O Brave New World, That Has Such People In’t!

Brave New WorldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book. I really did. Not for its morality, nor really for its philosophy, but for its brilliance – for that examination of the human condition in stark light, that study of the person in the harshest glare and most intent gaze.

The events of this book, both in its setting and in its conclusion, are terrible. Not that they are poorly written, mind, but that they are genuinely frightful in their presentation of humankind. To exist in a society wrought, not with endeavor and achievement and heroism, but with contentedness and stability and order and utter, unnatural blandness… it is an affront to the mind. Worse still is to pursue virtue and genuine human experience, only to be dragged to the brink by one’s own viciousness.

The Savage desired truth and beauty, and he was robbed – nay, he robbed himself, by fault and by mistake – of all that and more.

It’s a tragic story – made all the more appropriate by the persistent presence of the Bard’s tragedies in the Savage’s limited and broken philosophy. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this book to everyone, but it is a powerful examination of the dangers of the paths before us. On the one hand, perceived freedom and happiness truly enslaved to order; on the other, syncretism and suffering.

Of course, as Huxley notes in his foreword to my edition of the book, those are not (or rather, should not be) our only choices. Huxley postulates that there is even a society present in the book that pursues this alternative, which I noticed myself: the exiles, those both too intellectual and too individualist to pursue lives in the community-driven world of society, but not quite to be executed and cast among the carrion in Slough Crematorium. People like Helmholtz Watson and Bernard Marx – people who, by their very peculiarity, are made alone in a society of sameness, and are forced into philosophy and thought and the wondrous discovery of true humanity.

It remains, of course, that Huxley’s view of religion, science, and technology is inherently punctuated with his perception of philosophy… by which I mean to say that the man may have been brilliant, but he is nevertheless wrong. I do not intend to refute his beliefs in this short review, however, so let it suffice to say this: Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” is a clever work of science fiction, philosophy, and social extrapolation, from which we all may do well to learn.

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Prelude to Asimov

Prelude to Foundation (Foundation: Prequel, #1)Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of Isaac Asimov’s best works, and – I think – the one I read first (many years ago, of course). Given my renewed interest in science fiction, I decided to begin collecting Asimov’s works again, and (at my hinting) my wife gifted me a new copy of this.

It is an excellent work of science, culture, and supposition, as good science fiction should be. Some of the twists I remembered from previous readings, but others I could foresee without remembering (the nature of Dors, for example, is easily surmised, but the person of Hummin is a surprising twist). Asimov did a swell job, too, as he portrayed the various emotional and personal characteristics that he pointed out in each character in the final section of the novel. There is no doubt, no confusion, as we look back on the story, that each character is exactly as described (especially Seldon and his pride).

I have every intention of continuing to (re-)read Asimov’s works, and this was a delightful way to remind myself of his universe. I shall endeavor, of course, to go back as well as forward; I have read his Foundation novels, but not his Empire ones, and few of his Robot works. This must be remedied.

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Time Travelers Never Die… Nor Can They Speak Greek

Time Travelers Never DieTime Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jack McDevitt’s work is clever. It addresses issues of paradox rather originally, as far as I’ve seen, and offers some insight into an eternal view of history.

However, the work is plagued by a number of errors that, I imagine, only experts could discover. Read more »