Book Review: 1984 vs Brave New World

1984 by George Orwell | Rating: 5/5

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley | Rating: 4.5/5

Warning: This review is full of spoilers.

1984 and Brave New World are two dystopian novels which have always been compared to each other. Questions such as which book represents the current world rise frequently.

I believe George Orwell’s book was a nightmare written about the present. On the contrary, Aldous Huxley’s book was an exaggerated version of society in the future. In fact, 1984’s Appendix could be considered as the future; a future where humanity was saved.

Writing Styles

Brave New World had some extremely interesting ideas, however, Huxley’s writing made it difficult to connect with the characters. But I found it interesting that Huxley, being a poet, wrote some sentences which read like a piece of poetry.

The light was frozen, dead, a ghost.

High spurts the fountain; fierce and foamy the wild jet.

Huxley’s words were chosen to depict a happier yet unsettling world. If the reader wasn’t aware of life outside of World State, they would never know what a nightmare they lived in.

In contrast, Orwell’s writing was effortless, sinister and powerful. He allowed his words to show a glimpse of hope only when necessary. In my opinion, it was definitely better than Huxley’s:

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.

Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.

But once again, if the reader never knew about life before Big Brother, they would accept the world without hesitation.

Forbidden Love

Both worlds forbade people from falling in love with one another. Almost all dystopian novels follow a similar outline.

Love, although an abstract emotion, has the ability to disrupt one’s life. So, it makes sense for totalitarian governments to be scared of love. To be scared of the longing of love as well as the promises made to break any rules for love.

Stability vs Hatred

Huxley’s World State focused on stability — if humans are content with their life, the economy will flourish. Rightfully so, problems arise when people realize they deserve a better life. When they realize they deserve happiness, along with a financially stable life.

But the concept only makes sense if you stay away from the how’s and why’s. How else would you justify creating a drug-addicted society, where children are born through unnatural means, and forced to love their lives by brainwashing them. This is why, our sympathies lie with the savage, John, when he is unable to talk sense into anyone living in the state. In the end, he has no option but to kill himself.

Orwell’s Oceania focused on hatred — if humans are able to take out their rage on a specific individual/group, they will be controlled. Here, nobody cares about the economy. The survival of Oceania, along with the other two states, relies on a broken world.

The outside world is known to be so terrible that people would rather love Big Brother. They would rather give up their privacy and happiness, then fight back. Orwell makes us root for Winston and then shows us his chilling transition from hatred to love. He is broken down slowly, and so are we.

Thus, both the worlds rely heavily on two extremes: happiness and hatred.

Controlling the Mindset

In 1984, the concepts of cognitive dissonance ‘doublethink’ and Newspeak were brilliant. No one really understands the importance of language until they are told that they have the freedom to think as long as they have a medium to express it in. To communicate even with oneself, one needs language. Which is why, when you get rid of the freedom provided by language, you control the way people think.

Another interesting concept was the norm of rewriting history while making sure no one bats an eye. Thus, Big Brother made sure his people bore similarities to robots rather than humans. Unlike Huxley’s world, where offenders were sent to an island as a punishment, Big Brother continued to torture his people until the day they died.

In Brave New World, artificial wombs and conditioning were used to force people to accept their lifestyle. Soma was used to help them overcome their struggles and depression. These people weren’t controlled by the Thought Police, but they still had no thoughts of their own.

I do believe the world nowadays bears more resemblance to the World State. People all over the world are distracted from the bigger issues in life by mere distractions such as reality shows and viral challenges.

The most interesting part of these books is that you can analyze them a hundred times and still come up with different explanations.

Our future generations will read these books because they will always remain relevant — this is the beauty of 1984 and Brave New World.

Before I conclude, let me share a few questions I wrote for our book club meeting:

  • Which novel do you prefer? Orwell’s or Huxley’s?
  • Which world would you rather live in, Oceania or World State?
  • How accurate were Orwell’s & Huxley’s version of the future when you look at the world now?
  • If everyone is happy with their lives in Brave New World, then what exactly is the problem?
  • Do you think 1984’s Appendix proves that somewhere in the future, the world was ‘saved’?
  • What do you think Winston’s dreams meant?
  • What did you think about the Reservation? Were their lives truly better than people living in the World State?
  • What are some of the similarities in the novels?
  • What influenced Orwell & Huxley to write these novels, and in what ways do they introduce these ideas into the story?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Book Review: A Place For Us

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Rating: 3.9/5

Warning: This review is full of spoilers.

While promoting her book in an interview, Fatima Farheen Mirza said that when she was growing up, she never found a book she could relate to. And as a Pakistani Muslim, I completely agree.

Having read a great number of books, I couldn’t find myself reflected in any one of them. From my lifestyle to my religious background, I would often find these elements added to a character separately, but never together.

So, A Place For Us is the perfect book for South Asian children. But fear not, it is also a book that invites readers from other cultures to explore a completely different story.

The book introduces you to three Indian-American Muslim siblings: Hadia, Huda and Amar. Even though the story begins at Hadia’s wedding, Mirza takes us back to the past to make sure we understand the characters. However, Huda is the only character who is left unexplored in the entire story. Other than that, the book deals very well with family drama, broken hearts and racism.

One of the problems I had with the book was the inconsistent timelines. It was extremely difficult to keep up with the events, especially in the first half of the book. I also think the book was a bit too long. Every scene was explained in detail by more than one character. Although it fit perfectly well in some places, it bored me a little in others.

But I praise Mirza because she knows her characters; she shows us their weaknesses and their strengths while explaining the faith that brings them together. When Amar feels distant from his religion, you sympathize with him. He constantly remembers that his heart is ink-dark and that there is no hope left for him.

He had left the path. His parents had given him a map, and directions, and he had abandoned it all. Now his heart was so ink-dark he could be lost and not know it, and not care, and never know how to find his way back.

I often see that when someone goes through a turmoil or questions their identity, they are told to seek help from prayer. While it works for some people, others end up hating themselves because they think they are bad human beings. Why else are they not able to find peace in their religion.

Take depression as an example: people are told to pray and read the Holy Book to feel better. They are told that this is the only way out. However, Islam, like other religions, tells you to help other human beings instead of judging them. It tells you to listen and to make sure that others can rely on you.

Hence, Amar, who was once a part of the family, becomes a stranger.

On the other side of the story, you have the inflexible and tough father, Rafiq. But just when you decide that you dislike Rafiq, you read the book from his perspective. You find out that all this time he had been trying his best to become a good father.

Taking into consideration their feelings, who are we supposed to blame? Both the father and the son are stuck in an unusual situation: one only softens up when the other is completely shut off. The story, in turn, reflects the nature of people in real life — we can’t simply categorize someone as a bad person and the other as a good person.

The ending could have been more enjoyable if the book was a bit shorter and had fewer breaks between the timelines.

But let me congratulate Mirza — there are many children out there who will finally be able to read a story where they can identify with the family dynamics.

What did you think about the book? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Book Review: The Girl With All The Gifts

The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey

Rating: 4/5

Warning: This review is full of spoilers.

Even though I enjoy watching zombie movies and TV shows, I had never read a zombie book before The Girl With All The Gifts.

Fortunately, this book proved to be quite entertaining.

Carey begins the story by showing us a mysteriously-infected world from Melanie’s (a hungry child) perspective.

Throughout the book, Melanie struggles to suppress the urge of feeding on humans. Her love for her teacher, Miss Justineau, helps her in overcoming these desires repeatedly.

Majority of the storyline is similar to other zombie apocalypse stories. It includes a hunt, a desire to find a cure, and a journey that shows us what remains of the outside world.

However, it is the twist at the end which makes the story worth reading.

It’s always interesting to see how well a book handles end-of-the-world situations. As humans, we tend to believe that only we can save the world.

The Girl With All The Gifts uses that concept cleverly — we are convinced that, surely, there must be a cure to this world filled with hungries.

But sadly, there isn’t. For once, we must put down our weapons and accept defeat. We must let nature carry on with its work.

You can’t save people from the world. There’s nowhere else to take them.

In a way, the ending leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Should we be happy that Miss Justineau is going to help these children? Or should we mourn for her life, because apart from teaching the hungry children, she is eventually going to die?

And what about civilization? What about all these years spent in creating a world, only to watch it collapse right in front of your eyes?

Sadly, we are left to answer these questions on our own.

What did you think about the book? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Book Review: It Ends With Us

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Rating: 2.5/5

Warning: This review is full of spoilers.

I take ratings quite seriously, which is why, when I looked at the 4.4 stars given to this book, I allowed myself to become excited. However, I felt my hopes dwindle with each succeeding chapter. Such high praise for Lily Bloom’s life left me confused.

I understand that every book has characters who are different — different in behavior, different in their thoughts. But when characters are neither original nor different, you end up disliking the book.

Our main character, Lily Bloom, is a typical YA girl. Her character lacks depth and everything that happens in her life is full of clichés. She befriends a rich girl (Allysa), who not only decides to help her with her business, but also happens to have an extremely hot brother (Ryle). He also happens to be the handsome surgeon Lily randomly met on a rooftop. And he also happens to be a brooding rich guy who hates commitment.

In the first half of the book, Lily and Allysa continue to squeal, hug and share cringe-worthy experiences. They come up with an idea, they squeal. Lily decides to marry Ryle, they hug. Those chapters were extremely difficult to read — when has the sexy, mysterious boy not given up his single life for a sweet and innocent girl.

I was equally annoyed with the I-can’t-help-but-notice-how-cute-he-is scenes and I-can-feel-his-voice-in-all-of-my-body-parts-one-by-one feelings.

In the second half of the book, Lily finds out that Ryle isn’t the perfect guy after all (which truly wasn’t shocking). It seemed to me that Colleen wrote a story on domestic abuse, and then filled the gaps with a childish love story.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire Colleen for dealing sensibly with a sensitive topic which, in turn, makes the book bearable. The question domestic abuse victims constantly hear is “why don’t you leave your partner?” And Hoover, through Lily’s indecision and reluctant realization, shows us that it is not as simple as it seems. We see that Lily eventually steps up, allows Ryle to become a part of their baby’s life, and leaves him and her past behind.

This is the only part that I liked. A mature decision made by our protagonist who failed to show signs of rationality earlier in the book.

But let me end this review on a lighter note: I like to think that in an alternate world, Hoover changed her characters and improved their storylines, and everyone lived happily ever after.

What did you think of the book? Which character did you like/hate the most? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!