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10 Futuristic Dystopian Novels That Everyone Should Read

Updated on August 30, 2020
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She is a student of Literature. She loves to read different genres of books.

Dystopian Novels

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What is Dystopia?

There has been a lot of chatter about dystopias these days, mostly: are we living in one?. A dystopian world, by definition, is the opposite of the ideal world, Utopia. Arguably, we can all agree on the fact that dystopia does not anymore refer to a future characterized by doom and devastation. When we say “the future is now”, we invariably suggest that the dystopia we feared for our future generations, has befallen us; perhaps a little too sooner than expected. So this is the dystopia, this is the doomsday. With the regularity of living beings massacred mercilessly, the commonality of women raped, and the unsurprising censoring and silencing of art, thought, and expression, dystopia is but the very term that defines the modern world. Dystopia is an imagined state or society where there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic. Dystopian fiction is a genre of fiction that explores the social and political structures in ‘a dark nightmarish world’. These novels deal also with the effects of advances in science and technology on human society. People lose pieces of themselves, and sometimes, they don’t even know it. They lose the piece that makes them who they are, their humanity and this is all because of totalitarian social control, which is dehumanizing.

1984 By George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the most famous of dystopian novels due to its hidden message that although isn’t straight forward, has a great impact on society. In general Nineteen Eighty-Four is a great novel in which it shows the true face of American society and what is normally accepted and controlled. In this way, Orwell develops a form of fatalism in his arguments through Winston when he says that “nobody ever escaped detection, and nobody ever failed to confess. George Orwell in his last years wrote the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four in which he spoke about a dystopian society and how it would be. Orwell’s intention for writing this novel is not to show the reader how the current society can become, but to show that it is very much possible for humans to become dehumanized by these torturous means. The society depicted in “1984” can be compared to a society that is run by machines. Orwell illustrates to the audience, with the use of haunting images, that through oppression, cruelty, brainwashing, and the elimination of man’s inmost desires, it is possible that man can be made “inhuman”.

Brave New World By Aldous Huxley

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Huxley’s Brave New World is a modernist novel that reflects the characteristics of a perfect society. Everything works properly, everyone seems to be happy and stable; however, all of these characteristics are presented ironically by the author. Happiness and stability are achieved by suppressing people’s freedom, feelings, and emotions. The society in Brave New World can only survive because it has destroyed every human relationship and bond. The mother-father relationship no longer exists because all humans are born in specific laboratories. The relationship between husband and wife is no longer needed because monogamy is undesirable. Human beings cannot truly experience the emotions of love. People are dehumanized and robbed of their moral values. Nevertheless, certain features of authoritarianism and oppression can be seen throughout the novel. These elements are typical of a dystopian society, that is to say, a society in which everything is supposed to be perfect and stable but the cost of this perfection is the creation of a dehumanized and artificial world, where people lack the will and self-decision as they are controlled by the higher authorities. Related to this issue, the main purpose of this paper is to show the reader how Huxley’s Brave New World depicts the characteristics of a dystopian society.

Brave New World

Animal Farm By George Orwell

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Animal Farm, A Dystopian Society Dystopian societies involve bloodshed, espionage, and countless tragedies among the citizens of the society. Animal Farm is a political fable in the form of an allegory. The goal of creating a successful society is very difficult to accomplish due to the number of criteria a society must meet to become successful. The animal farm can be portrayed as a dystopian society due to the farm’s cunning, but evil, leader and the multiple traits of dystopian societies that can be seen on the farm. Animal Farm shows a dystopian society because under the ruling of Napoleon the animals lived in fear as well as animals included confusion of the actions of the pigs. Napoleon and the other pigs always watched the other animals on the farm to make sure that no one will be going against Napoleon's “great ruling”. A dystopian society conveys that individuals will not be accepted and because of this Napoleon made a commandment about this whole idea for everyone that lives there. Animal Farm, an allegorical novel by George Orwell, includes a dystopian society. The novel takes place on a rural farm known as, Animal Farm, which is a dystopian society alluding to Soviet Russia. Although Animal Farm is portrayed as the perfect utopia, the animals living on the farm cannot create individual thoughts because of the way they are controlled by propaganda, characterizing Animal Farm as a dystopian society due to these traits.

Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury

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The book presents a future that would be horrific for any reader — a future in which books cannot be read. The novel’s title refers to the supposed temperature at which book paper combusts. Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 describes the future of American society which is highly engaged in television, social activities, and consumerism. The story is told from the viewpoint of the main character Guy Montag, who is a fireman. However, the job of the firemen in the book is the exact opposite of the one in real life –as the homes are fireproof firemen are not the ones who extinguish the fire but are the ones who ignite the fire. They start the fire to burn the books which had been swept out of people’s life a long time ago. It is illegal to read books in this ideal state. Whenever the firemen are informed about someone who is keeping one or many books, they go and burn the books, sometimes including the house. Books are excluded from society as they are believed to contain adverse ideas. Therefore, Beatty – the chief of the firemen – calls the book traitors since “they turn you on when you think they’re backing you". The society deprived of books is the one that can easily be kept under the control of the rulers with the help of some important tools imposed on society.

Fahrenheit 451

The Handmaid's Tale (1985) By Margaret Atwood

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The Dystopia in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Offred is a Handmaid in what used to be the United States, now the theocratic Republic of Gilead. The Handmaid´s Tale is a popular dystopian novel by the author Margaret Atwood. Atwood tells a story about a not too distant future. The Handmaid´s Tale visits a large range of issues relating to power, gender, religious politics, pollution, and fertility issues. In Gilead, women´s bodies are politicized and restrained. In The Handmaid´s Tale, there is a strict dress code similar to some countries where religions force women to cover themselves up so they do not “provoke” men. The novel was written in 1985 and is set soon. Women no longer have any privileges; they cannot work, have their bank accounts, or own anything. They also are not allowed to read or even chose who they want to marry. Women are taught that they should be subservient to men and should only be concerned with bearing children. Margaret Atwood writes The Handmaid's Tale (1986) to create a dystopia. Atwood’s novel is relevant to contemporary society. There are similarities between Atwood’s novel and our society today, which leads to the possibility that our modern society might be headed to a less intense version of this dystopian society. In the novel, Atwood writes how Offred the main character transitions from her life before to a Handmaid. These rules for the women are the same if not similar in Afghanistan, India, and some South Asian countries. The Handmaids Tale was written in 1985 and is a very popular novel today. Margaret Atwood envisioned how the world would be now and it is very similar to what she had in mind. She imagined that the world know would be full of pollution, toxic chemicals, radiation, and other environmental issues that would be caused mostly because of war. In the novel, we see slut-shaming and victim-blaming which is too real in this world know. She wrote about fertility issues which are not quite as extreme as she might have thought but that might just be where we are heading. Then there is the clear way the government and the people in charge use methods to scare people in behaving and following the rules. The Handmaid´s Tale is a very popular novel today and that is because of how relevant it is now. Atwood seemed to have written the novel as a warning about a possible future and she intended her novel to reflect a harsh reality.

The Handmaid's Tale

The Time Machine By H.G Wells

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Time Machine by H.G. Wells is a famous science fiction novel that discusses a dystopian future and adventures in time. It also focuses on various social and economic factors that are interpreted in a fictional context. The Time Machine, a classic science fiction novel with dystopian undertones running through an exciting time-traveling adventure. The story follows a Victorian scientist, who claims that he has invented a device that enables him to travel through time, and has visited the future, arriving in the year 802,701 in what had once been London. There, he finds the future race, or, more accurately, races, because the human species has “evolved” into two distinct forms. “Degeneration” is the evolution in reverse, Where Morris depicts a pastoral, socialist utopia, Wells represents a world in which the human struggle is doomed to failure. The Time Machine reflected Wells’ socialist views. The story follows a Victorian England scientist who builds a time machine and witnesses the pitfalls of a capitalist society. Two classes of humanity that coexist through a cannibalistic relationship. It appears to be a utopia but is an unbalanced world from many different angles. Perhaps a lot like ours!?. Social degeneration, a decline in biological but also cultural and moral-ethical change. The Time Traveller affiliates himself with the Eloi, as did H.G. Wells who was part of the rich upper class of England. Perhaps his description of the Morlocks is exactly what the upper class thought of the working classes. This since the Time Machine is a treatise describing the clash of classes. Perhaps H.G. Wells purposely challenges the issue of ‘beauty’ since his treatise also describes be it more clandestine, strengths. The poor people or the lower working class will always be present in the world and so does the rich upper class. But guess what, both cannot live without the other. If both classes would appreciate each other’s strengths and substitute each other’s’ weaknesses there is no need for the lower class to be revengeful at the rich since they are equally appreciated as well and not perceived to be the ‘ugly’.

The Time Machine

Children Of Man By P. D James

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The story follows a Victorian England scientist who builds a time machine and witnesses the pitfalls of a capitalist society. It is a dystopia, a vision of a troubled future. It recommends that current society change its ways lest it ends up like the Eloi, terrified of an underground race of Morlocks. In the Eloi, Wells satirizes Victorian decadence. In the Morlocks, Wells provides a potentially Marxist critique of capitalism. The society of the Eloi seems like a paradise, an era of world peace. On the face of it a utopia but it is not because there is a dark side to this society. That dark side reality turns the utopia into a dystopian civilization. In this bleak image of the year 2027, a global infertility epidemic means that no babies have been born for 18 years, which has thrown the world into emotional and economic chaos. While infertility and immigration issues are never explicitly connected in the film, it follows that in times of economic downturn, people from less prosperous countries flee to more stable ones. The global political climate has changed in ways that are shocking for many people, and the increasing threat of violence and poverty has made many people more openly nationalistic and racist. But shifting political climates give us a chance to reassess what is important, and movies like Children of Men are important for that reason. It can help us in that reassessment by showing us the dangers of putting ideologies above life before it’s too late. This, too, is where Cuaron’s tale differs from others in the same genre and gives his film something more substantial than other apocalyptic movies. In the film, there are no great events such as zombies, nuclear war, global warming, or other familiar apocalyptic categories — instead, it is the loss of hope that brings the world to its knees. Set soon, in the year 2027, when all women on Earth have become infertile for the reason that science is at loss to explain and no child has been born for 18 years. The world is in chaos and without hope, especially after the death of the youngest living person Baby Diego, at age eighteen. East European and African societies collapse and their populations migrate to England and other wealthy countries. An oppressive dictatorship has been established by England to keep immigrants from crossing its borders, the government controls the population and there is a strong underground network of activists trying to make things better.

The Children of Men

The Road By Cormac McCarthy

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The novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy revolves around a boy and his father seeking to survive in a ruined, post-apocalyptic world after the cataclysm. In the novel, the world is divided into two opposing groups who are struggling for survival during the distrustful environment. The novel and the film The Road both use the same themes, but they portray them very differently. The most important of those themes are loneliness, the novel shows more aspect of this since it goes into greater detail than the film. It is this way because the film condenses the time in the book. The novel, thus, voices the discontent of the postmodern world. To sum up, it can be said that The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a post-modern dystopian text, postmodern because of the ambiguity and how it celebrates multiplicity and differences and dystopian in its tone and portrayal of characters and in its warning of what may happen if human beings lose civilization and cultural ethos. This is not the case in The Road the father and son are left alone to wander and fight to survive only having each other for company. As the theme of loneliness, the novel was much more detailed in making seem alone, but the film shortens the time to fit as much as it can from the novel. This shows that the father and son wouldn’t like to be separated, but to just together and that if they were to be alone then there greatest fear would have come true. This also shows the fear of humanity as well because social anxiety is the fear of something not like a fear of bees, or disease, but a fear that will affect the psychological aspect of the human body. This fear affects your mind and the fear of being isolated is the greatest fear that every human being shares. The father and son comfort each other and keep each other from having that fear come true.

The Road

A Clockwork Orange By Anthony Burgess

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Anthony Burgess’ 1963 novel, A Clockwork Orange, is a nightmarish vision of future Britain, one in which behavioral modification is taken to dangerous extremes in the quest for preserving the order of a disconnected society. Along with its anti-utopian trait, the novel presents two dystopias. Thus the novel serves as awful warnings of both rampant violent youth culture and repressive and oppressive systems and tactics of states and governments, the outcome of which is man’s deprivation of free will as can be seen in the case of Alex, the main character in the novel. In the novel, there is a portrayal of a government that seeks solutions to social problems by removing freedom of choice. It dreams of a life without violence. The government applies a treatment called the “Ludovico’s Technique”, which is a drug-assisted ‘aversion therapy’ and is a fictional representation of behaviorism. What Burgess is doing with both dystopian, utopian, and anti-utopian elements is of great significance. A Clockwork Orange, like so many dystopias, functions both as a warning and a call. We are warned against ultra-violence and the dehumanization of man; it is a call for man to rehabilitate himself to prevent their coming true. The government’s utopian desire to eliminate violence turns into a kind of suppression because the government’s tool is violence. Burgess implies that a human being cannot be completely good or completely bad, which is inhuman. What is humane and virtuous is man’s distinguishing between the good and the bad, and the operation of his moral choice to prefer the good or the bad. The human being is inherently good and is endowed with the free will that can be engendered if a man is not dehumanized by the other forces; and he would not become a clockwork orange insofar as he is permitted to conserve his moral compass.

The Stand By Stephen King

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The plot of The Stand revolves around the spread of a deadly plague that wipes out 99 percent of the world’s population. In this apocalyptic view of the future, Stephen King has written a riveting thriller that keeps the reader guessing. The novel was first published in 1978. Stephen King’s caliber as an ace storyteller makes this novel stand out. King wrote the novel in 1978, but he revised and republished it in 1990 as a complete and uncut edition. In addition to being considered one of his most brilliant works, the 1990 reprint – which is the one I read – is King’s longest work to date, surpassing his 1,138-page novel It. The plot centers on a viral pandemic that ravages the world’s population. Sound familiar? In contrast to COVID-19, however, the virus in The Stand is an extremely contagious and lethal strain of influenza that was developed as a biological weapon in a secret U.S. Department of Defense laboratory. Nonetheless, the resemblance between the book and life amid the coronavirus is rife. Knowing that I would get the same kick out of reading this fantasy-turned-somewhat-reality, she sent a copy to my house. And it was a kick I got. Comparing and contrasting stories of the effects of the virus, how it was contracted and spread, and how the public reacted to it made this a read that was equally spooky and entertaining for me. This is an epic story of good and evil, set in the backdrop of a plague-ridden US.

The Stand

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