Thursday, 7 September 2000

Aldous Huxley: The Island (1962)

Edition: Longman, 1980
Review number: 605

Huxley's last novel is one of his most flawed. It is his Utopia, contrasting with his masterpiece, Brave New World. Basically, the island of Pala is a hippie paradise; a Buddhist state in the Indian Ocean, with a drug to bring higher consciousness (like LSD, in which Huxley was interested, was supposed to). Western journalist Will Farnaby is washed ashore on Pala, and falls for the charm of its inhabitants.

The novel basically consists of a guided tour of Pala, rather like that given to the Savage of London in Brave New World. The island is under threat from oil companies wanting to exploit its resources, and from its militaristic mainland neighbour, Rendang. While the titular ruler of the island, who was educated in the West and who has fallen for the dictator of Rendang, remains under age, things are likely to remain relatively stable, but there is little that the pacifist Palanese are willing or able to do to maintain their paradise any longer.

Apart from being a weaker rehash of Brave New World, The Island contains too much philosophy and too little plot and characterisation. It is a dull academic exercise, and its drug friendliness has rather gone out of fashion since the end of the sixties.

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