Well – I certainly can’t say much for this one. There is only minimal plot and the same can be said for the character development. So what is this? It’s basically a narrative comprised of the social, cultural and intellectual ideas of Aldous Huxley. He’s created a world, a little island utopia, which is threatened by the outside world and the need for oil. The book is peopled by “types” such as the Rani and her son (pro-oil), the scientists (anti-oil), and Will Faraday, a journalist who comes over for the money but listens and learns about the island – Pala.
Aldus Huxley was ahead of his times, but between then and now the times he was meant for happened, and now they are memory. His thinking became very popular in the late Sixties but he died in 1963. In this novel Huxley holds forth in a didactic and somewhat arrogant manner – smug. The book is boring to me now, but I can see where I might have enjoyed it in 1970 or so –
“Huxley was a humanist, pacifist, and satirist. He later became interested in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism, in particular, Universalism. By the end of his life, Huxley was widely acknowledged as one of the pre-eminent intellectuals of his time. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in seven different years.”
He was also a proponent of using LSD and mescaline – both hallucinogenic drugs of the 1960s. But he did want a lot of research done prior to release. He first wrote about mescaline in 1954 in Doors of Perception. (good article)
Anyway – the novel just follows Will around the island listening to the other characters explain how wonderful life on Pala is and why – and Will asks the relevant questions. He also gathers information from the Rani and her son the future Raja – these guys are the “bad guys” who want to get the best money they can for their oil and join the world.
I suppose Huxley’s ideas boil down to free love (yoga love), drugs for enhanced spiritual awareness, pacifist ideals and training, hard physical labor, “correct” child rearing, community cooperation, population control (including a form of eugenics – p 231), death, Destiny Control, and the general principles of meditation and Buddhism. This is in opposition to religion – (esp. Christianity), consumerism, laziness (sitting), greedy ambition, lust, etc.
The goal is: “Only the modest ambition to live as fully human beings in harmony with the rest of life on this island at this latitude on this planet.” (p. 259)
But Huxley is not questioning progress in general – he has much faith in technological progress – man is perfectible and can live in a perfect world if it stays small enough, the population is selected and trained well enough, and it’s kept out of the influence of corruption, money, western ideals. (I think.)
On the up side – I do like the whole idea of living in the now and paying attention, as well as the theme that “everything is connected,” but I think I’ve read better books with that theme.
http://www.alexandertechnique.com/articles/huxley/ general info
http://thequietus.com/articles/10268-aldous-huxley-island-50-years – review after 50 years