Aldous Huxley is a genius. I first read Huxley my freshman year in college. The book was called The Doors Of Perception, from which The Doors got their name. I read this back when I had a solid interest in psychedelics. Then I read Brave New World (complete text) which to this day remains one of my all time favorites. I also read Chrome Yellow (complete text and .mp3).
Last night I finished reading Island. Huxley can often get a little too philosophical for me, such was the case with Island. In addition, much of the book centers around eastern philosophy and spirituality which lost me. As a result, the book took much longer to finish than it should have. Some parts of the novel I had to force myself through. That being said, the novel overall is pretty good and worth reading once. It has the typical of good writing and ideas expected of Huxley, but it’s not one of my favorites. The plot is weak (simply a vehicle for Huxley to explain his ideas on society at large) and the ending is abrupt. But as a social satire, the novel is very effective.
Most of the novel concerns itself with how people in an ideal society would interact with each other and their environment. The novel presents us with a society that conducts itself, in the eyes of Huxley, in the best possible way that humans can, given their physical and spiritual flaws and restrictions. Huxley has always been great at turning the word “idealist” back into a positive by describing with pragmatic knowledge what in our present world is not working, and more importantly, proposed solutions; this novel does a great job of this.
We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By it’s very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude.
-Aldous Huxley, The Doors Of Perception