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Brave New World is a bitterly funny and humorously tragic dystopian novel in which Aldous Huxley satirizes modern civilization’s obsession with consumerism, sensual pleasure, popular culture entertainment, mass production, and eugenics. His far future world limits individual freedom in exchange for communal happiness via mass culture arts like “feelies” (movies with sensual immersion), the state-produced feel-good drug soma, sex-hormone gum, popular sports like “obstacle golf,” and the assembly line chemical manipulation of ova and fetuses so as to decant from their bottles babies perfectly suited for their destined castes and jobs, babies who are then mentally conditioned to become satisfied workers and consumers who believe that everyone belongs to everyone. In a way it’s more horrible than the more obviously brutal and violent repression of individuals by totalitarian systems in dystopias like George Orwell’s 1984, because Huxley’s novel implies that people are happy being mindless cogs in the wheels of economic production as long as they get their entertainments and new goods.
Michael York does a great job reading the novel, his voice oozing satire for the long opening tour of the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, and then modifying in timbre and dialect for the various characters, among them the self-centered brooder Bernard Marx, the budding intellectual poet Helmholtz Howard, the sexy, sensitive, and increasingly confused Lenina Crowne, the spookily understanding Resident World Controller of Western Europe Mustapha Mond, and especially the good-natured, sad, and conflicted Shakespearean quoting “savage” John.
I had never read this classic of dystopian science fiction, so I’m glad to have listened to this excellent audiobook, because it is entertaining and devastating in its depiction of human nature and modern civilization, especially timely in our own brave new Facebook world.
185 of 199 people found this review helpful
When I first read Brave New World it gave me nightmares. I was hooked. It might be strange to say that a book that gave me bad dreams is a good thing, but I was intrigued that a story could worm its way so powerfully into my psyche. It was really my first encounter with dystopian speculative fiction and I ultimately credit Huxley with sending me on my recent nosedive into YA lit. He probably wouldn’t appreciate this association, or the one I’m about to make, which is that I think this book is one of the most powerful and accessible works of dystopia ever created, and can be seen as a forebear to much of today’s hottest literature.
Sometimes when I’m not sure what I want to listen to next I’ll return to a book that I loved fervently in print and check it out in audio, and that’s what I did with Brave New World. I’m so glad that I did. Michael York is an excellent narrator and he captures the different characters admirably. But what I found most impressive is how he handles dialogue. Brave New World is more than dystopian sci-fi; it’s a novel of ideas and discussion. There’s a lengthy rapid-fire debate that takes place between John the Savage and Mustapha Mond near the end of the book that is generously peppered with obscure Shakespearian references. When reading you can gloss over anything you do not get immediately because you understand the merit of their discussion: is it better to be happy and controlled, or is the freedom to be unhappy the greatest of human liberties? But I found while listening that Michael York carried me along through their debate and the individual Shakespearian references sang clearly. Just as seeing a play acted out on stage is easier than reading it, I really feel that listening to this book was a heightened experience, and an improvement on the print version. Now when I recommend Brave New World to people I suggest they listen to it first.
And I’m going to recommend it again now: There’s a reason this is a classic, and read by most freshman English students. If somehow you’ve missed it, now is the time to pick this one up.
119 of 132 people found this review helpful
Great book, no doubting that, but I'm half way through and had to break to come on here and say I can't STAND Michael York's narration. Really after 20 audiobooks or more from Audible this is the first time it's happened, and it's particularly surprising given he's such a well known actor, but absolutely every moment of his performance is over-egged. It's Jackonory story-telling, subtle as a brick and prone to spasms of indulgent and frankly frightening wailing and crying. And the accents, entirely his contribution from what I gather, are atrocious. I'm probably in the minority given other reviews here, but give the sample a go and try before you buy, that's my advice!
36 of 37 people found this review helpful
Set sometime in the distant future (A.F. 632 which may translate to around 2540 A.D. according to some calculations), in an advanced dystopian world; this was at times a fascinating but challenging listen. However, I could not help feeling somewhat disappointed by the end as I did not find it to be the classic that it was alleged to be.
Often compared to Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four", but very different in terms of the worlds both authors so carefully constructed, I found Huxley’s style of writing at times to be overly verbose and difficult to follow. It also made me wonder at times how far he was trying to exhibit his own philosophical beliefs at the expense of the plot and overall story.
I found nearly all the characters unlikeable. Naturally, the only ones I truly sympathised with were John and Linda. No doubt this was deliberate on Huxley's part, as to an outsider looking into this so called "civilised world" where people had been conditioned to show no real lasting unity to one another, you could only feel appalled at their self-centredness. John the Savage (as he was unfairly referred to), represented our world and programming, and his reaction to the likes of Lenina and some of the lower caste members and their behaviour was at times desperate, but understood.
When you take a step back and take it all in, the world Huxley created here is truly frightening, but nonetheless captivating.
Finally, I found Michael York's narration rather strange and somewhat irritating at times. Some of his choice of accents for the characters were quite bizarre and not well thought out (Bernard's and John's especially), and kind of took some of the gloss off of this work.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
I'm so pleased I listened to this again as an adult. Mr Huxley was clearly on the money in his imaginings of humans. Brilliant! And sad. But mostly brilliant!
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Michael York delivers a wonderful performance, he gives a great depth to all the different characters. I always found Brave New World a bit of a slog but this rendition was a delight.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful