I’m a big believer in the dystopian genre representing a society in which we can avoid. (Everything else between is post-apocalyptic). It’s becoming incredibly difficult to find a reliable list of dystopian entertainment true to its definition without seeing the same old things. Believe me, I’ve looked. Unless you want incredibly heavy topics to weigh your thoughts down for weeks on end, or zombies left, right and centre, the lists are few and far between.
So with this in mind, I compiled my own dystopian book list, and will continue to add to them as I discover more.
Childhood’s End — Arthur C. Clarke
Clarke’s biggest seller is a science fiction tale about the pitfalls of utopia. Greeted by a benevolent alien dictator, Clarke delves into the human psyche to see what makes us tick. Childhood’s End reflects on a utopia bestowed upon the human race, but there’s a catch: “the stars are not for man” and never ask important questions. Will boredom end in cataclysmic tragedy or is there such a thing as triumph in transcendence post an apocalyptic destruction?
This is an easy dystopian or anti-utopian read, even for the fussiest of readers.
The Death of Grass — John Christopher
Published in 1956, The Death of Grass is an easy but somewhat brutal read about the psychology of survival. Following a 3 day journey of main protagonist John Custance and his family, this psychological thriller will have you questioning your own ethics.
The nature of the story isn’t so far-fetched either, and is arguably with as much foresight as Orwell, and as frightening as Stephen King.
1984 — George Orwell
If you claim to be a dystopian fan and have yet to read this literary feat, then stop claiming.
The book that coined the term “Big Brother is Watching” is a guide to what is fast becoming reality. Orwell saw the writing on the wall after his time with the Imperial Forces and his journalism, and knew better than to keep it to himself.
Ahh, not the rats!
The Wool Trilogy — Hugh Howey
Three books of sheer thriller in a small confined space in a time ahead of ours. I read “Shift” in one night—all 565 pages. The others in the trilogy are equally impressive.
This series has it all: from 3-dimensional characters to the landscapes and dystopian plot. Men are evil brutes, politicians are far worse; their schemes, incredibly cruel. Humanity is flawed and weak. What can only happen next is anyone’s guess.
Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury
The easiest read by far and the most fetching, Fahrenheit 451 documents a society where the intelligentsia are evil brutes and their tools, their books, the single cause of societal corruption.
Bradbury delves into our own history where book burning occurred, and turns the narrative into a work of art. The educated are the enemy because thinking causes misery—or is it they dissent against illogical governments?
Firefighters now run to alarms where neighbours rat out neighbours for their beloved book collections. It’s a page out of 1984 going one step further to ban the written word and to broadcast lies to a gullible, now feeble-minded population.
Relevant to today’s ‘memory-holing’ of Internet media, and the prevalence of ‘Double think’, Bradbury’s warning is stark.
Read the book before viewing the movie if you can. . . before we burn this to ashes, too.
The Fat Years — Chan Koonchung
The Fat Years is a Chinese version of Orwell’s 1984. “The Book That No One In China Dares Publish” is critical of a Chinese government betraying its entire population through a forced amnesia. Only a small circle of friends understand they have been duped, and what they learn down the track chills them to the core.
Set in 2013, this is a story of a Chinese struggle in a postmodern totalitarian state. It’s a fictional story with real-world warnings. It quietly mentions the suppression of Falun Gong, the “Tiananmen Incident” and the exile of the Dalai Lama, while noting China’s official economic ascendancy in the world while the Western nations falter.
Hong Kong raised author Chan Koonchung outlines the CCP’s want for domination, spurring a virus-like collective amnesia to overtake the population. It’s much in the same vain as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, deleting all reference to a “missing month” of totalitarian reign while the protagonists risk life and limb to finally discover the truth.
A powerful read for those interested in banned books.
OTHER BOOKS TO CONSIDER:
The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
A population faced with sterility and the enslavement of fertile young women for a breeding programme.
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
The illusionary world of happiness, designer babies, government control, and the demise of humanity.
The documenting of the beginnings of WWIII and the final end to humanity.
The City and the Stars (Arthur C. Clarke)
One man’s plight to self-discovery by abandoning his utopia for the one last refuge.
The Time Machine (HG Wells)
Could be classed also as a utopia, this book notes the importance of class suffering to allow those above them to prosper (even if feeble).
The Rosie Black Chronicles (Lara Morgan)
This Young Adult series documents a Corptocracy 500 years into the future.
The J Rae Books (Aral Bereux)
A gritty story of reprogramming camps, surveillance states and a tyranny that might very well win.
Animal Farm (George Orwell)
The adventures of Napoleon the pig, the one animal to rule them all. A warning of tyranny.
The Wind-Up Girl (Paolo Bacigalupi)
A world of conglomerates running a world by controlling the food. Calories become currency and bio-engineered plagues run rampant.
We (Yevgeny Zamyatin)
The novel describes a world of harmony and conformity within a united totalitarian state.