The year is 2540 AD but in the new order of the world it is 632 AF (Annum Ford, with the new calendar beginning in 1908, the year Henry Ford's first Model T rolled off the assembly line.) The world is unified into a peaceful, global society in which resources abound and everyone is happy. This is because of the scientific developments that allow for the complete control of the population.
Children are no longer born through natural reproduction but rather "decanted" in the Hatcheries and Conditioning Centres. They are divided into five castes which are created to fulfill specific functions within social and economic spheres. Members of the lower castes are born from one egg that is able to create up to 96 children. They are then educated through a sleep-teaching process which gives them caste-appropriate teaching and moulds their world views.
All citizens are taught to value consumption so that it is a constant thing that allows for universal, consistent employment to meet the demands of society. Social communion is highly encouraged and those who look for solitary pleasures are deemed to be outcasts. The drug soma is universally consumed, a hallucinogen that allows people to manage stress and discomfort without a hangover.
In this society, recreational sex is a social activity that is encouraged from a very young age. Since most women can't reproduce (and the few that do are conditioned to use birth control), the idea of a family, mother and father are considered obscene and unmentionable. Romantic relationships are discouraged and spending too much time with one person is looked down upon.
But not all people live in this "utopia." In some areas which are considered to be inhospitable to consumption and the way of the world, there exists contained groups of "savages" who live in their own way. Here they reproduce the natural way and practice religion, customs that are appalling to the others.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley examines this world through the eyes of Bernard Marx, a psychologist and outcast, and Lenina Crowe, a woman who works in the hatchery and enjoys her place in society. Bernard, who is different from the rest of the people in his caste physically, questions the beliefs they are teaching children, and longs for solitary time. He dislikes soma and doesn't use it, longing to just be himself. When Bernard and Lenina go on vacation at one of the savage reservations and bring back one of the savages, it causes trouble for Bernard and threatens the social order.
Written in 1931, this book was Huxley's guess as to how the world might end up in the future. It's obvious from reading that Huxley felt reproductive technology would shape our world and curb overpopulation, creating a frightening future, which at the time was different from many other utopian novels.
As with 1984, I found this book fascinating, just to read what people's views of the future were long ago. At the time Huxley wrote this book, mass production was making items cheaply and widely available throughout the world. It was still relatively new and people were unsure of where it would go but now, we see what has happened. It's fascinating to see not only if they were right or wrong, but to see how their concerns, thoughts and views still hold up today.
I read Brave New World as part of Freedom to Read week. It is number 52 on the American Library Association's list of most challenged books. It is often challenged for its language, references to recreational sex and for being anti-family and anti-religion. It was been banned in Ireland and India and removed from classrooms in areas of the United States.