During the cold war, Nineteen Eighty-Four seemed to have the edge. But when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, pundits proclaimed the end of history, shopping reigned triumphant, and there was already lots of quasi-soma percolating through society. True, promiscuity had taken a hit from Aids, but on balance we seemed to be in for a trivial, giggly, drug-enhanced spend-o-rama: Brave New World was winning the race.Atwood's fear: We get both.
That picture changed, too, with the attack on New York's twin towers in 2001. Thoughtcrime and the boot grinding into the human face could not be got rid of so easily, after all. The Ministry of Love is back with us, it appears, though it's no longer limited to the lands behind the former iron curtain: the west has its own versions now.
On the other hand, Brave New World hasn't gone away. Shopping malls stretch as far as the bulldozer can see. On the wilder fringes of the genetic engineering community, there are true believers prattling of the gene-rich and the gene-poor - Huxley's alphas and epsilons - and busily engaging in schemes for genetic enhancement and - to go one better than Brave New World - for immortality.
Read the whole thing.
I especially like the part about how she, as a 14 year old girl, struggled to understand Huxley, who wrote things like:
"Zip! The rounded pinkness fell apart like a neatly divided apple. A wriggle of the arms, a lifting first of the right foot, then the left: the zippicamiknicks were lying lifeless and as though deflated on the floor."(Here's the line in it's chapter, which includes this sex talk: "'Hug me till you drug me, honey.'...'Kiss me till I'm in a coma. Hug me, honey, snuggly …'")
[H]ow close have we come, in real life, to the society of vapid consumers, idle pleasure-seekers, inner-space trippers and programmed conformists that it presents?...
We wish to be as the careless gods, lying around on Olympus, eternally beautiful, having sex and being entertained by the anguish of others. And at the same time we want to be those anguished others, because we believe... that life has meaning beyond the play of the senses, and that immediate gratification will never be enough.