10 Most Crucial British Science Fiction Novels 3

Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley

With its title derived from Shakespeare’s The Tempest (“O brave new world! That has such people in’t!”) Huxley’s dystopian vision of society in the year 2540 is arguably as self-consciously literary as SF gets. Perhaps because of this, some genre fans treat it with suspicion, as not quite of the canon. Shame, as it’s an extraordinary piece of work.

It was written in part as a riposte to HG Wells’ utopian Men Like Gods. Where Wells was optimistic, Huxley grumpily attacked targets as diverse as mass production, promiscuity and the cult of the future. Many of his ideas were prescient. Back in the Second Summer of Love, for example, you couldn’t move for blissed-out idiots drawing comparisons between soma (Huxley’s population-numbing hallucinogen) and ecstasy.

It’s a narrow view of SF that argues the genre should always aspire to comment on contemporary society, but one of Brave New World’s triumphs is to make the notion of such comment impossible to ignore.

If you like this, why not try?
Stand On Zanzibar by John Brunner (1968)
Because, imbued with the energy of the New Wave, it’s a brilliantly realised vision of an overcrowded future.

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