Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Crash Course in Dystopian Novels

If anyone really hasn't figured it out yet, I spend a ridiculous chunk of my time reading books. Books have been my best friend ever since I was the super shy "weird" kid in elementary school. I may have grown out of that extreme shyness, (or been forcibly pulled out by my best friend) but my love of books certainly hasn't diminished.  All throughout elementary school instead of bothering to talk to people that I thought cared about things that didn't matter I immersed myself in books. I read all of the Harry Potter books save the last two (which weren't out yet) in 1st grade in one week and it wasn't odd for me to finish a book a day (And still isn't.) I think I my love of Dystopian novels though, started in 5th grade when I read The Giver.

What is it about Dystopian novels that fascinate people so much? For me, it's the realm of possibilities they open up in  our future. I'm not trying to be pessimistic, but I don't have much faith in the human race and these books show some of the things that could happen if we let them. Yes, they the exaggerate problems in societies that could be our downfall, but there's a grain of truth in all of them. They're different, they make you stop, think, and consider what human nature is.

A Dystopian novel that most everyone would recognize nowadays is The Hunger Games because of it's sudden popularity. Another one might be the Uglies series or Unwind, a book I bought a few months back where teenagers can be "unwound" and their organs donated if they cause too much trouble for their parents. However, if you have an interest in Dystopian novels and want a list of books to get started with here are some more I suggest. A sort of crash course on the more well-known ones.

1984 by George Orwell

This is definitely one of the big names when it comes to dystopian books. I find the writing style a bit dry personally, but it's still a good book and should be included because of it's fame/infamy. When it came out in 1948 people were shocked and horrified, with good reason. The world it painted was one of bleak totalitarian control and constant war and that wasn't even the worst of it. The "Party" watches everything and everyone. They control the past and even your very thoughts. Thinking something even slightly rebellious is known as 'thoughtcrime' and is the worst of all misdeeds. And Big brother is always watching.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Yes, technically it's a children's novel, but the themes are still very mature (Considering the things it hints at I'm surprised they let us read it that early...) This is the book we were assigned in 5th grade that got me started on Dystopian books. The book starts out presenting a utopian society and gradually shows how dysfunctional the place really is. In order to eliminate conflict and strife everyone has reverted to 'sameness'. Jonas is chosen to become the next 'Receiver of Memory' who is the only one in the community with access to what life was like before sameness. As he learns more, he's faced with decisions that could change the course of his, or even everyone's lives.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

This is the debut novel of an up and coming Young Adult writer. I figured since The Hunger Games is so popular right now I should include a teen book that's just as good, if not better. There are five factions, each with their own purpose in society. They're Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent),  Amity (the peaceful), Dauntless (the brave), and Abnegation (the selfless). Tris has been raised all her life as Abnegation, but she knows it's not for her. When she takes the aptitude test she learns she is 'Divergent'. The woman giving her the test says to keep it a secret under all circumstances. Later, Tris chooses to join the Dauntless faction where she must fight to stay on top. Amidst her training she discovers that the Erudites are planning something big and that she may be one of the only ones who can stop it.

Anthem by Ayn Rand

This is actually far too short to be more than a novella, but it's so full of metaphors and philosophy it might as well be a full book. Ayn Rand certainly knows how to tell a captivating story in a meager 60 pages. The man in this book is little more than a number, but he's not like his brothers. He wants to learn, to think and discover. He learns to love, to experiment, and to rebel against the constrictions around his life. His most important accomplishment is his pursuit of the forbidden word that none may speak. When he discovers it, it changes everything.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This one is another well-known one and my absolute favorite. Probably because it hits pretty close to home.  I love books so much, it pains me to see them in any kind of bad state, so the concept of outlawing and burning them makes me shiver. Ugh. As I've said before, I practically live through my books so I can't imagine much that's more horrifying. In this book the protagonist is a fireman. His job is to respond to calls and burn the books people discover. He's perfectly content with his job and loves being able to help the society this way. After a time though, he grows curious. Why do people become so hysterical when the novels are ripped away? Books are nothing more than inanimate objects and meaningless words. Right?

Some dystopian books I haven't gotten around to reading include The Handmaid's tale, Neuromancer, Iron Heel, The Running Man, The Chrysalids, and Brave New World. Trust me when I say I would have gotten to these long ago if my school library actually had them. (Getting to the public library involves knowing how to drive...)

Well, you have some suggestions. Now go out and read! ^^


  1. Nineteen Eighty Four is one of my favourite novels. :3

  2. What about The Barcode Tattoo series by Weyn?
    Or The Diary of Pelly D?

    There a ton of contemporaries that you should look into reading, as well. ;]

    1. I haven't read those either. I'll add them to my list. Thanks! ^^

  3. 1984's great, very rewarding. Not much happens for the a good third of the book, but all the background is so interesting that it doesn't matter.

    A friend recommended Anthem to me, and the description here looks interesting. I might see if I can find a copy...

    1. It is a little slow, but I think overall the novel is very successful.

      And you should! I think I bought my copy pretty cheap on Amazon and it's really good for a short read ^^