Forget about zombies and vampires. We all have greater concerns for the health and well-being of our families, our country, and our world. Although dystopic fiction has been around a long time, there has been a recent surge in book sales, particularly within the young adult genre. Now more than ever, these novels replete with stark landscapes, totalitarian regimes, plagues, vast stone walls, etc. are becoming the go-to reads for adults as well. Perhaps we are drawn to these novels in an effort to tell ourselves that these scenarios can’t really happen. Or maybe we seek them out in an effort to prepare ourselves for what really could.
There was a lot of talk during election season about George Orwell’s pivotal novel, “1984.” While this is definitely a title on any dystopic reading list, the author’s 1945 novel, “Animal Farm” should be there as well. Farm animals conspiring against the oppression of the humans, seek to rid themselves of their farmer. Once they do this, however, dissention in the ranks occurs which divides the animals. The pigs rise up, literally and figuratively, becoming more human-like and oppressive of the other animals. The pivotal statement to remember, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Now THAT is something to ponder.
You have probably seen a lot of comparisons between the current state of our healthcare system, and its disregard for women’s health issues and Margaret Atwood’s pivotal 1985 novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Set in a futuristic society where women are stripped of all their rights and forced to serve the elite members of their now Christian fundamentalist leaders. Wow.
Nevil Shute’s, “On the Beach,” is the harsh tale of our decimated world following a nuclear war. There are a few survivors hanging on by a thread in Australia. While the setting is stark, and there are literally toxic clouds overhead, this “end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it” novel demonstrates the remarkable resilience of humans.
The YA genre has many dystopic novels to choose from, but if you haven’t checked out Lauren Oliver’s “Delirium” series, you have missed out. In this series, love is a disease and the government has the cure—a procedure which makes life safe and without emotion. Is less emotionality the answer? That’s another discussion indeed.