Readers of the modern day plethora of young adult/science fiction/dystopia/thrillers will find some familiar comforts in Huxley's work of speculative fiction. But they're also in for quite the shock.
In the grand scheme of things, I don't remember any YA dystopian being this dark and hopeless, however, or ending as such as well.
The excessive control & brainwashing is pretty normal, but it's in the integral differences in the way our characters think that we find Brave New World's unique qualities.
Readers can't relate to the tellers to this story on the surface level: an omniscient narrator, a typical citizen with ideas almost directly conflicting with our, another citizen too conformist to rebel in the way we all want him to, and an anchor baby in a dying culture. At first look, they're impossible to sympathize with.
But I think something is to be said for the face that it is possible.
Like, for example, I don't live in a society where I'm bred to like my social status, but I can indeed relate to Lenina, one of our protagonists, in the way that there is still a deep, unquenchable need in me to be the exact way "society" in general wants me to be.
The true difference in this book lies in the fact that "society" is embodied, wholly and with out external influence, in the thoughts of characters, in the order of a fantasy world, and in the everyday lives of people, whereas the societal pressure in my life is a disembodied creature that seems to have no attachment to anything. This materialization of societal pressure can be seen as the ideas that call to us -- "fordship," the dissolving of religion and personal belief, "the feelies;" the end of significant art and entertainment (something I personally perceived as a middle finger to immersive movie experiences, advanced sound systems, and virtual reality long before it was called for), "everyone belonging to everyone else:" not necessarily the death of monogamy or romance, but more likely the end of emotional significance and relationships of any kind, and finally, "the classes:" brainwashing people to be content becoming the new opium of the people. There are probably endless examples of Brave New World ripping on industrialization for trying to turn people into product-producing machines--and it's entirely likely that they can be connected to a whole host of new technologies and ideas, now, and when Brave New World was published. (For those of you who don't know, it's 1932.)
The addition of a character that was an outsider was also really interesting. Having the point of view that knows a dystopian society only from the perspective of someone who was essentially bred to love it served as a fantastic addition to the cast of characters that mostly consisted of the society's model citizens. It sort of echoed the way people see political ideas before they've actually been executed. The perspective of John (the outsider) can also ring true when it comes to matters of human optimism, and our belief that something on the other side is better--even if it kills us.
The combined feelings of the novel, both those coming from the existence of such a twisted yet conventionally perfect society and those coming from the way its citizens are trained to mentally glorify it, manage a dark and heavy mood I haven't seen many other writers manage to set so well.
But the one thing about Huxley's work that amazes me the most is its predicting ability. Not about what the future will be like, but what people in science fiction will keep trying to write about and improve upon for the next hundred years.
A word of caution for the reader transitioning to hardcore early 1900's sci-fi from contemporary dystopians: the language is hardcore, the characters are frustrating, and there's no happy ending for everything to go back to the way it was before The End.
But anyone reading this book, even if not for the first time, is in store for something fantastic.
Footnote - I'm wondering why we never find out about how this futuristic society really works? Why does no one in the story know who their weird dictator is? Is social order just adhering to itself out of instinct, with a leading body to retain order no longer required? Is it a computer? Does it even matter? Is it possible for me to refrain from writing depressing reviews about depressing books before I need to rock back and forth in a corner, foaming at the mouth?
No, no it isn't.