dystopian novels

I saw this nice article in Prologue (the Popular magazine – as in the stationery brand, not the adjective) regarding the rise of dystopian novels – stories dealing with themes of ideal society gone wrong. I googled the definition of dystopia and this is what I got:


An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.
Or, as Sam J. Lundwall puts it quite aptly:
A dystopia is a utopia forced upon you by a madman.
Or madmen, more often than not.
(The magazine mixed up the order of the quote! They put ‘a utopia is a dystopia forced upon you by a madman, which doesn’t make sense! Anyway…)
Dystopian novels are usually set in a desperate, sometimes apocalyptic environment. It is this desperation and the reactions sparked from characters that draw me in as a reader, as I can’t help but imagine myself in their situation. Anyway, the article gave quite a nice list (though not at all exhaustive) of some key dystopian novels, and I’d like to share them – and also remind myself to read those I haven’t had a chance to.
  1. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – I actually read the first few pages of this; there’s a copy lying somewhere in the house (the picture shows the edition I have – creepy face, eh?). But I just couldn’t continue, somehow. I’ll try again! Interestingly, Singapore is mentioned in the first few pages as an advanced competitor nation (can’t remember in what context; cloning?)
  2. 1984 by George Orwell – I’ve heard so many good things about this novel, but always didn’t make the effort to find this book. I should do so. George Orwell also wrote Animal Farm, a common choice for lower secondary Literature classes.
  3. The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Never heard of this but the premise sounds interesting – A father and son travel a road armed only with a gun with a single bullet, while cannibals and murderers run rampant in an environment ravaged  by some disaster. Pulitzer Prize winner, too! And apparently this is adapted into a movie, as well. Interesting..
  4. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells –  I think Wells wrote War of the Worlds, if I’m not mistaken. That was an interesting movie. I think I read that book too, but I can’t remember.
  5. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding – Another Literature Class choice pick for schools, this novel is about how a group of stranded schoolboys form a primitive society which eventually unravels. Good read, but it made me depressed.
  6. Delirium by Lauren Oliver – Just for the title, I’d read this book. Delirium is also the name of one of the Endless by Neil Gaiman; by far my favourite of them, followed closely by Death. Dream is far too morose. Anyway, this novel is set in a world where love is perceived as a disease to be innoculated from at age 18.
  7. The Giver by Lois Lowry – Again, haven’t heard of this one. It talks about a society where no one can feel emotion except the Giver, tasked with the pursuit of knowledge. A child is chosen to inherit the role of Giver, and he begins to see the cracks in the seemingly ideal society. Sounds interesting! It’s a trilogy, too, so more content to satisfy.
  8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I read this trilogy the most recently, and I absolutely loved the series! The premise is a post-war America divided into districts, each fiercely controlled by the Capitol. The districts provide industrial tributes to the Capitol, and are forced to participate in a yearly Hunger Games, where each district sends a pair of youths to battle to the death. It’s meant as a form of social control to remind the districts of who’s in charge. I first imagined the series as Battle Royale in novel format, but this was so much more than just focused on the arena – it’s more about human relationships and how warped the environment has made them. For instance, how the chosen protagonist is emotionally distant so that she can spare herself the pain of separation. Go read it! I strongly suggest you read the novel before the movies come out. Because invariably, the movie will not do justice to the novel (a novel is just simply able to contain more content than a short movie, so stuff needs to be chopped).
  9. As an aside, I wonder if In Time, the movie, is based on any novel. That would be an interesting novel to read! Oh, also, Minority Report! Were these based on novels, or just solely movies?

I should do a list of apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic novels! Think nuclear fallout or mass pandemics – those novels are gripping as well. And a vampire list! Hahahahhaa ok that might be a bit weird.



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