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on 23 July 2013
Island can be read in four ways; as a poor novel, a thread-bare utopian manifesto, a (borderline)pseudo-intellectual essay on humanity or (as I did) a thought provoking philosophical novel. Much like HG wells - 'A Modern Utopia', Island takes you on a journey through a utopia and allows you to contemplate on its merits.

I do not know if Huxley was trying to convince me of this Utopia's ideals or not. I naturally read it as a invitation to question everything. If you approach reading the book in this manner, you will finish Island much more enlightened than you started.

It does have a plot and several characters, that said I don't believe Huxley is a great story teller and so, I would warn you away if you are looking for a fully formed, fleshed out novel. However, in my opinon this does not take away from the book. If you are looking for escapsim, stick to a thriller. This book won't make you look out the window, it will make you look in the mirror.

Island is the philosophical sister to the sociological Brave New world, despite sharing some qualities, Island is not about 'Them', it is about 'You'.

As thought provoking as anything I've read from Plato all the way to Orwell.

One of the most important books I've ever read.
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on 2 July 2015
I bought this Island for it's philosophical content since I have an interest in religion and philosophy. I have to say I was disappointed.

This would would have been much better written as an essay, since the plot is almost nonexistent to the point where even the dialogue is a bit ridiculous. Huxley talks expansively about Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity yet clearly understands little of either of them. His comments on drugs, while probably groundbreaking at the time, are now just worn out and frankly not valid anymore. On top of this the book has pages at a time of dialogue that adds (and means) nothing, so that you feel like your wasting your time even reading it.

Saying that, there are moments in the narrative that are clearly autobiographical, which makes you understand to some extent why Huxley had the opinions that he did.

I've given it 2 stars because there are a few very good points made about modern western civilization that shouldn't be ignored.
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on 29 May 2017
I was fascinated to read this book because I'd heard of Huxley relationship with J Krishnamurti, whose work I have studied for many years... It did not disappoint from this philosophical/spiritual standpoint although some may find it lacking as a great novel in itself
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on 16 August 2016
I still cannot believe this book was first published in 1962. Some of the concepts this isolated society have adopted as the pillars of their utopian island seem far more progressive in tackling the pains the world faces today. It is not just the way Huxley integrates them into a fictional story, which I struggled to put down, it is also how clearly they are put across. You can understand them, see the clear benefits of them and also genuinely want to live like they do - highlighting the longing for resolution of the mental and physical illness that plagues the neoliberal world.

Way before the dangers of environmental ignorance were put right in front of our eyes, connection to nature is amongst the pillars of Pala. Fast forward nearly 60 years and the downward spiral quickens and deepens. The solutions discussed in great fictional detail are even more relevant and applicable today. It will only ever change with education, and how they approached this on their fictional island is liberating. Rather than being shaped for mass consumption, children are encouraged to their true potential for happiness and freedom. It cements a values system of compassion, co-operation and happiness in every aspect of their world.

I will not discuss this anymore in detail, Huxley is beyond us mere literary mortals and will do a far better job. I only urge you to read it. It is a truly astounding book with so many fantastic ideas; all tied together with a beautiful story of a man brought up in a very ill world, and recovering in a beautiful one.

5* with not a doubt in my mind
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 October 2014
Aldous Huxley is one of my favourite writers. I always feel, when I read his work, that he is as much a thinker as a writer, which I think is true of very few fiction writers.

Island is interesting though sadly it can't match the brilliant vision of Brave New World. If you like Huxley and are looking for more to read, I heartily recommend his short stories.
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VINE VOICEon 16 October 2010
Journalist and life long cynic Will Farnaby wakes up to the insistent call 'Attention' after being shipwrecked on the forbidden island of Pala, located geographically somewhere around Bali. Sent by the head of his paper, oil tycoon Aldehyde, to find out whether Pala will be easy to take over and exploit, Will finds himself in a world where the inner life is cherished and valued and even the birds in the trees have a part to play in reminding the inhabitants of this utopia how best to live and be.
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on 26 October 2016
Brave New World is great. Island goes nowhere at all - abandoned after a quarter way through
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on 24 November 2013
There are a couple of 1 or 2-star reviews of this book, but the majority are glowing in their praise. I am disappointed that the comments made on the negative reviews dismiss the reviewers as being somewhat lacking in their understanding of what Huxley was trying to convey. Well I must say that I am of the same mind as those negative reviewers. Actually I DO understand what Huxley was expressing, but I feel that the characters are thinly sketched around a virtually non-existent plot. I suppose the core ideas and social comments were probably controversial and even refreshing in the early 1960's but they ring rather hollow now. I thought the book was rather naive and dull to the point of being boring. Even so, when all is said and done, it is all a matter of personal preference. My only motivation in submitting this review is to offer some balance to the other praising reviews. I was surprised that Huxley turned out a book like this one, especially as it was his final offering. For all his investigation over the previous 20 years, his friendship with Krishnamurti and his experimentation with what were portrayed as consciousness-enhancing drugs (Mescalin and LSD) "Island" offers nothing by way of deep insight or transcendent awareness.
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on 10 July 2014
There are plenty of dystopian novels around - Huxley's Brave New World for one - but utopian novels are thin on the ground. In this, Huxley's last novel, he tells of the utopian island of Pala, where extended families are the norm and adolescents are given a sort of magic mushrooms as an aid to becoming fully realised humans. It's all very idealistic. Unfortunately, there's a nearby dictator who's got his eye on Pala's oil, and the young leader-in-waiting is on his side. Also trying to get an oil deal is Will, who has been shipwrecked on the island and is being shown around by his rescuers.

So much for the plot. The bulk of the novel consists of the tour and explanation Will is given, and this is Huxley's great utopian fantasy. It was published in the 1960s, before LSD became illegal and was no doubt popular with the hippies. I really enjoyed the bulk of it, the utopia, though I found the concluding chapter, where Will is finally persuaded to try the 'moksha-medicine' well nigh incomprehensible. (Other people's acid trips in print usually are.) The opening pages are a little confusing, too, and it's only when Will arrives at the island that the novel gets going.

There's a touch of Krishnamurti about some of the teachings, and more than a little Buddhism in others. But the novel it most reminded me of was William Morris' News from Nowhere, a similar utopia. It's a novel I wish I'd read as a teenager; since I enjoyed it now I would have loved it then! Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed also came to mind. It does have a few contradictions. Much is made of the necessity of dealing with reality rather than words and symbols, yet the moshka ceremony is littered with symbols and the experience, as the rather churlish boy leader points out, is just in the head.

It's also, for a utopian fantasy, very pessimistic. "When in doubt" advises resident Dr Robert (wonder if The Beatles read this?) "always act on the assumption that people are more honourable than you have any solid reason for supposing they are." The downbeat ending is a perfect demonstration of where that attitude gets you. Still, an enthralling book.
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on 11 November 2009
I find it hard to review this book. It stimulated a lot of thought for me but I question whether it is a great novel. What starts as an interesting viewpoint on an alternative society ends with almost a lesson about the way the world should live. There really is not much of a story after the mid point. We know the central characters history and a little about the other characters. From then we read more about the Palanese way of life and the story does not develop.

On a positive note some points raised that have become more relevant over time, particularly regarding ecology and sustainability. And it is clear that the intention of the society is a peaceful and harmonious one.

One interesting debate would be as to whether the Palanese way of life represents a utopian society. To me there were some disturbing elements - the use of a drug to induce an open mind (this is their view of an open mind and isn't questioned). The children are categorized and almost institutionalised in to the Palanese society leaving little room for development of supposed missing skills. Also we have a society where children are not disciplined by their parents, if they have an argument they go to another set of parents. Some of the ideals contradict each other.

But does it make for a great book? For my tastes the main character, Farnaby is on the periphery throughout and in the middle third he might as well not be there at all. When we revisit his past I thought some elements were a bit clichéd. The looming threat of big oil companies is the thread that keeps the story moving along and it serves as the vehicle for the conclusion. Characters on the `evil' side are not developed and I was left to make assumptions. In the end I didn't really care that Pala was finished, it was inevitable from page one. As was Faranby's final transformation (again finally realised by drug taking).

So I can't say that I enjoyed it as a great novel, but it gave me much to think about. On that basis I give it 3/5.
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