In February 2108, the New Zealand Rediscovery Expedition reaches California at last. It is over a century since the world was devastated by nuclear war, but the blight of radioactivity and disease still gnaws away at the survivors. The expedition expects to find physical destruction but they are quite unprepared for the moral degradation they meet. They find that the current inhabitants of Los Angeles belong to a sadistic, devil-worshipping society obsessed with the mutations arising among them due to the radiation poisoning they have suffered. Ape and Essence is Huxley's vision of the ruin of humanity, and he treats it with all his moral indignation, his knowledge and his imaginative genius.
Aldous Huxley was born on 26th July 1894 near Godalming, Surrey. He began writing poetry and short stories in his early twenties, but it was his first novel, 'Crome Yellow' (1921), which established his literary reputation. This was swiftly followed by 'Antic Hay' (1923), 'Those Barren Leaves' (1925) and 'Point Counter Point' (1928) - bright, brilliant satires in which Huxley wittily but ruthlessly passed judgement on the shortcomings of contemporary society. For most of the 1920s Huxley lived in Italy and an account of his experiences there can be found in 'Along The Road' (1925). The great novels of ideas, including his most famous work 'Brave New World' (published in 1932 this warned against the dehumanising aspects of scientific and material 'progress') and the pacifist novel 'Eyeless in Gaza' (1936) were accompanied by a series of wise and brilliant essays, collected in volume form under titles such as 'Music at Night' (1931) and 'Ends and Means' (1937). In 1937, at the height of his fame, Huxley left Europe to live in California, working for a time as a screenwriter in Hollywood. As the West braced itself for war, Huxley came increasingly to believe that the key to solving the world's problems lay in changing the individual through mystical enlightenment. The exploration of the inner life through mysticism and hallucinogenic drugs was to dominate his work for the rest of his life. His beliefs found expression in both fiction ('Time Must Have a Stop', 1944 and 'Island', 1962) and non-fiction ('The Perennial Philosophy', 1945, 'Grey Eminence', 1941 and the famous account of his first mescalin experience, 'The Doors of Perception', 1954. Huxley died in California on 22nd November 1963.