Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
It's sometime in the future (year 2500 or so) and humans are manufactured in an assembly line, a la Henry Ford. No one has a mother or father, everyone has a specific role in society, and everyone has been conditioned to believe certain things and understand how they should act for the greater good of society. There is no art, everything is about instant gratification, which mostly involves taking a drug soma and having sex. Everyone belongs to each other, which creates a rather different society than what we currently have. Bernard and Lenina are both higher up in society and have, I'd like to say have a relationship with each other but no one really does that in this society. Bernard decides to take Lenina to a compound in the US that has people from the old way of life. He finds a savage, John, and decides to bring him back to the UK for studying. John can't understand how or why people live the way they do. He wants more from life, including relationships, art, and meaning. The struggle between superficial and sincere drives the discovery for John.
I hadn't heard good things about this book but I was surprised that I enjoyed it. You can't really like any of the characters because they are so shallow, with the exception of John, but the way Huxley set up society is intriguing. How would someone from today's time fit with that culture, which is what Huxley explored. The fact that this was written in 1932 and God pretty much equals Henry Ford I found rather interesting. Ford came out with the T model in 1908, which means that less than 15 years after, Huxley had decided that Ford and the assembly line was his inspiration for what the future would look like.
There were a lot of Shakespeare references, which unfortunately I didn't get all of them because I've never read The Tempest. Despite that, I'm not sure it was a good comparison for Huxley. Hamlet was mentioned a couple of times, which was based of pure revenge, and how is that any better than blind following with no relationships?
This book really made me think, though this is partially because at the same time I was trying to figure out how this has become a book that English students read in high school. I don't think I would have appreciated it in high school but I enjoyed it now.
First Line: "A squat grey building of only thirty-four storeys."