Brave New World - Aldous Huxley, Michael York I’ve just finished listening to the Audio CD version of Brave New World as read by Michael York. It wasn’t a bad reading; though, at times, I thought his intonation and rhythms were a bit off.

I first saw rather than read Brave New World when I watched the 1980 miniseries starring Bud Cort as Bernard Marx (check the IMDB page - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080468/ - Cort's the perfect Bernard but Marcia Strassman as Lenina?...ummm...not so good). It wasn’t until I got to college that I actually read the novel (in a freshman honors seminar). I have to admit that there’s a certain seductive attraction to the Brave New World – no worries; all conditioned to like their lives; a benevolent, paternalistic dictatorship that doesn’t send its deviants to re-education camps or gas chambers. Though the latter is conditioned on the existence of a number of remote islands those deviants can be exiled to - as Mustapha Mond intimates in the scene where he, Bernard, Helmholtz and John are determining their future: if there weren’t so many islands, the directors probably would have to shoot the malcontents. It’s a very well padded velvet glove but it still covers an iron fist. The scene also parallels the final confrontation between O’Brien and Smith in 1984. Of course, there it’s all iron; Oceania’s too poor to afford velvet.

What struck me while listening, particularly toward the end when Mond was justifying modern civilization to the Savage, were not parallels to 1984 but rather to Iain Banks’ Culture novels. After all, isn't the Culture Huxley’s World State only without the State? Its citizens have few worries and regularly indulge in drugs, orgies and unencumbered liaisons. What makes the Culture Utopia and the World State “hell” is that the latter enforces a conditioned infantilism, while the Culture allows its members the “right to be unhappy,” which John laments on in Huxley’s book. The Culture allows its “malcontents” scope with positions in Contact and Special Circumstances; and, if that’s not enough, you can always secede from the Culture entirely without repercussion.