This is one of the most disturbing books I've ever read.

The fact that Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" still packs that punch 80 years after it was written proves that its message and its writing have stood the test of time.

What is particularly chilling about Huxley's masterpiece is how close our world has come to the one he envisioned in 1931.

It is a genetically engineered, behavior-modified, overmedicated, oversexed world in which youth and appearance are valued, the superficial is put on a pedestal and the family is virtually nonexistent. People are "decanted" in test tubes, not born, and placed into different classes or castes depending on the chemistry applied to them when they are cloned.

Virtually all pain and suffering have been removed from the civilized world; jobs are occupational therapy and stress is managed by the ingestion of mass-distributed drugs. Recreational sex is encouraged, monogamy is nonconformity and sex for procreation and parenthood is barbarously obscene. Children are desensitized to death and grief at an early age; they are treated with sweets as they watch the elderly quietly euthanized as part of their upbringing.

All meaningful art and literature is banned because much of it is derived from human suffering and is viewed as archaic, even reprobate.

Henry Ford, the father of the modern assembly line, is deified. The word "Ford" is substituted for "God" in common parlance. The state is all; individuality is discouraged. Those who continue to live by those values are isolated, viewed as savages, and their exposure to the brave new world proves maddeningly fatal.

Huxley originally set "Brave New World" several centuries into the future. In "Brave New World Revisited" in 1958 he modified his prediction. "For how long can such a society maintain its traditions of individual liberty and democratic government? Fifty or a hundred years from now our children will learn the answer to this question," he wrote.

As we stand just 20 years shy of a century from "Brave New World's" first publication, it is just plain scary to contemplate how far down the road we are to the world Huxley presaged --- and whether we have the time and will to turn back.