Themes in: Brave New World

Brave New World is a novel by Aldous Huxley, published in 1932. I already wrote a book review of Brave New World, which you can click here to read. This blog post will not be an inherent discussion of themes in Brave New World, but a discussion of genres instead.

Science Fiction?

Like The Time Machine, Brave New World can be considered science fiction because it is a novel about a futuristic world with extraordinary technological advancements. For example, the society in Brave New World learn through hypnopaedia, a method that teaches a wide range of information during sleep, and laboratories are used to engineer future generations with perfect precision. This emphasis on efficient technology was inspired by Henry Ford’s car factories, as Ford highly valued precise engineering and efficient production. The notion of technological, genetic engineering instead of biological reproduction was also inspired by discussions at the time surrounding eugenics and the possibility of a perfected human race.

Utopian?

Speaking of perfection, Brave New World is an arguably Utopian novel because, as in The Time Machine, there is a strong emphasis on leisure and entertainment, which is most notable in the hedonistic culture encouraged throughout the novel. For example, citizens attend the ‘Feelies’ instead of the cinema which show highly sexualised films with lifelike details and ‘amazing tactual effects’ the viewers can experience themselves (Chapter 3, p. 29). Sexual encounters are encouraged to happy as regularly as possible, with anyone and everyone, to increase happiness. This is demonstrated with the slogan ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ (Chapter, p. 37). Furthermore, citizens are encouraged to regularly use the Soma, a drug which increases happiness and decreases worries, anxieties, or dissatisfactions, should they occur. Thus, society is too drugged on hedonistic pleasures to ever consider an uprising against the government. As previously mentioned, children are engineered to save time and the physical effort and expenditure of pregnancy and childbirth. Children are “born” into a rigid class system, determined by their DNA, which determines their quality of life, social status, and employment for the rest of their life. As children, their playtimes are monitored and controlled and as adults, their working hours are meticulously regulated.  In theory then, Brave New World presents an efficient, perfect, Utopian society that is socially, economically and politically successful.

Dystopian?

However, Brave New World can equally be described as Dystopian. Although the government has made many technological advancements and is trying to make society the best it can be, this has negative consequences.  The government regulate and control every aspect of citizens’ lives from their birth to their death; they are “born” from a test tube and after death, their bodies are cremated for ‘phosphorus recovery’, harvesting ‘a kilo and a half per adult corpse’ (Chapter 5, p. 63). The government provide regular Soma and birth-control, to encourage and enforce drug use and promiscuous sex. The government introduced hyphopodia to indoctrinate children to conform to the ideologies of the state. It is evident there is an overwhelming lack of free will and true happiness because society is brainwashed, oppressed, and trapped under totalitarian control, in the government’s pursuit of efficiency and perfection.

Ultimately, the decision as to whether Brave New World is truly Utopian or truly Dystopian is left for the reader to decide. I know I wouldn’t like to live there though.

– Judith

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Themes in: The Time Machine

The Time Machine is a novella by H.G. Wells, published in 1895. I already wrote a book review of The Time Machine, which you can click here to read. This blog post will not be an inherent discussion of themes in The Time Machine, but a discussion of genres instead.

Science Fiction?

The Time Machine most clearly belongs to the science fiction genre, as it contains many conventions associated with the science fiction genre, such as time travel, technology, and the future – the most obvious example being the fact the Time Traveller travels in time to the year A.D. 802,701. He does so with a remarkably advanced piece of technology – particularly for Victorian England – called a time machine, which is ‘delicately made’ from a ‘crystallin substance’ (Chapter 1, page 6). Ironically however, upon the Time Traveller’s arrival into the future, he notes that there is ‘no machinery’ and ‘no appliances of any kind’ (Chapter 5, p. 43) technological advancements have been lost and society has regressed into a simpler, primitive way of life. The Time Traveller also finds the future sublime and inexplicable, which is another convention of the science-fiction genre. This is demonstrated with the numerous rhetorical questions the Time Traveller asks such as ‘Why?’ and ‘How shall I put it?’ (Chapter 5, p. 43), as he struggles to comprehend the new world around him. Furthermore, towards the end of The Time Machine, The Time Traveller travels further into the future to see the apocalyptic end of the world – another convention that can be considered part of science fiction narratives – and watches as the world is consumed by an ‘inky black’ darkness,  a ‘glowing scarlet’ sky and is left utterly lifeless and cold (Chapter 11, p. 88).

Utopian?

The Time Machine can also be considered a Utopian novel. The Utopian genre often focuses on a society which has been perfected, and can enjoy peace and happiness. Indeed, these genre conventions are reflected in The Time Machine. The Eloi, the people of A.D. 802,701 focus their lives on fun, food, and a life of leisure. In this futuristic world, there are many beautiful flowers and gardens, which contrasts against the heavily industrialised setting of Victorian London the Time Traveller has departed from. Furthermore, The Time Traveller observes that the Eloi spend all their time ‘playing’, ‘bathing’, ‘eating’ and ‘sleeping’ (Chapter 5, p. 43). Undoubtedly, many would find this prospect incredibly desirable and relaxing.

Dystopian?

However, these same aspects of The Time Machine can be considered Dystopian, which is the exact opposite of the Utopian genre. Dystopian literature focuses on a world considerably worse than the author’s own, and life is usually oppressive or unfulfilling – or both. The Time Traveller arrives in A.D. 802,701 expecting to find a far more advanced human race than his own, a notion influenced by Darwinian theory of continual evolutionary progression. This is not the case. Instead, humanity has degenerated and split into 2 distinct species, both of which are worse than the Victorian society The Time Traveller left behind. The Eloi may have a seemingly fun and easy life, but they have lost their mental stimulation, physical strength, creativity, knowledge, and intelligence. They lack the motivation for … anything.  The Morlocks have also regressed and are akin to cavemen, as they hide underground and hunt the Eloi at night for meat. This presents the idea of evolutionary regression and is the direct opposite of a perfected, Utopian society.

To sum up, as I hope I’ve demonstrated, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells draws on conventions from the science fiction, Utopian and Dystopian genres.

– Judith

Book Review: Commune: Book Four

Commune: Book Four by Joshua Gayou is the final instalment in his 4-part dystopian series.

I’ve read all of Gayou’s books so far – it feels like only yesterday I was reading the first in the series. All of reviews of Commune: Book One, Commune: Book Two and Commune: Book Three are available to read.

Commune: Book Four is about a less-than-friendly group of survivors, led by the antagonistic Clay. They challenge the Jackson commune led by protagonists Jake and Gibs, for space and supplies, leading to a series of dramatic confrontations in an ever-desperate battle for survival.

In my previous review, I said that:

‘Clay and Ronny, leaders of a Nevada survivor group, are instant foils (opposites) for Jake and Gibs, leaders of the Jackson commune.’

This contrast is exemplified in Commune: Book Four, especially between Gibs and Clay. Gibs is shown to have vulnerabilities and anxieties and, although his military background makes him seem a little rough at times, he genuinely has their best interests at heart and clicks well with everybody. Clay, on the other hand, is cunning, cruel and genuinely unnerving and comes across as an unhinged dictator. There are a few horrific torture and execution scenes – you have been warned – as anyone who gets on Clay’s nerves becomes a target.

I thoroughly enjoyed comparing the two leaders of the two rival communities. Yet, Gibs is not meant to be the leader of the Jackson commune – Jake is. Curiously, however, Jake becomes noticeably absent in the latter half of the book, as conflict and tension rises. He is still referred to as the leader by characters and yet involves himself less and less. Jake’s darker side is the most prominent it has been since Commune: Book One. He does some seriously messed up things, and arguably becomes more and more like Clay and his sadistic henchmen. This leaves the question: what makes the “good guys” so very different from the “bad guys” when survival is at stake?

In addition to the interesting character relationships, the action scenes were always dramatic, realistic and exciting  – though some fights were a bit graphic in places.  There are some definite shocking moments, as well as some moments filled with pathos. There are deaths, tortures, casualties, and kidnappings – in both communities. I’ve probably already said this in previous reviews, but Gayou is a complete natural at writing vivid descriptions, well-paced action and good dialogue.

Nevertheless, due to the large cast of characters, it was sometimes difficult to tell who was speaking or who was present in a given scene. That is the downside of featuring so many major and minor characters from an entire series in one book.

Jake is a character who is still never fully explained. It might have been to continue the mystery surrounding his personality and motivations, but I had hoped this final instalment would provide a satisfying conclusion or answer. Instead, Gayou has opted to leave Jake’s character open-ended, which I didn’t like as much.

In contrast, Gibs is the best character Gayou has created. He has such an enjoyably distinct personality and style of speech that’s completely natural – regardless of who he’s with – and I enjoyed every scene with him in. Gayou has done well to make Gibs feel like one of the “original” characters, despite not being introduced to the series until Commune: Book Two. Whilst Jake is revered by characters as a wise leader or role model, I disagree, and see Gibs as the main protagonist and most suited to leadership. With that in mind, I think it’s appropriate that both the opening and ending scenes of Commune: Book Four are about Gibs.

Speaking of the ending, it has a satisfying conclusion whilst leaving room for a possible spin-off or further sequel in the future, if Gayou wanted.

Personally, I can’t believe this series is over (for now?). Joshua Gayou’s ability to write such a strong, well-crafted series of dystopian novels with dramatic action, well-developed characters and good pacing is fantastic. His evident hard work has certainly paid off.

I wonder what his next project will be.

Commune: Book Four was released on the 8th of December 2018 and is available to buy as an e-book or paperback from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

– Judith