Brave New World


7/10 I have wanted to read this book for quite a while now as Lex Friedman keeps referencing it all the time in his podcast. I have actually started it once roughly a year ago but I wasn’t in the state of mind to take all the gore detail of hatching human embryos at the beginning of the book. Back then I have just found out I have a (cancerous) tumor growing on my spine which made the details, well, too detailed. I have since survived, woohoo, and so I started it over again.

But in the mean time I read another utopia, This Perfect Day by Ira Levin. While reading Brave New World, I have been comparing it a lot to This Perfect Day. In many ways, the worlds that the two books portray are quite similar - all the people are the same, the social order is upheld by a carefully optimized drug addiction, all references to the old world (art, books, music) are abolished and never spoken of, everyone is happy and satisfied, conditioned to like precisely what they were destined to do. And in these utopian worlds there is a group of slowly awakening outcasts who recognize the social order that is being upheld around them. They recognize the conformity and the curtains that the social order puts up so they cannot see or even imagine what lies beyond the perpetual happiness and constant drugged sensation of pleasure and comfort. So they start to explore these boundaries which upsets the controllers of the societal order and the witch hunt begins.

In This Perfect Day, you get to see into the mind of the main character. You get to live through his awakening and the process makes the book a huge page turner. In Brave New World, I didn’t get this feeling. Until the last 3-4 chapters I felt like the book is all the time just lingering at the precipice of the main character waking up - but he never does. This made the middle part of the book less enjoyable than This Perfect Day, but I have also been comparing it a lot.

However, at the end, through the eyes of the character of the Savage, you suddenly get to see the full picture given to you straight from the horses mouth - the World Controller for Western Europe. It’s there were the book became good. I could suddenly appreciate the ideas being slowly revealed through out. It all clicked and made sense. So in the end I did like it and it did leave me with that solemn moment of reflection and emptiness when you finish a good book and you just sit there, pondering the implications that this story has on how you see the real world.


In the brave new world, the word mother is a profanity. All embryos are hatched from bottles, following a closely monitored, optimized process to produce desired quantities of each caste’s members. The society functions perfectly as all its members are conditioned throughout their development to like exactly whet they were destined to do. There is no suffering. There is no struggle. At a mere glimpse of an inconvenience you take your daily ration of soma, a pleasantness-inducing drug, that will make your ailments go away and take you on a beautiful holiday while you are soundly asleep. Just the perfect world - unless your conditioning didn’t work quite as well as for all the others and you find yourself wondering if all this beauty and happiness is all there is to life. This is the case for Bernard who goes on a real holiday to a reservation where old Indians live. There he finds John, a child of an outcast woman from the perfect world. Upon approval from the world controller Bernard takes John back to civilization where after a while John realizes that this world is insane. He revolts, causes havoc and ultimately gets himself in trouble that leads him to the world controller. There, the world controller explains why all the people are being kept unaware of the real meaning of life - for the sake of stability. John cannot take this so he finds a remote spot in this new world to live in solitude. But the members of the society find him, treat him as an experiment, a spectacle and that’s where John cannot take it anymore… and the story ends.


“Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensation for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contended has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.” - World Controller for Western Europe (ch.16, p.5)

“Happiness has got to be paid for. You’re paying for it, Mr. Watson - paying because you happen to be too much interested in beauty. I was too much interested in truth; I paid too.” - World Controller for Western Europe (ch.16, p.12)

SOMA: All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects.

  • struggle is what makes living interesting. A right amount of struggle makes us tick, too little and we get too comfortable, rotting away; too much and we crumble under pressure. What we need is just the right amount of struggle.

  • in the book, the utopian future has all people being the same, wanting the same things, conforming to the same set of values. In a sense we can see this largely happening in our society today. A large part of western’s world population are conditioned consumerists who all want the latest gadget, all want go to the fanciest cafe to flex their double iced-late on social media and all want to be popular and travel the world. Yet, they also want to be seen as unique. As individuals with their own style and their own ideas of coolness and self-expression. This is not part of the future that Huxley imagined. But I think it’s even worse. It’s conformity without community because everyone wants to be seen as an atom on their own. It’s breaking us mentally, individual by individual, as lot of people start to feel the effects of loneliness in apparently social world…. apparently.