Dystopian fiction is known and meant to provoke the wildest imaginations of the readers. Over the years, this genre has witnessed an increasing trend, which does not seem to slow down. These books feature a splendid plot, altered rules, and a protagonist, who saves the day at the end of the day. Dystopian fiction books like “The Hunger Games” have inspired others to follow and today, we have plenty of classics that are worth a read. Let’s discuss.
Factors to Consider When Buying the Perfect Dystopian Book
Quickly Establish the Reality
As mentioned earlier, dystopian fiction does not limit the author’s and reader’s imagination. Since events always take place in the future, they can come up with any type of technological or cultural shift. This allows the artist more freedom and flexibility, unlike other genres.
If you have ever come across some of the best dystopian fiction books out there, you will observe one factor that is common amongst all, no boundaries or constraints to what the readers choose to imagine or envision. However, at the same time, it can become confusing for the readers.
Therefore, the author has to quickly lay the groundwork for the “universe”, where the entire story takes place. As soon as the rules and parameters are set, the reader is bound to continue reading.
Lays Out the “False Utopia”
Essentially, dystopia can be thought of as a “false utopia”, since the society presented in the book seems perfect but is thoroughly corrupt. Then again, it can become slightly confusing for relatively new dystopian fans.
Infact, some of the best dystopian science fiction books have failed in the past simply because the author took too long to lay out the false utopia. Readers are more interested in finding out why the seemingly perfect society turned sour. What were the problems that forced the members to take the corrupt route.
With that said, well-written and balanced dystopian fiction books begin by a protagonist blindly accepting the world around them and then later questioning the nature of the society. As a result, the reader adapts to the environment as well as to the unfolding of the protagonist’s character.
The event can turn a regular dystopian book into a classic. In every dystopian fiction book, there is an event that justified the altering and misuse of society’s rules and practices. This, as a result, leads to an uprise against the government.
These events can range from the population explosion to nuclear war to a worldwide pandemic. The aim of the event is to justify the actions taken by the affected as a result, similar to a “desperate times, desperate measures” scenario. Soon, the reader realizes that actions attract similar reactions, and killing or bombing someone was the best option by the protagonist.
Ultimately, the story turns into a real thing for the reader as the dictators only rise in times of great turmoil or panic. Meanwhile, the protagonist breaks all the rules and sets out to make things right, without having to worry about who gets torn in between.
Apart from the event that mostly describes the entire story, the totalitarian also plays a huge role in good dystopian fiction books to explain how a society came about. There has to be a driving force and that necessarily does not need to be a single individual, although most dystopian books feature a dictator or totalitarian of some kind.
Popular dystopian fiction books keep the organization’s or individual’s actual face hidden while everything else appears utopian, revealing the true identity as the protagonist discovers the true nature of the society he/she is living in.
The resistance determines the intensity of the story. If the protagonist is planning to go all out against the dictator or government, the reader is most likely to keep reading. However, it is important that the actions of the protagonist are realistic. For instance, if the protagonist is slightly annoyed, the actions should not relate to killing or bombing the entire universe.
A reader having spent days if not weeks does not expect a weak ending or result. In the end, it all comes down to the results of the protagonist’s actions. Keep in mind that not every dystopian fiction book has a happy ending. Infact, some of the most popular dystopian fictions books out there have had their protagonists killed in the end, while the results followed later.
At the same time, it is unrealistic to believe that a nation or state will change over the course of a single novel. As a result, some authors will leave the state of things as “status quo” to send the readers a message.
Our Top Picks
Here is a quick look at our top picks.
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell was published in 1949 but predictably set in 1984. The novel is based on three continental-size nations, atleast one of which is overseen by a watchful and ubiquitous government. The protagonist of the novel is basically a censorship worker who soon finds himself questioning the totalitarian system.
The totalitarian system according to the protagonist obliterates the emotions as well as the thoughts of the people and he begins a search for individuals who might be in the same boat. Perhaps the best characteristic of the novel is that the author did splendid work in bringing it as close to reality as possible.
For instance, Orwell took some inspiration from the days of the Cold War and came up with slogans like “War is Peace”. Overall, the story is something that ensures the novel stands the test of time.
- Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels
- Compelling story
- Realistic scenario
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is based on a world that most of the readers would find nightmarish. It is about a guy named Guy Montag, who happens to be a fireman, becoming disillusioned at his job. Soon, he finds himself setting books on fire rather than putting them out.
At the same time, the society’s short span of attention and the authoritarian state prevents people from thinking too much in detail. On the other hand, the government does not expect Montag opening his mind to the mysteries of the written word and begins a quest to salvage these books as well as the minds of those surrounding him. It is inspired by the 1940s Red Scare, which saw the Americans gripping an anti-communist sentiment.
- Based on the 1940s Red Scare
- Internationally acclaimed
- A dystopian classic
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is based on the near future. The story revolves around America being taken over by a religious sect, which pushes the order of the country several centuries back. As a result, the women are subordinated and domesticized to men, despite the environmental degradation and its impact on the fertility of men.
While the country hangs in the middle, there comes a young woman named Offred who is forced to bear children for the ruling-class men. Atwood’s world as compared to others in well-known dystopian novels tends to be different.
Apart from the splendid story, the alternating storylines and unconventional style is what makes this a masterpiece. It is a must-read for dystopian fans.
- New York Times Bestseller
- Unique story
- A dystopian masterpiece
Unlike the dystopian stories we have covered so far, The Road takes us on a journey that involves a universe being shattered by an unnamed catastrophe. Mad scrambles replace ordinary lives for food and supplies for those who survive. In this bleak situation, a father along with his son travel southwards in hopes to reconnect with the good guys.
This book puts your mental skills and morals to the test as the setting comes alive infront of the reader’s eyes. However, this book has an important lesson as well. It teaches us to examine ourselves and look for compassion in a world that is increasingly becoming individualistic and competitive.
- National bestseller
- Pulitzer Prize winner
- Excruciating but beautifully written
This dystopian classic by Aldous Huxley is based on a World State government in the year 2540 AD, which controls the population not by telling them what to think rather numbing them with happiness. The citizens are environmentally engineered to form an intelligence-based social hierarchy, which is mostly due to huge scientific advancements.
The dystopian society forms as a result of sleep-learning, reproductive technology, classical conditioning, and psychological manipulation. However, society is questioned by a protagonist who perceives it as unfair.
With citizens being satisfied by the technology around every corner, the protagonist was received as a savage. It teaches us a terrifying lesson that could come true in the near future.
- Termed “a masterpiece” by Wall Street Journal
- A unique approach to dystopian storytelling
- Critically acclaimed
Blindness by Jose Saramago is set in the 1990s when the societal order of a city is threatened by a curious contagion infecting its population. As the society turns into shambles, food becomes scarce and criminals exploit the chaos, the military takes over, sets up surveillance and quarantines to maintain order.
Even though the story keeps the reader gripped but it should be kept in mind that it is a direct reflection of the violence and heartlessness that exists in our society today. The author terms the contagion “white blindness” and calls for showing compassion and solidarity in dire times.
- International bestseller
- A dystopian classic with an important lesson
- Exposes the harsh reality of the society
Here is a quick comparison table for you to pick the perfect dystopian fiction book.
|Nineteen Eighty-Four By George Orwell||Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury||The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood||The Road by Cormac McCarthy||Brave New World by Aldous Huxley|
|Author||George Orwell||Ray Bradbury||Margaret Atwood||Cormac McCarthy||Aldous Huxley|
|Main Idea||Based on a censorship worker questioning the totalitarian system||Based on a disillusioned fireman||Based on America being ruled by a religious sect||Based on a universe that experiences an unnamed catastrophe||A technologically advanced society questioned by a protagonist for its unfair humanitarian standards|
|Blindness by Jose Saramago|
|Main Idea||An important lesson on compassion and solidarity|
In the end, when it comes to personal freedom and individual value, there is hardly any genre that outmatches dystopian fiction. On the other hand, these books also teach the readers to understand the situations around them and act accordingly, instead of accepting everything blindly. A compelling dystopian fiction book will sometimes raise real questions about the nature of society, government, and humanity.
We woul suggest reading Nineteen Eighty-Four By George Orwell, which remains a masterpiece, written 70 years ago. Its extraordinary storytelling style and extremely realistic prophecy is bound to keep the reader gripped.