A dark form of escapism comes with reading a dystopian novel, usually in the form of ‘well at least things aren’t THIS bad’.
We narrowed down our favourite five, in no particular order.
Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
The post-apocalyptic nation of Panem is divided into 12 districts, each year one girl and one boy aged between 12-18 is randomly selected to compete in the Hunger Games. The games are a battle to the death, televised across the nation by The Capitol, who control the rest of the nation.
The book has themes of severe poverty, oppression and survival of the people living in the poor districts surrounding the wealthy Capitol.
The story is driven by 16-year-old Katniss, who volunteers as tribute to compete in the Hunger Games so her younger sister doesn’t have to. She gives hope to the nation and the reader in this brutal dystopian novel.
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
Set in a world of war, government surveillance and public manipulation, where the public are banned from free-thinking. Winston Smith, the protagonist of this thought-provoking dystopian novel, begins a diary to express his thoughts, despite fears of being caught by Big Brother.
The novel was written in 1949, so is a futuristic novel of its time, with objects like telescreens, a TV that can see those who are watching it. It has strong themes of censorship and nationalism, which are relevant today in our society of increasing surveillance.
Children of Men – P. D. James
In a world of mass infertility, Children of Men is set in a depopulating England in 2021. When the main character Theo find a pregnant woman, he tries as hard he can to protect her, without the Council of England finding her first.
With the narrative voice switching between third and first person, the novel gives a clear and detailed observation of the state of the decreasing population of the world from both personal and outsider views.
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Beautifully and cleverly written with the dystopian theme is only revealed a few chapters into the novel. However, the story starts when Kathy is carer, nearing the end of her life. The main characters Kathy, Ruth and Tommy all attended a boarding school and unknown to them, they are clones. The purpose of these clones is to provide organs to people when they are old enough and gradually donate each organ until they die.
The novel is dark and saddening, with the important theme of the meaning of life and making the most of one’s time.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Phillip K. Dick
In a post-apocalyptic world where mostly all animals are now extinct due to radiation poisoning, the story follows a bounty hunter Rick Deckard. Owning an animal in this world is seen as a great sign of empathy and high status. Rick is on a mission to ‘retire’ a group of six androids who went rogue. These androids are identical to humans so Rick has to use empathy tests to check if they are human or not, as the androids do not feel empathy.
The novel asks what is means to be human and questions the meaning of empathy.
What are your favourite dystopian novels? Comment below.