This is a story of a disturbing dystopia, set in the year 632 AF (After Ford – their messianic figure), the equivalent of the year 2540 in our Gregorian Calendar, at a place called the World State.
It is a world where advance science can engineer a human embryo to create a perfect human being, where babies aren’t born through mothers anymore, they are raised in state conditioning centres instead of by their parents, and they are programmed from childhood not to feel strong emotions but rather to obey orders.
In World State, there are no countries or borders, no individual or private home, no religion, no heaven, no parliament, no democracy, while Polish, French, and German have become dead languages as everybody now speaks the same language. In the spirit of unison even monogamy, romance, and family are prohibited, as “everyone belongs to everyone else.”
Ending is better than mending, as they also often say in this society, as they immediately throw away old stuffs and encourage consumerism over brand new things. You see, they thrive on efficiencies. But they should not fear of being discarded themselves, because thanks to the advances of science ageing does not occur anymore.
The society in the World State is organized through caste system that divide people into 5 classes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. All judged based on intelligence. And this is where the problem lies, as a lot of humans are engineered to be born and conditioned into a pre-designated caste. Because not everyone can become an Alpha since the world still needs someone to do the hard labour, which is the lower caste, as proven in the failed experiment of an all-Alpha society in Cyprus a while ago.
Indeed, the brilliance of this book is that it shows the flaws of attempting perfection, where this advanced society is trying to eradicate hardship, unhappiness, inefficiencies, violence, and inconveniences, but ended up oppressing people in the journey towards their utopian dream. In truth, life becomes dull without the struggles and people become less human and increasingly naïve as they lack the necessary experience of hardship to contrast evil with kindness, discomfort with comfort, failure with winning.
It is in this environment that the story of our protagonists is set. They do so firstly by being exposed to the “ordinary world” when they travel outside the World State to the Savage Reservation in New Mexico, one of the only places left that has not been influenced by the World State.
Over there, they observe for the first time natural birth, ageing process, disease, other languages, religious lifestyle, and all the spectrum of emotions including lust and love. And the novel witnesses their progress of embracing all the flaws, messiness and struggles to become human once again.
The narrative itself is intriguing, filled with twist and turn and drama, but as always with fiction work – whose strong point is in the story – I will not spill any further. The audible version in particular, narrated by Michael York, gives an additional creep to it, thanks to his brilliant expressions at reading it.
All in all, the book is so disturbing, it’s so good. And it’s astonishing how our real-life modern society is progressing towards this fictitious world, a world that was already cautioned by Aldous Huxley back in 1932.