Will Farnaby, reporter and underground agent for an oil magnate, is shipwrecked on the island of Pala, where for 120 years an ideal society has flourished. In the mid 19th century, a Scottish doctor successfully treated the enlightened Raja of Pala and settled on the island. These two men then designed a perfect society in which (according to the book jacket's description), "sex lives are unabashed; children are carefully conditioned from infancy and none is at the mercy of one set of parents; jobs are assigned according to physique and temperament," and everyone uses "moksha medicine," a drug that sharpens and deepens powers of consciousness.

The Palinese also practice hypnosis, eugenics, and a form of sexual yoga that leads to virtually perfect sexual experience. While Pala has enormous oil reserves, the people are uninterested in developing them because they are happy with their way of life and do not feel the need to become wealthier or more Westernized. Pala's companion island of Rendang is ruled by a ruthless dictator, Colonel Dipa, who plans to develop its oil resources and industrialize the island, while, at the same time, enriching himself.

After his shipwreck, Farnaby is injured climbing a cliff from the beach. He spends time recuperating, during which he meets a number of Palinese people, including Dr. MacPhail (descended from the original Scottish physician) and Murugan, the young man who will soon become the new Raja of Pala. As he learns more about the society, Farnaby comes to respect it and turns away from his plans to promote oil development on the island.

However, Murugan (who was raised largely in Switzerland by a fanatic mother who runs a fundamentalist Christian movement) frowns upon the sexual freedom, drug use, and general lack of "ambition" among his countrymen. He secretly conspires with Colonel Dipa to sell-out Pala. At the end of the book, the army of Rendang has invaded Pala and declared a joint kingdom of Rendang and Pala with Murugan as king and Colonel Dipa as Prime Minister.


In The Island, Aldous Huxley's last novel, the author returns to the question of a "ideal" society that he first explored in Brave New World thirty years earlier (1932). (See this database.) In the more recent novel, he sketches a true utopia that is destined to perish as soon as it comes into contact with the greed and exploitation which characterize the modern world.

Interestingly, Palinese society employs many of the same concepts and techniques that Huxley devised for Brave New World, which was a vision of an inhumane and dystopic state. But while the latter society was based on a pursuit of pleasure that submerged individuality and freedom, The Island features individual growth and personal fulfillment for each person. While in Brave New World the universal drug (soma) was used to pacify the masses, in The Island the universal drug (moksha) is used to enhance consciousness and promote a state of enlightenment.

The writing in this novel is generally didactic. There is not much of a plot. Each episode is simply an excuse for the characters to give long harangues about religion, philosophy, eugenics, learning theory, sex, and other aspects of Palinese life. There is no character development whatsoever. This is a novel of ideas, light on the "novel" part and heavy on the "ideas," but the ideas are interesting enough to make it worth reading.


Harper & Row

Place Published

New York



Page Count