These book reviews are not only a lot of fun to do but they are getting very good responses from YOU GUYS …. thanks for reading them!
“Island” was the final novel by Aldous Huxley. Written in 1962 and paralleling “Brave New World” in the sense that it’s a vision of a possible future where humans have adopted a system of control over their populace.
Unlike “BNW” this story was placed in a very different setting (The Kingdom of Pala) and featured a completely different set of protocols for “managing” the populace.
The copy I own is the paperback edition and it spans 354 pages of work that reads a bit like a playbook or treatise on how to control a large population — while keeping them perfectly content and docile.
So this novel is a type of counterpoint to his more famous earlier work. “Island” was meant to truly describe an orderly, utopia where people are being controlled for their own good — and they fully support the arrangement.
Some characteristics of the Island’s culture include:
- A de-militarized government that emphasizes a blend of Western science and a revised form of the predominant native religion – Buddhism.
- It’s interesting to note how the book details how non-natives ultimately modified the native religion and made it less “superstitious” and more centered on the individual.
- Similar to “BNW” Huxley’s island Utopia also features the end off the traditional family. Multiple parent families and small networks of adopted children are the norm in this setting.
- Also similar to “BNW” this ideal society heavily emphasizes the routine use of psychotropic drugs (made from a type of mushroom that grows on the island) to help ensure stability.
- The drug is called “moksha medicine” and it plays a key role in helping the HAPPY HAPPY inhabitants to maintain an optimal “in the moment” frame of mind.
- Finally – the author includes unrestrained (and sometimes public) “tantric” sexual indulgence and expression as a primary feature of an ideal, stable society.
- It’s interesting to note that the overt sexualization that appears in “BNW” was described as a way to help reduce the association with the Family Unit — which had been eradicated completely (while the terms “Mother” and “Father” were considered taboo and vulgar to mention in polite conversation)
I don’t want to spoil the plot but Aldous did a very good job of introducing conflict to this island “paradise”, ultimately the drams comes to a climax and, for me, the confusion of the story was difficult to interpret.
I believe the ending can be interpreting in one of two ways:
Mr Huxley is either expressing a sense of cynicism on the notion of mankind ever attaining a utopian state
He’s only presenting the dystopian elements in order to make the story more interesting and perhaps providing a profile of the types of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that can destroy an orderly and desirable society.
I hope you choose to give the book a chance, I believe that anyone who’s read Brave New World should make an extra effort to add this one to the reading list!