Tuesday 2 April 2019

The A-Z Blog Challenge, Letter B

Letter B of My Favourite Books by title

Two authors and two different genres.

The first is Brave New World, a science fiction classic by British author Aldous Huxley, published in 1932. Here's the back page blurb.

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone in feeling discontent. Harbouring an unnatural desire for solitude, and a perverse distaste for the pleasures of compulsory promiscuity, Bernard has an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress ...

I saw the 1980 film version in my teens and it always stayed with me. I pondered on the ideas that the film depicted with how they controlled childbirth and grew babies in a sort of production line.

When I read it - only recently - I found the book offers so much more. Aldous Huxley was a true visionary of his time. There is a steampunk edge to it as it is fresh out of the Victorian industrial period and you can see the influence of that in what he imagines the future will be like - especially the flying machines and technology.

But it is a dark depiction of humanity, and even today it is still very relevant as it brings up ideas that people work for their ration of a drug that makes them 'happy' and they engage in sex and continual socialising to keep them in a certain utopia to avoid the realities of life or enable them to think for themselves. Babies are manufactured, and children raised en masse and at different intelligence levels to be used for different functions in society and it is altogether a false, even perverse existence. And the lead character Bernard, although respected in society, seems to be the only one to see this. I found the story completely immersive, and really on some levels a true horror novel.

However, it is dated in its writing style, and the repetitive use of the word 'pneumatic' can be very distracting - I believe the meaning may have changed as it rarely made sense in the context intended. A controversial book in some ways, with many layers, and had it been written better might have been a prolific as 1984.


The second is a collection of four short stories by American author Stephen King under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman, called The Bachman Books. Here's the blurb:

A story of stunning psychological horror about a group of nice, ordinary kids who learn savage secrets of lust and violence...a chilling glimpse into a future America where a macabre marathon is a contest with death...an eerie variation on the theme of “Home Sweet Home”...and a nightmare version of a ghoulish game show where you bet your life—literally.

Each novel is marked by the undeniable fascination of one of the most brilliant imaginations of our time—collected here for a full house of spine-chilling suspense from the man who made shivering believers of us all.

My actual favourite in this is The Long Walk. An utterly captivating sort of dystopian horror story from the point of view of a boy who joins a marathon that is a contest to the death - last one still walking wins the prize - financial abundance. The one hundred eighteen year olds qualified to walk must maintain a minimum of four miles an hour or they will be shot by security/army vehicles trailing them. They can't stop for anything or any reason or they will be shot. And we watch this in detail through the eyes of the main character. We, the reader, see inside his head and how he deals with the realisation of this. It seems to be something he hadn't quite believed up until that point. He debates whether the reward is worth it, but he can't stop walking or he won't get to live. There is no real background about when it is set, just some point in the future. The focus is entirely on the marathon and its dying contestants. I was gripped with this story and found it a mind blowing concept at the time I read it, pondering the incredulity of such a shocking event.

I also love The Running Man, which is nothing like the film that claims to be based off it (an awful, cheesy, gaudy overdone movie with a very slim similarity to the story). It is a  dark science fiction tale about a man trying to get money for his sick child, because only rich people are allowed medicines in this future reality. He signs up to a game show where a bounty is put on his head, and he is hunted along with several other contestants. If he manages to stay alive and be the last man standing, he wins the cash. It is a fast paced immersive story, with heart-wrenching points and a brilliant, satisfying ending. Worth your time.

I will note that this book in its original form (which my copy is) contains the story Rage, which is now banned in the United States and is no longer published in the new editions of this collection. Stephen King pulled it himself after the school shooting in Columbine. It is the tale of a boy who goes to school and holds his class hostage at gunpoint and shoots his teacher, and then talks to the class explaining his point of view and what drove him to this point. It was first published in 1977, when school shootings were relatively rare, but as the occurrence increased this story was cited as having inspired some of the shooters, so Stephen King made a public apology and had it pulled. I personally think it is an excellent psychological thriller, but I understand his reasons for pulling it.

And just to let you know, this is the first of many Stephen King books that will be raved about through this challenge as he is my ultimate favourite author. 😉


1 comment :

  1. i never read stephen king. what little i know it is a bit too yucky for me. but interestingly brave new world is mentioned in the musical i talk about for letter A :)

    Joy at The Joyous Living