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  1. I'm nearly half-way through this book. The language is fantastic. The characters are very slowly developing - some better than others. I'm interested enough to want to know more about them.
  2. Restored Thread 18th February 2011, 09:06 AM lunababymoonchild This book sets out an alternative society with babies not being born but created and then conditioned from birth and for their entire lives with adult behaviour being controlled via drugs. Even so, not everybody conforms to this and the book goes on to describe what happens. This book is set in the future but as it was written between the two world wars so at that time perhaps it was futuristic, but not so now, I felt. More an alternative man made society. I struggled with this book a little bit. I got to page 70 and decided to give it until page 100 before I abandoned it as I felt that up until then it was mundane and somewhat sterile in it's depictions of the society that was later to be called Brave New World. Fortunately, somewhere between page 70 and 100 it got a bit more interesting, from my point of view. Had the book been written later I would have felt that it was cliched in the introduction of a character that was neither of the controlled society or fully savage (the pre-existing 'alternative' society) but since the book was obviously written in the thirties it didn't come across a cliched at all. I enjoyed the remainder of the book and am glad that I stuck with it. The most profound of the author's statements come near the end, and during the thirties I'm sure that they were extremely profound if not ground breaking. They are certainly thought provoking today. Not the greatest book I've ever read but enjoyable enough and for long enough to keep me reading. Won't be seeking out other works by Aldous Huxley, though. #2 18th February 2011, 09:24 AM tagesmann I finished this yesterday. I had read the book before but that was at school and the impression it made then was fairly profound. This time I was a little disappointed. It wasn't a bad book and it wasn't badly written. Of course the science fiction is dated but that doesn't matter. I think that my main reason for not being so involved in the book was because I couldn't empathise with the characters although I did appreciate the cultural clashes and the total inability of the people to understand each other. I agree that the end of the book contained the most interesting aspects. Particularly the controller's sacrifice and the discussion about the right to be unhappy. I sometimes think that it is a shame that authors so rarely put their point of view forward through their characters in the way that was accepted in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century. I hated the ending but it was at least final. #3 18th February 2011, 10:29 AM Grammath Like most science fiction books, it is worth considering Brave New World in the context of the time it was written and published - 1932. I see it as satire as much as some form of future prediction. Mass production had fuelled the boom of the 1920s but had also had a dehumanizing effect - people became simple machines on a production line. The Great Crash of 1929 suggested that a world of wealth and mindless pleasure wasn't necessarily going to last forever. The Soviet Union had existed for a decade and a half; a society dedicated to shoehorning people into contributing to accepting its ideology unquestioningly. Mussolini was already in charge of Italy and Hitler's election was imminent. Huxley was from an academic background and I see Brave New World as a novel of ideas first and foremost, I agree as a story it is somewhat weaker than its closest equivalent in English Literature, Nineteen Eighty Four. Like tag, I first read Brave New World in my teens, at a time when sci-fi formed the backbone of my pleasure reading diet, as opposed to what I had to read for school. This, Nineteen Eighty Four and the works of Philip K. Dick showed me that the future was not necessarily going to be a rosy place so for me personally it was a very important book and appealing to the moody teenage Grammath. #4 21st February 2011, 11:43 AM Jenmcd Science fiction, along with fantasy, is a genre I avoid like the plague and I think Brave New World is my first foray into this area. I suppose I started out with low expectations so was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the novel. It is very much an ideas driven rather than character driven book so the weak point was my inability to connect with any of the characters. Aspects of the book seem very dated which at times make it hard to take the novel seriously - I am thinking particularly of the notion that we would all be obsessed with wearing artificial fibres and clothes with large numbers of zips in the future. Also I would have expected the fact that women were freed from pregnancy and mothering would have promoted equality to a much greater extent. I know the female characters were working but they didn't seem to make it to the very top in society and it seemed to be still basically a man's world. I have found myself thinking about the book quite a bit since I finished it and was particularly struck by the notion that the Brave New World sacrificed democracy for stability. The response of western governments and media to the current situation in various middle eastern countries seems to echo this - while they are very careful not to say anything which appears to deny the democratic rights of people in the region you can sense the underlying fear for the 'stability of the region' - a stability which suits the west. I have also found myself wondering whether it would be better to be bred and conditioned to be on the lower stratas of such a futuristic society or to be kept there by force. As someone who has been through pregnancy and childbirth three times it has also occurred to me that if you are conditioned against the whole notion it would seem a very bizarre and appalling thing to go through. Anyway I am slightly freaking myself out by how much I'm thinking about this! On the whole I'll settle for our imperfect democracy. #5 20th March 2011, 05:29 PM bobblington What interested me in this book was the way that like so many futuristic books there is the idea that rather than turning into extremely independant people, the human race always becomes conformist and is so easily controlled. Also the controlling faction are always breaking the rules themselves and in this instance deciding to stay and control rather than escaping to the islands. Basically this book had a world split into 3 groups, the controlled world, with programmed humans from birth into social strata. A group of 'savages' which appeared to be Mexican Nomads (now confined) and the islands where people who wanted space and the ability to be free and alone could have it. Which seemed like a sensible idea really. I find it wonderful how clear he was about 'test tube babies' and mind control, I know it was only the 1930's but it still seemed an impressive idea of the future. Very interesting to see how people think things will pan out. I always enjoy a futuristic tale - how accurate they can be on small things, and sometimes big things. #6 19th April 2011, 05:15 PM nonsuch I've taken a long time to finish this one, which indicates that it was hardly a pageturner. I have to agree with Tagesmann that the characters are so thinly realised that it's difficult to identify with them. Of course it's about ideas not people, but even so it's terribly dated. So what if many of the seemingly fantastic notions about cloning and conditioning are now part of our everyday life. Test tube babies, avoidance of romantic love, the pragmatic approach to death, the clean clinical world where alphas are governors and epsilons are pariahs to be shunted off to New Mexico - some of these things have happened and are happening around us (QV the euthanasia debate) but are they really novel material, which, to me at least, depends on character. Like Mrs Thatcher I sometimes tend to think that society is a myth. Oh well, I guess I'm just not a sci-fi guy. #7 20th April 2011, 08:29 AM tagesmann A lot of modern clothes are made with synthetic fibres, especially those made for women. And our society is obsessed with fashion and with buying this year's styles. I think Huxley also correctly predicted our rampant consumerism. But where he suggested an almost compulsory consumerism which created a demand for products and services we have a manufacturing industry that creates the demand by constantly developing new products. #8 20th April 2011, 12:28 PM nonsuch Of course it is dated, like Wells and Orwell, because many of the prophesies have become commonplace and others are too far-fetched to even make us smile. The reader must take fantasy fiction for what it's worth and when it is satirical and funny, like Gulliver's Travels or Animal Farm, for example, it is hugely enjoyable. There's a fictional world presented in those books that relates to our world, as it is and always will be, but with Brave New World I felt I was being dragged through one gimmick after another - frozen wastes, deserts, skyscraper countries or whatever - all to show us what bizarre futures we could be heading for. Still, I did laugh at some bits - John the barbarian becoming a Shakespeare scholar for instance. Sci-fi should either be funny or rather chilling - like, say, Ferency's Metropole, which is so close to our real world as to be horrific. Orwell, it seems to me, does both extraordinarily well in Animal Farm and pulls the horror thread uncomfortably tight in 1984, which is not funny and almost too close for comfort. Huxley never quite engages the reader to the same degree. #9 5th August 2011, 12:50 PM Luis Saunders "…what would it be like if I could, if I were free – not enslaved by my conditioning." I found this quote on ****** along with an analysis, discussion, and references pertaining to Brave New World. It really helped me understand the book, its magnificence and significance to the way society is progressing today, especially in developed countries like ours. The current preoccupation really is with comfort, with numbing ourselves to anything unpleasant, anything that leaves us feeling uncertain. Psychiatrists prescribe Prozac like candy. Those who can afford it control the temperature, the lighting, the very environment they live in to shut out the elements. Every human experience can be purchased if you have enough money. The world Aldous Huxley speaks of could be a reality very soon. #10 13th August 2011, 11:58 AM nonsuch It already is! That's why, in many ways, the novel, like some of Ray Bradbury, seems somewhat dated. #11 15th October 2011, 04:28 PM eager reader My teenager and young adult students all love this book. I set it as a reader almost every semester. It all started a few years ago, when 1984 used to be one of the set titles for the Cambridge FCE exam. Back then I recommended it as a complement to 1984 to the students who had read that and enjoyed, and it proved to be so popular that whenever I have a group with that profile I go for it again. I also like this novel a lot myself, but I often wonder why the younger generation responds to it so positively. Could it be that they somehow see the world as it is today - cold-hearted, no room for love, only alphas taking it all - reflected on the plot ? It's incredible how most teenagers seem to be without hope nowadays. I suppose Brave New World illustrates that lack of social mobility so perfectly it gives them comfort regarding their own lives. #12 15th October 2011, 07:21 PM momac I certainly hope that it doesn't apply to most teenagers, what a depressing thought when they have their whole lives ahead of them. #13 16th October 2011, 02:38 PM eager reader Hi Momac, I also find it utterly depressing and certainly hope this is just a local problem here in Brazil - but unfortunately it's what I've been noticing recently. Our educational system is extremely elitist, and youngsters realise from an early age that the vast majority will probably be excluded from a good university and therefore good jobs in the future. This makes them very competitive at a time when they should be just enjoying their youth. The ones who feel they can't enter the race just give up and conform. It's a downward spiral, really, which could only be reversed if we had drastic changes implemented from secondary school on, but our government is not too keen... Sad, sad, sad. #14 15th November 2011, 01:08 PM Chris Parker I loved this book, even though it's gloomy and ends on a downer. It's remarkable when you think of the publishing date. I was talking to my 12-year old son about the streaming in his school. They put the brightest kids in 'E' stream, next brightest in 'D' stream etc, for most of their lessons. Except for the alphabet reverasl, I was struck by the similarity with alphas etc. If we're not careful we'll be educating (if not genetically engineering) the next generation. At least there's the X Factor to keep everyone entertained and happy!
  3. Gomez was quite a sleazy character as far as I was concerned. Always after Clare, obviously in love with her, but marrying her best friend. And trying to be Henry's friend, too, while lusting after his wife! He was the type of guy who gives men a bad name! Did he have any redeeming qualities?
  4. If you buy The Spire via the BGO Amazon link a small proportion of the sale will go towards the maintenance of this forum
  5. This is obviously a book that is fundamentally 'about' Jocelin, though of course that in itself is a little simplistic. Golding in most of his books is interested in the business of good and evil. I think part of the reason why Lord of the Flies is his most popular book is because it speaks very clearly about this in quite an accessible way. In many senses it works like a fable, with the artificial setting of the island, away from normal society, and its characters are fairly clear-cut. At one end of the spectrum is Simon, the Christ-like figure, whilst at the other is Roger, the cruel sadist. Jack sits towards the Roger end whilst Ralph and Piggy are towards Simon's. In other words - and I'm grossly simplifying it here - good and evil are given relatively clear vessels, though the ultimate message is that evil - the beast - is in all of us. The Spire, even though it is removed in time with its medieval setting, seems more 'real' in that good and evil are far more mixed. There is no specialised setting to bring out the truth that's within us; instead we see in Jocelin a man who is deeply flawed but with good intentions; the good and evil exist in a strange alliance, shown symbolically through the angel at his back which is then replaced by the scourging devil. Here I think people may disagree - if I read some of the comments on the main thread correctly I think Jocelin was roundly despised as having little worth. Well, I don't see him like that. Yes, he definitely suffers from the sin of pride (the Devil's sin). His vanity is ultimately behind the erection of the spire (read that how you will...) and at times he thinks in ways that set him on a par with God, almost. He sees the people as tiny and parts of the great plan, with him as the overseer - something that is played even more overtly when he ascends the construction and sees the tiny business of the world below. Indeed, he clearly uses these people, most heinously exploiting Roger Mason's relationship with Goody to keep him there. He is arrogant, pig-headed and self-deceiving. But... It's clear he really does believe he has been given a vision. He sees himself as God's vessel and whilst we can easily dismiss that as his arrogance, what if Isaiah had decided, "No, God can't really be speaking to me, can he? I'd best be humble and not say anything." He believes this is God's plan and that it is his duty to see it through in the face of all the opposition of those who look only at the physical reality of the building, not at God's almighty power. When everything is brought to its terrible climax with the spire after Jehan botches the rigging in the absence of Roger Mason, Jocelin truly believes that if the holy Nail is driven home then that will save it. He puts himself at great risk in the howling storm to climb the tower and knock it in. In an earlier moment of crisis he kneels beneath the whining stones, possibly with the whole structure about to crash onto his head, trying in a sense to take its weight on his back, having faith that it can be saved because it is God's will. I love the revelatory moments when we see glimpses of what Jocelin has become - shrunken and skeletal, his eyes sunk into his head, all through the stresses and strain of the project. In other words, as doomed as we know the spire to be, from his perspective he is doing good. Perhaps that's where the analogies with the Garden of Eden come in - his essential goodness undone by the temptations of evil, be that misguided pride or the latent sexuality that rears its head ever more strongly in relation to Goody Pangall. By the end, like a Shakespearean tragic hero, he sees the truth too late. I think there is great power in the times when he suddenly sees Father Adam with unclouded eyes, no longer dismissing him as Father Anonymous but taking the time to look closely at his kind eyes. Also with Anselm, when he asks not for forgiveness of what he did, but of who he is. That's just a perfect revelation of the self. In a sense it's like Simon's realisation of the beast within - something also emerging from a trance-like state and as a pre-cursor to death. So, there's some thoughts; as with the other thread I've got lots more if people fancy talking about it, but I won't drone on!
  6. Tony & Susan starts off quite well. Susan recieves a letter and manuscript from Edward, a past love whom she left after having an affair. Edward wrote when they were together but she criticised his work and now he has sent her a manuscript of his new novel, for criticism. He will visit her shortly to discuss what she made of the book. And within this frame, we are given the full text of Edward's book, Nocturnal Animals. In Nocturnal Animals, Tony and his family are driving home to Maine late one night when they are stopped on the road by three men, later known as Ray, Lou and Turk. They successfully separate Tony from his wife and daughter and dump him far in the woods. Tony makes his way back to civilisation and discovers that his wife and daughter were raped and murdered by Ray and cohorts. The story continues with Tony coming to terms with the aftermath, his feeling of helplessness and lack of control, and with the mechanics of bringing the perpetrators to justice with the slightly off-kilter cop Bobby Andes. As each chapter passes of Nocturnal Animals, we return to Susan reading and reflecting on what she has just read. She finds herself swept up in Edward's tale, Tony's journey and increasingly disconnected from her real life. As she reads and becomes suffocated by Tony's grief and psychology, she becomes increasingly aware of Edward's arrival date approaching, and she slowly wonders if in the violent tale, Edward has a message for her. That his feelings of what happened between them are being released and realised through the violence that he creates in Tony's safe, family idyll. As a reader myself, just like Susan, I felt propelled towards the end, to Edward's 'reveal', to his purpose in sending her the manuscript. But it's an unsatisfactory end. The stored violence and feeling expends in nothing. Nocturnal Animals itself isn't a great read either, clumsy and odd at times, I wondered if it was a reflection of Edward's writing or Wright's himself. And as Susan's experiences don't really come to much either, I can't find much to recommend in this book. It just all felt a little pointless really. I'll be interested to hear what others thought though.
  7. If you are going to buy This Thing Of Darkness please consider buying from Amazon via the BGO link, as we get a small percentage of each sale towards the costs of running the forum.
  8. A thread to discuss the relationship of Holmes and Watson. It can include theories propounded elsewhere, 'clues' from these Adventures and reference other Holmes short and full-length stories as needed. Holmes' (Doyle's?) attitude to women - as in the following post - could be part of this discussion.
  9. I have just read the last 20 chapters in one sitting. Suddenly, with the engagement of the terrifying Mr Jeffris the story starts to gallop towards it's inevitable conclusion. From that fateful mouthful of Christmas pudding Oscar has made one bad choice after another, and even as we hope for a happy ending with Lucinda, we fear that some disaster will befall them. As I finished it my eyes filled again, as they have done at several points in the story, I was just so sad- for so many of he characters; Oscar, his father, the Strattons, Wardley-Fish, and Lucinda. I will be thinking about them for some time to come.
  10. "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" ended with a bang for me. This is another one of my favorites, although it doesn't get the fandom of "Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Speckled Band." It's another one that focuses on the nefarious efforts of parents to get their hands on their daughter's money. I remember when I first read this story as a young teenager having no idea what the family was up to. So the solution, once presented, was shocking to me. Now that I've read a bit more about the era (and focused on these stories, for which the perilous state of young women is a theme), it's relatively easy to spot. But good for Holmes for being worried about it. And of course, this is another plucky girl, which Holmes and Watson (and probably, therefore, Conan Doyle) seem to admire so much. I did look up what "Copper Beeches" look like on my tablet. Very pretty.
  11. I've just got my copy from Amazon and have only read the introduction by Mark Gatiss. It's vedry good introduction.
  12. This was a medium favorite for me. I liked the puzzle and Holmes searching out the physical clues and realizing what they all meant. I did not like the solution because I felt sorry for the culprit, even though she was a knucklehead. I did like that this was the only place (I think) where Holmes says his famous statement: "...when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." And that really applied here.
  13. I read this story this morning while still in bed as hubby up at 4.00am. It did not take much concentration as not a great deal happened. Of all the stories in the collection so far it is probably my least favourite. The only real point of interest for me was the attitude of society to the arrival of a number of American heiress's. Although stated in quite a jovial way it seems that the arrival of new money from the States had the effect of narrowing down the availability of decent men for girls from the British aristocracy to marry. From all that I have read of this time it seems that a number of the American girls had a bit of a rough time.
  14. I finished this story a couple of days ago. At the beginning of the story Watson actually states that Holmes' skills of deduction were not needed to any great extent to work out the mystery. Usually this would spoil the story for me as it tends to be the detailed ideas which attract me to the stories. I found this story to be one of the most sinister of those that I have read so far and although clues were a bit thin on the ground for me I still felt that it held my interest. At the beginning of the story Watson refers to Holmes dinning on occasion with him and his wife. This created a completely new view in my mind of the developing relationship between the pair. I am enjoying reading the stories in the same way that I have enjoyed reading series of modern crime novels as relationships develop as they go along.
  15. "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" is one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is the eighth of the twelve stories collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It is one of four Sherlock Holmes stories that can be classified as a locked room mystery. The story was first published in Strand Magazine in February 1892, with illustrations by Sidney Paget. It was published under the different title "The Spotted Band" in New York World in August 1905. Doyle later revealed that he thought this was his best Holmes story. (Wikipedia)
  16. I do not know this story, so may have to go to the library. I'll be back when I've found it.
  17. Edit: this OP was originallya post in the Central Library discussion thread on What Makes a Great Writer 'Great" before the Group Read on Orlando started Thanks for your insights people, your posts make a lot of sense. All something to think about. It will be interesting to see the discussion on Orlando. He (she) is certainly larger than life and maybe there is a bit of 'tongue in cheek' going on among all the colourful and fantastical descriptions.
  18. "The Five Orange Pips", one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is the fifth of the twelve stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The story was first published in The Strand Magazine in November 1891. Conan Doyle later ranked the story seventh in a list of his twelve favourite Sherlock Holmes stories
  19. "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It first appeared in The Strand Magazine in August 1891, with illustrations by Sidney Paget. Conan Doyle ranked "The Red-Headed League" second in his list of his twelve favorite Holmes stories. (Wikipedia)
  20. A seasonal story. Well maybe a little early, but the late-comers might not get to it until Christmas!
  21. "A Scandal in Bohemia" was the first of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories to be published in The Strand Magazine and the first Sherlock Holmes story illustrated by Sidney Paget, (Two of the four Sherlock Holmes novels – A Study In Scarlet and The Sign of The Four – preceded the short story cycle). Doyle ranked A Scandal in Bohemia fifth in his list of his twelve favourite Holmes stories. (Wikipedia)
  22. I don't recognise the title, so this may be a new story for me. Back later!
  23. The title is ringing bells, but I can't recall the story. I'll be back when I've read it.
  24. Apologies for the delay in setting this up - but better late than never, to quote a cliche.
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