Read by Michael York
Finally, I have read this book! I’ve been meaning to for so many years but just kind of haven’t, but I know it is in the same esteem (and somewhat similar style) of 1984. And wow, how wonderful.
So, it is the future, and everything in the world is controlled, from birth to the sleep learning of status and structure, to the set careers and playtime fun through to death and the recycling of the human body. Sex is a normal interaction like conversation, spending time alone is considered freaky, and no one reads. People are bred and conditioned into several groups, from the Alphas who control everything and have the most fun to the Epsilons who are deprived of oxygen during incubation in a test tube (people are decanted, not born. No-one actually carries a baby anymore). And to avoid emotions and anything unpleasant, people take Soma, a drug that can stimulate good things and send people on holidays in their mind.
Bernard is an Alpha who feels that things are not quite right, and when he goes on a holiday to a savage reservation in New Mexico with Lenina, a woman who plays by the ‘normal’ rules of sex and dating, he discovers an Alpha woman who was abandoned there many years ago. She was pregnant, an unacceptable state in society, and has become an alcoholic who sleeps with men to get drink. Her son is now an adult, and Bernard delights in bringing him back to society to be shown off like a trophy, like a novelty, a creature who, despite his recitation of the famous line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Oh brave new world that has such people in’t), finds society disgusting and disgraceful.
The one thing I found difficult from the reading of the book by Michael York was the range of accents he (or the producer) chose during the reading. Bernard is Welsh and The Savage and his mother are from the North of England, possibly Birmingham as a couple of examples. This creates a different reading to it which I’m not sure was intended by Huxley, and I wonder if it added a sense of class that changes things. It’s a shame in a way, because I think I would have preferred to have kept it relatively neutral.