Book choice for October 2009

Brave New World [suggested by Uzma Ali]

front cover

Aldous Huxley's novel "Brave New World" is both one of the best science fiction books and one of the most brilliant pieces of satire ever written. BNW takes place on a future Earth where human beings are mass-produced and conditioned for lives in a rigid caste system. As the story progresses, we learn some of the disturbing secrets that lie underneath the bright, shiny facade of this highly-ordered world.

Huxley opens the book by allowing the reader to eavesdrop on a tour of the Fertilizing Room of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where the high-tech reproduction takes place. Into this seemingly advanced civilization is introduced John, a "savage" from a reservation where old human culture still survives. Thus, BNW is also a tale of "culture shock" and conflict.

Huxley creates a compelling blend of bizarre comedy, serious character study, futuristic extrapolation, and philosophical discussion. His writing style is crisp and witty, and cleverly incorporates references to canonical works of literature. Probably the scariest thing about BNW is the fact that, in many ways, humanity seems to be moving closer to Huxley's dystopian vision. [review on Amazon by Michael J. Mazza]

This famous work not only has its own Wikipedia page but is another of those works big enough to warrant its own website. If you wish, you can also read the whole thing online.

About the Author

Aldous Leonard Huxley (26 July 1894 - 22 November 1963) was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. He spent the later part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1963. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and wide-ranging output of essays, he also published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts.

Aldous Huxley was a humanist and pacifist, and he was latterly interested in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism. He is also well known for advocating and taking psychedelics.

By the end of his life Huxley was considered, in some academic circles, a leader of modern thought and an intellectual of the highest rank.

The above Wikipedia article continues with a more detailed biography, or try here for a shorter version that I don't want to reproduce as they seem a bit tetchy about copyright.

 

Shortlisted for this month

The nominator can bring one, two, or three books to be chosen by the group (or mandated in the case of only one book being selected).  This month, Uzma provided a stunning cornucopia of classic science fiction which included:

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

A dystopian novel authored by Ray Bradbury and first published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 presents a future American society in which the masses are hedonistic, and critical thought through reading is outlawed. The central character, Guy Montag, is employed as a "fireman" (which, in this future, means "bookburner"). The number "451" refers to the temperature at which book paper auto-ignites. Although sources contemporary with the novel's writing gave the temperature as 450°C (842°F), Bradbury apparently thought "Fahrenheit" made for a better title. The "firemen" burn them "for the good of humanity". Written in the early years of the Cold War, the novel is a critique of what Bradbury saw as issues in American society of the era.

The concept started with Bradbury's short story "Bright Phoenix," written in 1947 but first published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1963. The original short story was reworked into the novella, The Fireman, and published in the February 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. The novel was also serialized in the March, April, and May 1954 issues of Playboy magazine. Bradbury wrote the entire novel on a pay typewriter in the basement of UCLA's Powell Library. His original intention in writing Fahrenheit 451 was to show his great love for books and libraries. He has often referred to Montag as an allusion to himself.

The above synopsis adapted from the book's Wikipedia page which continues to give a full summary of the plot. A movie was made in 1966 with an updated version slated for production in 2012.

About the Author

Ray Bradbury, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet, was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He graduated from a Los Angeles high school in 1938. Although his formal education ended there, he became a "student of life," selling newspapers on L.A. street corners from 1938 to 1942, spending his nights in the public library and his days at the typewriter. He became a full-time writer in 1943, and contributed numerous short stories to periodicals before publishing a collection of them, Dark Carnival, in 1947.

His reputation as a writer of courage and vision was established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, which describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, and the unintended consequences. Next came The Illustrated Man and then, in 1953, Fahrenheit 451, which many consider to be Bradbury's masterpiece, a scathing indictment of censorship set in a future world where the written word is forbidden. In an attempt to salvage their history and culture, a group of rebels memorize entire works of literature and philosophy as their books are burned by the totalitarian state. Other works include The October Country, Dandelion Wine, A Medicine for Melancholy, Something Wicked This Way Comes, I Sing the Body Electric!, Quicker Than the Eye, and Driving Blind. In all, Bradbury has published more than thirty books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, and plays. His short stories have appeared in more than 1,000 school curriculum "recommended reading" anthologies.

The above is taken from the Biography section of the author's website, and naturally he also has a Wikipedia entry.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four

Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell's nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff's attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell's prescience of modern life - the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language - and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.[review from Amazon]

The novel has its own Wikipedia page and once again if you wish, you can read the entire thing online.

About the Author

Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 - 21 January 1950), better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author. His work is marked by a profound consciousness of social injustice, an intense, revolutionary opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language and a belief in democratic socialism.

Considered "perhaps the 20th century's best chronicler of English culture," he wrote works in many different genres including novels, essays, polemic journalism, semi-sociological literary criticism, and poetry. His most famous works are the satirical novel Animal Farm (1945) and the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), widely considered to be his magnum opus. Also widely acclaimed are Homage to Catalonia (1938), a personal account of his experiences and observations in the Spanish Civil War, and his numerous essays. Orwell's influence on popular and political culture remains apparant, with numerous of his literary concepts, and the term "Orwellian" entering the popular vernacular.

The above biog taken the author's Wikipedia entry, he also has a dedicated website which contains a more extensive biography section.

 

Previous Months' Book Choices

September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006