The Dystopian futures we can imagine are endless. The present world feeds into these stories about what makes us human in the future. No list of books is definitive but here’s a mix of classics and other gems worth checking out…
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (As long as I don’t write another essay on it.)
‘Thought Police. Big Brother. Orwellian. These words have entered our vocabulary because of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel, “1984.”
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
'A nightmarish vision of the future where the people are genetically designed to be passive, consistently useful to the ruling class in a capitalist civilization.' Long over due for a re-read.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
‘The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.’ Ray Bradbury. Enough said.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
’Alex talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to “redeem” him—the novel asks, “At what cost?” Still on my to-be-read pile. Ditto the film adaptation to watch.
Genesis by Bernard Beckett '
Anax's grueling all-day Examination has just begun, and if she passes, she’ll be admitted into the Academy—the elite governing institution of her utopian society.' I usually can predict a possible ending in the middle of a book but this one punched me in the face (figuratively, of course). One of the best dystopias I’ve read.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
‘As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.’ I’d say this book was creepy in a speculative sense and melancholic in another sense when it came to the friendships. There’s also a film adaptation starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley.
Unwind by Neil Shusterman
'In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them.' This book is similar to Never Let Me Go but the pacing is much faster and the characters are more active in their pursuit to get out.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
'Todd and his dog Manchee are on the run after discovering an area of complete silence in a world where your every thought can be heard.' Be warned ahead for the cliffhanger ending.
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
‘The great Traction City of London lumbers after a small town, eager to strip its prey of all assets and move on. Resources on the Great Hunting Ground that once was Europe are so limited that mobile cities must consume one another to survive, a practice known as Municipal Darwinism.’ It’s more post-apocalyptic Steampunk for kids than Dystopian. An adventure story at its heart.
The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
‘One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.’ A vivid world worth checking out. A post-apocalyptic note: I’ll save zombie literature for another day.
*Blurb quotes courtesy of Good Reads.