Dystopian Novels: Suggestions and Common Themes

Suggested Dystopian books

YA Suggestions

  • “The Giver” by Lois Lowry
  • “The Hunger Games” Series by Suzanne Collins
  • “Divergent” Series by Veronica Roth
  • “Uglies” series by Scott Westerfeld
  • “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline
  • “The Lunar Chronicles” series by Marissa Meyer
  • “Life As We Knew It” series by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • “The House of the Scorpion” by Nancy Farmer
  • “Z for Zachariah” by Robert C. O’Brien
  • “Mortal Engines” series by Philip Reeve
  • “Feed” by Matthew Tobin
  • “A Wrinkle In Time” by Meg Murray
  • “The Maze Runner” series by James Dashner
  • “The City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau
  • “The Dog Stars” by Peter Heller

Fiction Suggestions

  • “Handmaid’s Tale” series by Margaret Atwood
  • “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess
  • “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel
  • “The Stand” by Stephen King
  • “World War of Z” by Max Brooks

Graphic novels Suggestions

  • “The Walking Dead” novels and graphic novels by Robert Kirkman
  • “Y: The Last Man” by  Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra 
  • “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore
  • “Watchmen” by Alan Moore
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
  • “Paper Girls” by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Cliff Chiang

Classics

  • “1984” by George Orwell
  • “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
  • “Animal Farm” by George Orwell
  • “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
  • “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
  • “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson
  • “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand
  • “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
  • “War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells
  • “The Postman” by David Brin
  • “Dune” by Frank Herbert
  • “Herland” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
  • “The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury
  • “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

Dystopia in the dictionary means “an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.” Dystopias is a subgenre of Science fiction. A lot of science fictions authors (such as Ray Bradbury) have written very successful dystopian societies. Sometimes science fiction can mix with this genre including elements of time travel, technology, space, etc.

There are so many types of dystopian novels. Some of the major themes could include:

  • Environmental disasters
    • Cli-fi (climate science fiction)
    • Disease
    • Nuclear disaster
    • Post-apocalyptic event (moon too close to earth, wide-spread water shortages or too much water, etc.)
  • Government control
    • Typically with divisions within society including class, intelligent, abilities, etc.
    • Family structures may not exist
    • Oppression
    • Dictatorships
    • Rebellions or revolutions
    • War
    • Overpopulation
  • Technology Control
    • Robots
    • “Big brother”
  • Elements of Survival
  • Religious control
  • Loss of individualism

The main characters usually see what is wrong with the dystopian society and try to fix/change it or just try to survive.

Imagery plays a large role in novels that depict a society like the ones mentioned above. Typically the stories are dark. They are usually set in the future but sometimes deal with themes in today’s news stories and/or the past. Take for instance the new book “Internment” by Samira Ahmed. Goodreads states that the book is “Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.” This story is ripped from today’s news about Muslim Americans. Then has elements of the past with the Japanese Internment Camps in World War II. But then shows a dystopian society in the future with what could happen if today’s society does not fix the issues today. It has a girl who rebels against the camp and tries to start a revolution.

Another example of a new book that I read is “Vox” by Christina Dalcher. Goodreads says this book is about a story “Set in an America where half the population has been silenced. On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed to speak more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can’t happen here. Not in America.” This story can show elements of today’s stories with the #metoo movement. It shows elements of the past where woman did not have a voice and/or could not vote or have a bank account. Then elements of the future society where women do not have a voice anymore but with modern futurist technology added to the story.

***Both of these books are recommended to read. You can read my reviews of both on my Goodreads account listed in my Welcome post.

I highly recommend most of the novels mentioned in the suggested novels above. Most of them can be categorized as classics or fiction novels. Of course, I could not mention all dystopias, so if I missed one of your favorites, add them to the comments to this blog entry! Happy reading, ya’ll!

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