of weeks ago. (It was a re-read/listen because I did read it in high school.) It’s not a favorite of mine, but I did find the society that Huxley set up to be fascinating–and scary.

    There does get to be more plot as the book goes along, and a couple of characters do start to emerge as more important. Overall, though, I didn’t find the story to be quite as compelling as in 1984. For me, the set-up was the best and most memorable part of the book–I found some of it every bit as chilling as in 1984. Truth be told, I love almost all dystopian fiction for the world-building and social commentary. Good characters and plot are a bonus in that kind of book. If you consider them essential, Brave New World might never quite get there.

  • I read this twice, once in high school and once soon after and loved it both times. Last year I tried to listen to it on audio and it was completely different for me. Even having read it, and knowing that I loved it, I was bored. I think maybe it doesn’t translate well to audio.

  • Teresa, I don’t consider characters and plot essential always, but they certainly help. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Lisa, I’m really glad to hear that maybe it’s the audio format that isn’t working here: I was quite bored, but partly frustrated too. I may revisit it.

  • I read this in highschool and own a copy. I started rereading it but ended up reading something else and haven’t gone back to it since. I do like it it’s just a bit dry. I agree it does take a while for the storyline to come out but it is good if you can wait that long.

    It’s a classic (in my opinion) because even though it was written a while ago, the author was able to look so far into the future and imagine how it might be. It’s good because it’s scary to think that we might become like that someday. That our technology might take over so much that we think what the book does is a good way to run things.

  • I’m surprised how many people like 1984 vs. Brave New World. Maybe because I had to read BNW for school and never HAD to read 1984 I could get through BNW but not the latter. I was just going through both books recently to review on my site and was enamored once more with Brave New World and still hated 1984.

  • J.T. Oldfield, I just finished 1984. I’m still stewing over it….not my favorite, although I thought it was going to be. I’ve decided I’ll give Brave New World some day, just not this year.

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