Like thousands of other people, I entered the world of adult literature through the twin portals of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. They were the books you graduated to after CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien – they had a bit of the same fantasy flavour, but they were dealing with much more tangible twentieth-century concerns. Looking back at the book now, I can hardly remember a thing about the plot or the characters – it’s nowhere near as memorable as Orwell’s later dystopia. What has stayed with me, and what really fired my imagination back in the 70s, was Huxley’s ruthless vision of a society divided into classes (Alpha through Epsilon), the abolition of reproductive sex, and the use of consumerism and drugs for social control. Back then, it seemed gruesomely appealing – like a lot of adolescents I think what I secretly craved was order rather than chaos – and it still exerts a fascination as I look out of my window and see Huxley’s nightmares being played out in my own street. Obviously I’m going to be fond of any book that ends with a mass sex-and-drugs orgy, but my abiding feeling about all of Huxley’s novels is that they’re primarily about ideas, which doesn’t necessarily make for good fiction. By the way it’s always surprised me that my leftie friends haven’t used the lovely name ‘Lenina’ for their daughters.