To me, Brave New World and 1984 are two sides to the same dystopian coin, but it's 1984 that tends toward popularity and glory, while Brave New World is often only discovered by people who are already fans of the science fiction genre and looking to expand their classics reading.
I, too, am guilty of this and only discovered Brave New World a few years ago. Now I say to myself "How can you call yourself a Science Fiction fan without having read this (and 1984 and Stranger in a Strange Land)?" But I digress.
I think that this is the most important book of the science fiction pantheon because of how much of it is true. While 1984 focuses on control by punishment and fear, Brave New World focuses on how the inundation of entertainment and pleasure removes the necessity of external control. While we meet some authority figures, their actual power is limited and feels very figurehead-like.
Huxley predicted people medicating their troubles away and living in an altered state of consciousness. While our current society is still in the midst of it's "War on Drugs", the use of prescription medication (particularly anti-depressants) has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years. His entertainment-drugged society is certainly reminiscent of our reality-television society.
The non-fiction book "Amusing Ourselves to Death" is, unfortunately so far out of date that the internet didn't exist when it was written and reality television wasn't even a seed of thought in a future TV exec's mind, but even 30 years ago people could see his predictions coming true.
Alone, as a story, it's an excellent piece of writing. Removed from what's happening in present day America and without comparisons to 1984, the book is excellent and clever and thought-provoking. All that said, if you've read 1984 and still haven't picked up Brave New World, you've missed the other side of the coin. Read both, then decide for yourself which is closer to true and which one is actually the scarier scenario.
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