Dystopian literature is a genre of speculative fiction that has become massively popular over the last decade and a half. It’s no surprise dystopian books are enjoyed by a massive fan base.
While dystopian books were popular in the 19th and 20th century, their popularity has grown significantly in recent years. Our very own world seems on the verge of change because of a multitude of factors. There’s war, climate change, economic chaos, the pandemic, energy shortages and much, much more.
The most fascinating aspect and what always brings readers back to dystopian books is their setting. They always draw from our own world and mirror its elements, such as, amongst others, our society, politics, religion, and technology, and distort them. They essentially present us with a world similar to our own in which one or more of these elements have gone horribly wrong.
While some dystopian books explore apocalyptic events and their aftermath others, many focus on such issues as the decile of society, social issues, dehumanization, injustice and inequality.
Many writers have written about dystopian versions of our future. There’s such classical writers like George Orwell and H. G. Wells, but also contemporary writers such as Suzanne Collins or Kazuo Ishiguro.
What makes dystopian literature such an interesting genre might be the fact that these books show us that, however bad things are, they could be much, much worse.
The best dystopian books, however, are those that serve as cautionary tales and comment on the problems of our very own society, and where they could lead us.
On this list, I included both classics and newer books, and also a few young adult books. All of them, however, are worth reading.
Table of Contents
- Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
- Battle Royal by Koushun Takami
- The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
- Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
- The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
- The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard
- The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
- Blindness by José Saramago
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
- The Stand by Stephen King
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
- The Children of Men by P. D. James
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
- The Power by Naomi Alderman
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Noughts & Crosses is the first dystopian book in an award-winning novel series. It’s garnered widespread popularity and was adapted for TV in recent years.
The novel depicts a fictional 21th-century dystopian Britain split by race. In this world, white Noughts are treated as an inferior race while black Crosses are born into privilege and perceived as superior.
The novel’s plot follows two friends, Sephy and Callum. While Sephy’s a Cross and the daughter of a powerful politician, Callum is a Nought, poor, and merely exists to serve Crosses.
Against all odds, however, the two of them chose each other and their love.
It’s a powerful story that reverses traditional racial stereotypes. It’s a story of friendship and love, but a love that threatens the very fabric of society.
Noughts & Crosses is an interesting dystopian book and gives as an entirely new, and uncomfortable look at the very real racial problems in our society. It’s very worth reading.
Philip K. Dick’s science-fiction masterpiece that inspired the movie Blade Runner.
It presents us with a post-apocalyptic setting and the resulting dystopian society. Following a nuclear war, the ‘World War Terminus’ huge parts of the world are uninhabitable because of radiation poisoning.
Because of this, real animals have become scarce. Instead, artificial creatures have been created to resemble those made of flesh, including humanoids.
The plot revolves around Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, who’s tasked with killing six Nexus 6 model androids who escaped from Mars.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is an action-packed novel full of vivid and imaginative world-building. We witness a devastated world, a futuristic setting, strange psychological tests to identify androids and social status determined by the number of natural animals one owns.
The major theme of the novel, however, isn’t one about society. Instead, the novel talks about the nature of AI, the future it could lead us to, and what makes us truly human.
It’s a fantastic novel, one I highly recommend to any fan of science-fiction, cyberpunk, but also dystopian books.
When Battle Royal was first published in Japan, it proved massively popular and developed a cult following. Because of its fantastic movie adaption, the novel also became a hit with Western audiences.
It’s a Japanese thriller novel set in a fascist Japan and tells the shocking story of the titular Battle Royal program.
Each year, fifty third-year junior high classes are randomly selected. The students of each class are then kidnapped and dropped off at a remote location. They are provided weapons and provision and forced to kill each other until only one of them remains.
The novel’s story centers on the students of Shiroiwa Junior High School. Shuya Nanahara, our narrator, decides not to ‘play the game,’ as he refers to it and instead to protect his friends.
Battle Royal is an action-packed novel that features one of the most disturbing scenarios ever created. It also features a fantastic cast of characters, including Shuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa, Shogo Kawada and, of course, Kazuo Kiriyama.
While the novel was first seen as nothing but pure exploitation and shock-value, its status has now changed. Nowadays, it’s often regarded as the Lord of the Flies of the 21th century and one of the best dystopian books out of Japan.
This classical dystopian book was written in 1951 and is set in a post-apocalyptic world.
One day, a large part of the world’s population is blinded by a meteor shower. What’s even worse, however, is the rise of a huge, locomotive, venomous plant species known as Triffids that roam the Earth and hunt down humans. The few humans who haven’t been blinded now have to find a way to survive.
The Day of the Triffids is a classical catastrophe novel that inspired countless other, similar novels and terrified an entire generation.
Over the course of the novel, it becomes clear that the Triffids might have been genetically modified. This fear of biological weapons came from a certain rumor popular during the time of its writing. It stated that the Soviet Union was experimenting with manipulating nature to do its bidding.
The most interesting aspect about The Day of the Triffids, however, lies in its antagonists. In a post-apocalyptic world, plants and nature are usually seen as a symbol of restoration and hope. Not so in The Day of the Triffids.
The novel’s major theme is the twisted nature of biological warfare and serves as a cautionary tale about the twisted horrors it might create.
It’s a great novel for fans of dystopian books and classical science-fiction alike.
Uglies is the first installment in the Uglies series and presents us with a very interesting idea for a dystopia.
The novel’s set in a world of extreme beauty in which everyone whose normal is considered ugly.
It tells the story of a young girl named Tally who’s about to turn sixteen. She can’t wait for it because it means she’ll finally undergo an operation that will turn her from an Ugly into an extremely pretty person, a Pretty. Once she’s pretty, she’ll be able to enter a high-end paradise of endless fun and leisure.
Before long, however, Tally has doubts about this strange system and eventually joins a colony of her fellow Uglies.
Scott Westerfeld’s dystopian book is social criticism at its finest. It showcases our obsession with beauty and attractiveness and our prejudice against those who aren’t.
Oryx and Crake is the first novel in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy.
It’s set in a world in which humanity has been destroyed by a plague. We get to know Snowman, who believes himself to be the last human on Earth. He spends his days in this post-apocalyptic world surrounded by Crakers, a humanoid species created by his friend Crake.
He eventually embarks on a journey to find answers through what was once a great city and has now returned to wilderness.
As the book continues, our protagonist reminisces in his past and his role in the apocalypse is slowly revealed.
Back in the day, he and his friend stumbled upon the dark side of the internet. This act of childish curiosity should change their lives forever.
In their adult years, the world’s population is destroyed by a plague and those who survive it are set on creating genetically better humans. It’s Snowman, then known as Jimmy, and his friend Crake, who were at the center of this development.
Oryx and Crake is a dystopian novel that’s quite different from Margaret Atwood’s other dystopian book The Handmaid’s Tale.
It’s a story about the effects of our childhood on our adult years. It also serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of genetic modification.
Oryx and Crake will leave you disturbed by how plausible a scenario it presents. While not the most popular of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian books, it’s still very much worth reading.
Ursula K. Le Guin is not only a giant of modern literature, but also dystopian literature.
The Dispossessed is part of the fictional universe of the Hainish Cycle, which comprises seven novels, but can be read as a standalone.
The novel features two worlds, Anarres and Urras. Shelk, a brilliant physicist, lives in the utopian world of Anarres. He attempts, however, to reunite Anarres with his home of Urras.
Urras, however, is a civilization full of war, poverty, and, of course, capitalism. He tries to show the people of Urras a better way to live, but soon realizes it might be for the best if Anarres remains its own state.
It’s quite interesting that The Dispossessed is by some called a utopian novel. Its major themes center on the contrast between the freedom of an anarchic society and one that’s constrained by capitalism. Yet, it’s an ambiguous story, one that hides more below its surface than one might originally think.
Nothing much needs to be said about this dystopian novel. It’s written by a master of the genre and should be read by any fan.
Borne is Jeff VanderMeer’s eighth novel and in it, he presents us with a strange, but intriguing version of the future.
The stories set in a nameless city which is left in ruins by ‘the Company,’ a biotech corporation.
Rachel’s a young girl who makes a living scavenging the ruins for products made and left behind by the Company. One day, during a mission, she and her partner discover a strange creature. It’s nothing but a green lump, tangled in grizzly fur. She takes the creature home and names it ‘Borne.’
Soon enough, however, the creature reveals mesmerizing shape-shifting abilities. This event should change her life forever.
Borne’s a novel that’s strange and bizarre. It showcases an ecologically ravaged world and serves as a cautionary tale against the dangers of biotechnology.
VanderMeer’s writing is as unconventional as the story, and might take some getting used to, but it’s worthwhile. Borne’s without a doubt amongst the best dystopian books in recent years.
While George Orwell’s known mostly for his other dystopian novel Nineteen Eight-Four, Animal Farm is also massively popular.
Who doesn’t know the line ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’
Animal Farm’s a classic fable with a lasting lesson. It centers on the animals at Manor Farm. Dissatisfied with their human owners, they stage a revolt and drive them out. At first, all seems well, and the animals enjoy their newfound autonomy. Soon enough, however, another sort of tyranny replaces that of the humans, one that might be even worse.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm shows us how revolutions can go wrong and how their outcome might not bring the change people long for so dearly. In this Animal Farm’s case, it’s a clear criticism of the Soviet Union and the totalitarian regime it became.
What’s most interesting, however, and what makes it work so well, is George Orwell’s choice to not use human protagonists, but animals. Each one of them represents a specific subset of the population.
While it’s a short book, and rather on the nose, it’s still amongst the best dystopian books with a lasting message.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells is one of the first true science-fiction novels ever written and one of the first portrayals of time travel in literature.
While it may not be entirely a dystopian novel, it still presents us with a dystopian version of the future.
During the Victorian era, a scientist develops a time machine and travels to the year 802,701 AD. He discovers Earth has become a utopia and humans have evolved into the childlike Eloi. He spends his time with them and learning about the development of humanity.
When his time machine vanishes, he’s forced to travel down into the deep and ominous tunnels below the surface. He soon discovers there’s another race descended from humans, the cannibalistic Morlocks.
The Time Machine’s major theme is that as brilliant and dazzling as a society might appear, it always has a dark underside to it. The novel also establishes many tropes of the time travel genre, especially its unexpected side-effects that have since become a staple of the genre.
It’s a fantastic novel with a great, convoluted and twisted plot. It’s a late Victorian era masterpiece and one of the most popular science-fiction books of all time.
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham is an allegorical tale set several thousand years in the future.
It’s another novel set in a post-apocalyptic world, but one dominated by religious fundamentalism. It’s essentially a new technological dark age after the collapse of civilization. However, some humans have developed telepathy.
The story’s set at Labrabor, whose inhabitants believe that ‘normality’ is the key to preserve their world. Anything that goes against it will cause the wrath of God to come down on them. Therefore, they’ve become eugenicists and kill or banish anyone who differs from them. This, of course, includes people with telepathic powers.
The story revolves around David, the son of a devout man and authority figure and his cousin Rosalind. We soon learn that the two of them have telepathic powers. As they grow older, it becomes harder and harder for them to conceal their powers.
Eventually, they face a dilemma. Wait for discovery and risk death, or flee into the ever-changing and dangerous Badlands.
The Chrysalids is a critic of religious fundamentalism. It showcases the persecution, intolerance, social exclusion, and discrimination such a world could bring. It’s yet another book that gives us an eerie prediction of what our real-life society could be headed towards.
The Chrysalids is often considered John Wyndham’s best book. It’s faced-paced and suspenseful, but also thought-provoking. A great read for anyone looking for dystopian books.
The Drowned World is one of the earliest works of climate fiction, a subset of the dystopian literature genre.
In the year 2145, the world’s changed and wide spread parts of it have become uninhabitable because of global warming. Many of the cities of Europe and America have become submerged and many animals around the globe have mutated.
The Drowned World’s plot centers on Dr. Robert Kearns, whose part of a group of scientists that must survive in an environmentally devastated London. The city’s changed into a primordial jungle populated by giant lizards, dragonflies and other insects. Things only get worse, for Dr. Kearny is soon beset by strange dreams.
The Drowned World is an adventurous novel that takes us on an unlikely journey. Yet, the novel’s more than a mere adventure. It paints a vivid picture of the dangers of global warming and what its changes would do to the human psychology.
What’s most interesting, however, is that the novel was written back in 1962, but it’s more relevant today than ever before. Another great read.
The Hunger Games Trilogy is a vastly popular series of dystopian books and probably the most popular young adult novel series of all time.
It’s a bestseller that’s already regarded as a classic of young adult literature.
The series is set in the totalitarian nation of Panem that was once North America. It comprises a lavish capitol, which rules its surrounding twelve districts with a cruel hand.
Each year, two teenagers, a boy and a girl, are chosen as tributes amongst the population of each district to join the annual Hunger Games.
The titular games are a death battle in an arena with only one winner. This winner earns riches and resources for their district. The entire ordeal, however, is done for the entertainment of those living in the capitol and broadcast live to the entire population.
When her sister gets chosen, Katniss Everdeen of the thirteenth district volunteers to go in her place. She must now train and figure out how to survive in the arena.
This is only the plot of the first novel, however. In the subsequent entries of the series, Katniss and others eventually decide to pick up the fight against the capitol itself.
The Hunger Games Trilogy features a variety of themes. Amongst them are class division, the decadence and disregard of the ruling class, and the power of love even in the direst circumstances. It also harshly criticizes the popular genre of reality TV.
Once more, the dystopia depicted in The Hunger Games doesn’t feel too far off. Following war, new civilizations emerge. Who’s saying it couldn’t be like that of ancient Rome, which served as the inspiration for Panem.
Overall, the Hunger Games are a fantastic young adult series and a fantastic trilogy of dystopian books. This is especially owed to their protagonist Katniss, who serves as a role model for female readers of all ages.
In 1998, José Saramago won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Blindness was one of the works mentioned by the committee.
The novel’s set in the year 1990. Overnight, a large percentage of the population of an unnamed city wakes up unable to see. The cause for this is never explained.
From this point onward, the city’s inhabitants have to figure out how to handle this new condition. Order soon disintegrates, food runs scarce, and criminals exploit the situation. Before long, surveillance is heightened and quarantines for those suffering from the condition are imposed.
Blindness is a disorienting read which uses its language and writing style to mimic the lives of the city’s inhabitants.
The novel showcases the fragility of human society and serves as a cautionary tale about how quick things could fall apart. More so, it sheds light on the violence and heartlessness that’s already at play in our society. Yet, it also shows the importance of solidarity and compassion in dire situations.
Blindness is José Saramago at his best. The novel features a unique scenario brought to life by fantastic imagery. Clearly another one of the best dystopian books out there.
One of the most popular novels by Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro.
It’s a coming-of-age tale that’s both powerful and exploratory.
The novel brings with a caretaker, Kathy, who’s in her thirties and reminisces about her childhood.
In the 1980s, she attended an English boarding school called Hailsham. The students were well-cared for, but taught nothing about the outside world.
When Kathy and her two friends, Ruth and Tommy, eventually leave the school grounds, they discover what Hailsham really is.
Never Let Me Go was named by Time as the best novel of 2005. It’s a dystopian book about sacrifice, impermanence, and what it means to be human. It focuses on the question of morality in an age of rapidly developing medical technology.
Its relevant themes and its simple yet emotional writing make it a great read for fans of dystopian books.
We’s a novel that was written in the early years of the Soviet Union and was published in New York in 1923. It’s an early example of a dystopian novel and is said to have inspired both, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World.
It’s set 1000 years in the future in a utopia. This utopia’s called OneState and comprises a glass-enclosed city of absolute straight lines.
It’s a totalitarian society and everyone’s under constant surveillance. The citizens live their lives devoid of passion, creativity and even emotions. Everyone’s given up on their individuality and instead of names, people are only known by numbers.
One day, D-503, a mathematician who dreams only in numbers, discovers he can do and think differently. It isn’t long before he becomes involved in a resistance group.
The most interesting part about the novel is to witness how our protagonist discovers feelings and relationships with others. It also sheds light on the strange conventions of the totalitarian rule, and, of course, the consequences of going against it.
We’s fantastically written, and its prose helps to establish the novel’s setting and mood. It features abrupt, dry language which helps us to not only identify with the narrator but also the situation he’s in. However, it paints a vivid picture of the bleak world he lives in.
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is without a doubt a classic amongst the many dystopian books out there, and a must-read for any fan of the genre.
The Stand’s probably the greatest novel Stephen King’s ever written.
While the novel’s an absolute doorstopper, it’s often advertised using a few short sentences:
‘First comes the days of the plague. Then come the dreams. Dark dreams that warn of the coming of the dark man.’
At the novel’s outset, a patient infected with a hyper-contagious strain of super-flu escapes a biological testing facility. The resulting epidemic wipes out ninety-nine percent of the world’s population.
Soon enough, normal society collapses, survivors struggle, and warring factions rise. This, however, is all just the beginning.
While Mother Abigail strives to create a peaceful enclave for the survivors, Randall Flagg, the ‘Dark Man’ revels in chaos and violence. Soon enough, those similar to him flock to his side.
Stephen King uses the point of view of various characters to showcase the struggles of survival as they travel to their respective destinations.
The Stand features a variety of fantastic characters. There are Mother Abigail, Larry Underwood, Randall Flagg, and, of course, Donald Elbert, the Trashcan Man.
The Stand’s simply a masterpiece, and one of the greatest dystopian books out there.
Parable of the Sower is one of the most iconic dystopian books out there.
It’s a science-fiction classic set in a disintegrating Los Angeles in the 2020s. It’s a grim, terrifying version of the future. Climate catastrophes have led to scarce resources and global anarchy has arisen.
Lauren Olamina tries her best to survive with her family in this devastated world. Yet, she’s also got to deal with a condition known as hyper empathy. It makes her hyper aware of the pain of others. In a city full of drugs, disease, war, water shortages and despaired people, there’s no end to her suffering.
The novel presents us with a world in which a functioning society is a thing of the past. By now, there’s only sorrow left. Yet, it also shows us the hope people cling to even in the direst situations.
While the novels told from a youthful narrative voice, the novel’s story itself is deep and emotionally mature.
Originally written in 1992, the novel has become widely popular, more so after its movie adaption in the mid-2000s.
It’s a fantastic, dystopian thriller in which humanity has become infertile. No children have been born in twenty-five years and the last generation has reached adulthood.
Civilization’s slowly falling apart and despair and suicide are commonplace. This deterioration has gone so far that members of this last generation are even allowed to get away with murder.
In this world, we meet the Oxford historian Theodor Faron. He’s given up all hope. This changes when he meets Julian. He and his group of revolutionaries hold the key to the survival of humanity.
The Children of Men is a story about morality, tyranny, but also hope. It also focuses on another problem, that of depopulation.
The most interesting aspect about The Children of Men is the scenario it depicts. While most dystopias or apocalyptic novels rely on war, catastrophe, a pandemic or even aliens and monsters, it depicts an end of the world that’s far more conventional, yet frighteningly possible.
Published back in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 is another classic amongst the many dystopian books out there.
It’s interesting to note that the book was inspired by the Red Scare of the 1940s in which America was under the thump of anti-communist hysteria.
The novel, however, is set in the distant future in which books are banned and intellectual thought is illegal. For this reason, firemen are tasked with the burning of books so the totalitarian regime can control what the members of society learn.
This society mostly comprises people of short attention spans who are constantly bombarded by brainless media.
Our protagonist, Guy Montag, works as a fireman. Things change when he meets a neighbor with a different opinion on the value of books. He soon steals books from the burnings and slowly questions not only his occupation, but society itself.
Fahrenheit 451 is a shockingly interesting book. While it’s unlikely, that books will ever be banned completely, it’s a cautionary tale on where censorship might lead us. Another interesting aspect is the presentation of brainless media consumption and mundane life without critical thinking, which is a theme that seems more relevant today than ever before.
While Fahrenheit 451 was an important book at the time of its writing, it feels even more relevant today because of the rise of Big Data.
It’s definitely a classic and one well worth reading.
The Giver’s an award-winning young adult classic and a coming-of-age story.
It’s set in a society devoid of social problems. It’s a perfect world without fear, war, or pain. Yet, it’s also one without choices. It’s a mundane paradise and essentially a colorless world.
The novel’s plot revolves around the twelve-year-old Jonas who’s chosen as a Receiver by The Giver. This means he has to memorize his community’s history. While he learns about the past, he soon realizes his society isn’t the perfect utopia he was taught. It’s the Giver who only holds the memories of true pain, but also the true pleasures of life.
It’s interesting to note that the book was both widely taught, but also banned for various reasons. These include introducing youth to suicide, sexual awakening and the loss of innocence.
The dominant theme of the book, however, is knowledge. What happens when only a select few can have it? Other themes include the dilemma of growing up and the struggle between individual freedom and security.
The Giver’s widely regarded a classic amongst dystopian books and has inspired many others.
A Clockwork Orange is regarded a classic and widely popular, especially because of its fantastic movie adaption by Stanley Kubrick.
It presents us with a dystopian, violent and nightmarish version of the future. In this world, youthful dissatisfaction with society is on the rise and has caused a spike in violence.
The novel’s plot revolves around the fifteen-year-old Alex, the leader of an ultra-violent gang. He and his crew commit all sorts of violent deeds as a form to rebel against society. Those acts include not only robbery but also rape and murder.
Eventually, Alex is arrested, and put into a reeducation program. There, he’s forced to undergo therapy to quell his violent urges and to be ‘corrected.’
One of the most interesting aspects about A Clockwork Orange is ‘Nadsat,’ the youthful slang Alex and his friends use. It’s not merely a specific vocabulary, but an entirely made-up language which borrows heavily from both Russian and Shakespeare.
The novel’s biggest themes are those of freedom, free will, psychological manipulation, and, of course, the alienation of youths in a society that doesn’t care about them.
A Clockwork Orange has proven to be highly influential and gave birth to a variety of phrases such as droogs and ultraviolence.
While it can be a rather brutal and violent novel, it’s another fantastic dystopian book.
The Power is another dystopian novel full of social criticism and features an interesting reversal about patriarchal powers.
Five thousand years in the future, society is dominated by women. A male author decides to write a piece of historical fiction detailing how things changed and how women came into power.
One day, in the 21th century, teenage girls across the world discovered that they had what should become known as ‘The Power.’ It refers to an electric charge which allows them to cause horrible pain and even death. They soon learn how to awaken this power in older woman as well. This strange power changes the entire world, and soon men are no longer in charge. As a new order forms, the question remains if things will be better from now on.
As we read on, the novel interesting intertwines the stories of various women from different parts of the world. This allows us to see various scenarios about how the balance of power was shifted.
The Power is essentially a ‘what-if’ scenario. Its major themes are that of power, how it corrupts us, and how it’s abused. It also serves as a cautionary tale about going too far to right a wrong.
It’s a clever, disturbing and, at times, darkly humorous novel. Yet, it’s not a comfortable read. There’s no utopia here, no equality. Instead the book shows only one thing: it’s not men nor women, it’s humans.
The Power is another fantastic dystopian book, one that puts its focus on woman’s oppression, but also systematic inequality.
Station Eleven is a fantastic dystopian novel about the enduring power of art.
After a famous actor dies on stage, a deadly flu epidemic wipes out most of civilization and changes the world forever.
The novel centers on a young woman who’s part of a traveling theater group. They visit small communities who’ve survived and perform for them King Lear. Yet, more troubles to come.
The most interesting aspect about Station Eleven is the way it’s told. It moves back and forth in time to show us normalcy before the epidemic started and the altered world that exists twenty years later. To do this, it showcases the lives of various characters. They include the aforementioned dead actor, his wife, a paparazzi who tries to save him, his close friend and a young aspiring actress who witnessed it.
This entire story, however, is held together by the theme of theater.
Station Eleven is a novel full of imagination and world-building. We witness what people remember, what remains of the old world and what changed. This approach gives it almost the feeling of a nonfiction account.
The novel’s dominant theme is the enduring power of art, but also the power of relationships between people and how they help us get through everything, even the end of the world. It also explores what it means to be human in a world that’s lost everything.
It’s not an easy novel to read and its theme of theater might not be for everyone. What it does, however, is show us what extreme conditions can do to human beings. It’s, however, one of the best dystopian books out there.
The Road is another vastly popular dystopian novel and one of the bleakest ever written.
It’s considered a contemporary classic and won McCarthy the Pulitzer Prize.
The Road is set in a post-apocalyptic America. It’s a world devoid of life where no hope remains. The few strugglers still alive scavenge and fight for the little resources left.
In this world, a father and son travel hoping to reach the coast to make a better life for themselves. They are looking for an end to their suffering and a better life, one that lies at the end of ‘the road.’
What’s interesting to note about The Road is we never learn what caused the end of the world. Yet, as in all good fiction, we don’t need to know what happened to witness its effects.
The Road is a bleak, melancholic and dark novel, one that’s utterly depressing, but ultimately shows how good conquers evil.
When reading The Road, one has to wonder how one would act in a situation such as this. Would we be compassionate or would we give into our individuality, competitiveness and our darkest urges?
The Road is a highly memorable read, especially because of Cormac McCarthy’s beautiful prose and unconventional style. It’s a modern classic and amongst the best dystopian books ever written.
The Handmaid’s Tale is by many regarded a classic of feminist dystopian literature. While it was published in 1985, it remains relevant today and feels even more so given the current political climate.
The novel’s set in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian, religious state which was formerly the United States. It emerged following a nuclear war, which left large parts of the population infertile.
In this world, women are subordinate to men, have no rights, no control over their bodies and are forbidden from reading. They are wives, mothers or handmaids.
Handmaids is the term for the few fertile women who remain and who are forced to breed.
One of them is Offred. She’s sent to the house of The Commander and his wife. Her sole reason for existing is now to bear the Commander’s child. Month after month, she prays to become pregnant, yet things slowly escalate.
The Handmaid’s Tale’s written in Margaret Atwood’s typical, unconventional style. It also features alternating storylines to present us with all parts of this nightmarish but complex universe.
It’s a scenario that’s disgustingly possible, especially given what’s currently happening in certain parts of the world. The world of The Handmaid’s Tale’s a hellish version of America which might nowadays not be too far off.
The Handmaid’s Tale is without a doubt one of the greatest dystopian books ever written and a fascinating look at not only a dystopian society but also gender discrimination.
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four simply can’t be missed on a list like this.
Who doesn’t know about Big Brother or the famous, contradictory statement ‘War is Peace.’
The novel’s set in a totalitarian future. Earth is divided into three continental-sized nations who are perpetually at war with one another.
The story’s set in the totalitarian nation of Oceania in a province that was formerly known as Great Britain. Everything and everyone’s slave to this tyrannical regime led by The Party. Surveillance and censorship run rampant and free thinking is known as ‘thoughtcrime.’
Our protagonist, Winston Smith, works at the Ministry of Truth and rewrites history to fit the needs of the party. Yet, he’s not fond of the totalitarian world he lives in. It’s one of demand and absolute obedience and every aspect of his life is under the watchful eye of Big Brother, the symbolic, omnipotent head of the Party.
Before long, however, he’s contacted by his superior, an Inner Party official named O’Brian. He tells Winston he’s part of an underground resistance group known as the Brotherhood.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a chilling portrayal of the dangers of manipulation, surveillance and censorship until the truth doesn’t matter or doesn’t even exist anymore.
It features a variety of terrifyingly interesting ideas. There’s, of course, the massive propaganda, but also concepts such as the rewriting of history, the changing of language, government-controlled media and even the indoctrination of children to survey their own parents.
Nineteen Eighty-Four shines with its meticulous and scary world-building. It can be considered one of the most terrifying, bleak and depressing novels ever written. It’s a story in which there’s no hope, no victory, only servitude and eventually, everyone will one day love Big Brother.
Brave New World is another one of the most famous dystopian books ever written and my all-time favorite.
The novel describes a scenario that’s strangely realistic and frankly said, frightening. It was inspired by the utopian novels of H. G. Wells, but has been twisted into a caricature of them.
It’s set in the year 2540 in a technologically advanced future and an idealistic utopian society.
Humans aren’t born anymore, but are genetically engineered and bred in artificial wombs. They go through childhood indoctrination before they are assigned to a specific cast. This cast is predetermined by their genetic make-up and level of intelligence.
In this society, wars and conflict are a thing of the past and everyone’s happy. Yet, intellectual pursuit has given way to complacency. There are no long-lasting relationships. Should anyone feel doubt, be unhappy or even depressed, it can all be fixed by a drug called Soma.
Our protagonist, Bernhard Marx, is a member of the Alpha cast, yet he grows more and more uncomfortable with society. The plot, however, only truly starts when he visits a savage reservation. There he meets John, a man born naturally who grew up knowing nothing about the real society.
Brave New World might be described as a utopia, but it all comes at a cost. It’s a cold, uncaring world full of numbing drugs and indoctrination. Concepts such as love, care, compassion and even families are a thing of the past.
Brave New World features a variety of themes. The most prominent, however, are the ones of genetically engineering, the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs, indoctrination, blind consumerism and the disregard of intellectual pursuit.
Another important theme is that of individual freedom and freedom of expression. We see this especially in the story of John.
Brave New World is probably one of the most disturbing dystopias, given how realistic it appears. Even nowadays, with streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify, amongst others, we can consume endlessly and give into the illusion of happiness or at least complacency.
It’s a fantastically well-written novel with interesting characters and without a doubt amongst the greatest dystopian books ever written, if not the greatest.