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List of Award-Winning Dystopian Novels

Updated on March 25, 2020
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Prachi is a voracious reader and a bibliophile. She has her own library with a collection of more than thousands of books of different genre

Dystopian Fiction is a type of fictional genre that relates to extremely horrible and unwanted society. The situations in the society are irreversible and headed to dystopia.

Dystopian Fiction is sometimes called as apocalyptic literature.

It is also used as a metaphor while describing the particular directions a person can take.

Some examples of a dystopian society are mass poverty, oppression, public mistrust, suspicion and so on.

It is often used for political warnings and is the concluded elements of contemporary society.

A dystopian character is described as someone who lacks justice, happiness, and freedom.

Dystopian fiction is a well famous science fiction genre having innumerable novels and movies categorized under it. Many are well-received by the audience and some were severely criticized. Forgetting about the latter, here is the list of award-winning dystopian novels that you must read if you are a dystopian fanatic.

1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

If you don’t show your ignorance, no one hits you and you never learn.

— Fahrenheit 451

Award(s) won: American Academy of Arts and Letters award, Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal, Prometheus “Hall of Fame” Award, “Retro” Hugo Award

  • The novel describes a future American society where there’s no home for literary and cultural writings.
  • The title of the novel depicts the temperature at which paper catches fire and then, burns.
  • The protagonist is Guy Montag, who is a fireman and is on the mission to destroy knowledge and censor literature.
  • Later, he quits his job and commits himself to the preservation of writings.
  • The story truly depicts the nature of mankind when there’s no book left to educate and enlighten them with real knowledge, they become a senseless animal and lose their identity.
  • It is important to burn on the mirrors and take a deep look to know what they’ve become and what they, actually, should be.

Film Adaptation of Fahrenheit 451

2. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

It is easy to destroy what we’ve written, but we can’t unwrite it in any possible manner.

— A Clockwork Orange

Award(s) won: Prometheus “Hall of Fame” Award

  • The story is about extreme violence deep-rooted in the youths.
  • The main protagonist is Alex who is highly indulged in violent exploitation and state authorities are on a mission to reform him and other youths.
  • Besides ultra-violent behavior, Alex is intelligent and has a good taste for classical music and admires Ludvig Van Beethoven.
  • During nights, Alex, along with his gang members, assaults a scholar, beats up a beggar and robs a store creating mayhem in the countryside.
  • Later in the story 15-year-old, Alex is sentenced to 14 years in prison for murdering an elderly woman.
  • Burgess invented the title after hearing the phrase “as queer as a clockwork orange” in an East London pub.

Film Adaptation of A Clockwork Orange

3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

You can think clearly only with your clothes on.

— The Handmaid’s Tale

Award(s) won: Governor General’s Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award

  • The setting is in an oppressive state that exists in New England, where there’s a huge possibility of throwing US government out of the power.
  • The story revolves around a handmaid named Offred. Handmaids are prohibited from using their birth names and must echo the ones whom they serve.
  • The novel explores the women’s submission in a patriarchal society and their endeavor to achieve independence and a sense of individualism.
  • Offred explains the now and then events that lead to the falling of women’s rights and their current situation in the male-dominated world.
  • Characters are distinguished through complex dress codes that signify their sex, caste, and occupation.
  • According to the novel, even if a man is incapable of fathering a child, it is the woman whom to be blamed for infertility.

Film Adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I am not about being beautiful or pretty. I am about being as radiant as the shining sun.

— The Hunger Games

Award(s) won: California Young Reader Medal, Golden Duck Award

  • The Hunger Games is about a televised battle, in which participants (tributes) have to literally kill each other to become a winner.
  • There is a high-advanced metropolis named The Capitol controlling the whole nation surrounded by 12 districts.
  • The protagonist is a 16-year-old girl Katniss Everdeen living in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem in North America.
  • Collins took the inspiration for the novel while watching a reality show and the footage of the invasion of Iraq on television.
  • The story revolves around an annual contest named as The Hunger Games in which a boy and a girl of age between 12 and 18 are selected from each district.

Film Adaptation of The Hunger Games

5. Divergent by Veronica Roth

It’s not about being fearless because it’s impossible. It’s rather about learning how to have control of your fears to become free from it.

— Divergent

Award(s) won: Goodreads Readers Choice Award, Young Reader’s Choice Award

  • The novel describes a post-apocalyptic version of the city, Chicago and the main protagonist is Beatrice who is in love with her instructor nicknamed Four.
  • The survivors of he post-apocalyptic society are divide into five factions: Abnegation(selfless), Amity(peaceful), Candour(honest), Dauntless(brave) and Erudite(intelligent).
  • Beatrice along with other 16 years old have to choose the faction on Choosing ceremony else they become faction-less.
  • She fails to stay in Abnegation family and decides to join Dauntless where she meets Four and several rivals, who are in a competition to stay in the faction.
  • Lacking in physical strength, Beatrice still manages to stay in the faction finishing in top ten. Later in the story, it is told that her mother was also Dauntless.

Film Adaptation of Divergent

6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Cruelty doesn’t lead to dishonesty the same way bravery doesn’t lead to kindness.

— Insurgent

Award(s) won: Goodreads Choice Award

  • Insurgent is Roth’s second novel in Divergent trilogy carrying forward the story of Beatrice.
  • There’s a war that has emerged out of conflicts between factions. Beatrice has to rescue people she loves while facing questions on loyalty, grief, love, and politics.
  • Those people whose attitude matches with more than one faction are termed as Divergent and are killed because they are considered to be a threat to the society.
  • The major theme is romance, bravery, friendship, search for self-identity and courage.
  • The climax isn’t surprising, yet it holds the readers until the very end. The words are surely grasping making the novel worthy of winning an award.

Film Adaptation of Insurgent

7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

It’s not death we wish to ignore, but it’s the life we wish to live

— Atlas Shrugged

Award(s) won: Hall of Fame Award

  • Atlas Shrugged is just not about science fiction, but also include elements of mystery and romance.
  • The setting is in a dystopian America, where businesses are extensively suffering under the burden of laws and regulations.
  • The book is more based on a philosophical theme, where a man’s mind played a crucial role in dealing with the dystopian environment of the corporate world.
  • The protagonist is Dagny Taggart, a railroad executive and her lover Hank Rearden, who is steel magnate. They both are struggling to keep their businesses alive amid the endless economic depression.
  • There’s an overused cryptic phrase “Who is John Galt?”, used indirectly to convey “Don’t ask questions for which we’ve no answers”.

Film Adaptation of Atlas Shrugged

8. Feed by M.T. Anderson

The natural world is adaptable to an extent, that you actually forget what’s natural.

— Feed

Award won: Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Golden Duck Award

  • Based on cyberpunk sub-genre, the novel explores the issues related to information technology, data processing, corporate power, and environmental decay.
  • The setting is modernistic American culture where the popularity of internet-working brain implants is enormous and the society is dominated by marketing and corporate exploitation.
  • The name “feed” is a device that connects with the brains of American citizens through an advanced computer network called feed-net.
  • It allows them to have a telepathic communication and mentally access entertainment programs, music, and different sites.
  • The world is ecologically flattened. There are no natural clouds, as they are replaced by trademarked clouds. It, now, thrives more on artificial intelligence and technology, even the children can be custom-designed.

9. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

You meet yourself if you travel far enough.

— Cloud Atlas

Award(s) won: British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award, Richard & Jury “Book of the Year” Award

  • The title of the novel refers to the changing situations (“cloud”) over the stubborn human nature (“atlas”).
  • The book consists of six different stories interrelated to each other.
  • The story revolves around a lawyer, bisexual musician, journalist, press publisher, a waitress, and an old man. Later, it is traced back in chronological order.
  • The book is sort of a perfectly crafted crossword puzzle; it is challenging but fun.
  • All the characters are portrayed as reincarnations of the same soul, but into the different bodies who are identifiable by a birthmark. Thus, a true symbol of the universality of human nature.

Film Adaptation of Cloud Atlas

10. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Everything in life is just for a while.

— A Scanner Darkly

Award(s) won: Graoully d’Or Award and BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) Award

  • A Scanner Darkly is a semi-autobiographical novel describing an extensive drug culture and its recreational and abusive usage.
  • The protagonist is Bob Arctor, an undercover police agent and a drug user addicted to “Substance D”, which is short for Death.
  • While assigned the role of narcotics agent, Arctor is heavily addicted to drugs and fails to perform his duty, finally losing his job.
  • Based on Dick’s real-life events, the novel is a dramatic version of the true incidents, when he himself got caught up with drug-addicted street people.
  • It is said that Dick used to weep all night while writing the story, it was like torturing himself to death.

Film Adaptation of A Scanner Darkly

11. The Giver by Lois Lowry

To gain control of certain things, we’d to let go of others.

— The Giver

Award(s) won: John Newbery Award, Regina Medal, William Allen White Award, Boston Globe-Horn Award, Booklist Editors’ Choice Award

  • At first, appearing to be all good, the society is actually dystopian where there’s no room for emotions and self-recognition.
  • The protagonist is a 12-year-old boy, Jonas, who assigned the role of Receiver of Memory. His job is to handle the burden of all past memories and also, he is entitled to access all sorts of books that are at a much higher level than his schoolbooks.
  • The character who is supposed to deliver all these memories to Jonas is termed as The Giver.
  • The story is little eccentric with full of twists and engaging content.
  • The fact that Jonas’ parents are not his real parents makes the plot more interesting and worth-reading till the end.

Film Adaptation of The Giver

12. Shade’s Children by Garth Nix

If you’re lucky, you live to fight another day.

— Shade’s Children

Award(s) won: Golden Duck Award

  • The novel is about the evil Overlords who rule over the world and has established a strident change that causes people over the age of 14 to disappear.
  • Children, especially boys, are not supposed to live after their 14th birthday, also referred to as “Sad Birthday”.
  • The moment they cross this age, they’re taken to the Meat Factory and are harvested to turn them into creatures, which acts as servants for the Overlords.
  • On the other hand, young women, till the age of 18, are kept save to breed more children.
  • The protagonist is a 15-year-old boy nicknamed as Gold-Eye because of his bright golden-colored pupil. He can see the future and he is on the verge to kill himself to prevent his harvesting but is saved by a group known as Shade’s Children.

Dystopian Fiction is a unique branch of science fiction dealing with all sorts of possibilities that could have existed in the past or can come into existence in the future. None of such novels directly relate to the contemporary situations as a whole, but speaks a lot about our inner demons and possible future.

© 2019 Prachi Sharma


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