The Future Is Terrifying: Some Other Dystopian Reads

The title says it all, really. It was not a surprise to me to get a request for some dystopia recommendations, considering the current climate. 1984, Brave New World, and The Handmaid’s Tale have recently been headline books once again as people turn to fiction not for comfort, but for information and for inspiration on resistance and seeing what is going on in the world. Those three are certainly the big names, but there is plenty more dystopian fiction out there to check out.

  • The Transition by Luke Kennard – A young couple seemingly failing to make their way in the world land in trouble and their way out is a new scheme that promises to help them grow up and find their feet in the adult world. Only out last month, this is a modern dystopia about a generation unable to find its feet, with hints of Black Mirror thrown in. See my longer review here.
  • The MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood – Comprising of Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam, Atwood’s far more recent dystopian writings (the final book only came out a few years ago) have a much more complex narrative than The Handmaid’s Tale, comprising of a weird, almost post-apocalyptic world. Much of the story is told in flashbacks, looking into biological experimentation, class divides, and the commodification of sex. For those who prefer a less tradition approach to the dystopian genre (and in my opinion more engaging than her more famous one).
  • Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov & We by Yevgeny Zamyatin – For an alternative novel about a totalitarian state – or one for people who’ve done all the big names before – then either Nabokov’s Bend Sinister or Zamyatin’s We are good options, novels that both use different elements of experience with Russian oppression to form their plots and ideas. We in particular is chilling, not even published in Russian until 1988 due to Soviet censorship and forming inspiration for 1984.
  • High-Rise by J. G. Ballard – Another slightly different take on the concept, High-Rise is like Lord of the Flies for the rich consumer age, a tale of enforced building hierarchy and breaking free of respectability. A recent film adaptation starring Tom Hiddleston reminded people of the novel, which offers a kind of social dystopia that would make anyone nervous of those flats you can rent with everything you might need on site.
  • The Last Man by Mary Shelley – For my final pick, I’ve gone for a slightly more escapist option as a reminder of how dystopian fiction can date in some ways and still be both touching and sad in others. The story of a plague hitting mankind, with sweet political optimism and less sweet terrifying isolation. Maybe her heavily Romantic writing style isn’t for everyone, but her descriptions of grief are heartbreaking.