Best Dystopian Novels
Best Dystopian Books
This lens is about dystopian books, which are among my favorite types of books. Most people automatically think of dystopia as a science fiction sub-genre, and while dystopian science fiction is common, not all stories about dystopian societies (or screwed up uptoias) are from the sci-fi genre, and many post apocalyptic movies are based on dystopian novels. I will attempt to continue to update this lens as more and more fantastic dystopian works continue to be published whether from traditional publishing houses, or the emergence of e-book publishing like the ever popular dystopian Hunger Games trilogy which comes in or you can get a box set. The movie did well, and more are to come. The point is that dystopian stories are doing well - regardless of what the revolutionary masses might want you to think. the Kindle versions
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
#12 Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
This novel isn't the 12th best on the list (it would be rated much higher in my opinion) but it's at number twelve because of the on going argument whether this is truly a dystopian novel or not. The definition of dystopia isn't necessarily clear, though the general definition is that it is a society in which misery and negative conditions prevail (or a seeming utopia gained at horrifying costs.)
As far as a dysfunctional society, the island with its stranded little boys is it, and once the conch shell is no longer seen as authority, everything breaks apart. If anyone wants to argue that an anarchy could work, this book would be an immediate argument against it.
This is an incredible psychological work, a book that is still taught as a mainstay of both psychology and sociology in high schools and college even today. In the book they tried to build a society without the enforcement of laws, and without a threat that was higher than an individual person, it fell apart.
I'd say anytime a guy gets hit by a big boulder because he's annoying, your society definitely qualifies as dysfunctional enough to count as a dystopia.
Want a Great Read? Buy Lord of the Flies Right Here! - Lord of the Flies is one of the all time classic novels.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
#11 The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
This story comes from the first person Offred. Offred is a maid in a time when fertile women are forced to be breeding machines to keep the human population going. This takes place because the world is a post-nuclear world where many women can't have children.
This is a very theocratic society, and this book tends to be very pro-feminist and anti-religious. In this world the country has been taken over by "Christian" fundamentalists who have done away with the Constitution and founded a theocratic state.
This Republic of Gilead (as it is called) is ruled through fundamentalism and rigid enforcement of social roles vaguely resembling Dominionism.
Most citizens, and all women, have been stripped of their freedoms. While this makes it popular among feminists and colleges, it also causes it to be protested by religious or conservative affiliations, especially at the high school level.
This is a great dystopian tale that is frightening because the logic of how the society became the way it is happens to be very believable.
Sound Interesting? Buy a Copy Right Here! - This novel is a favorite among many readers.
Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)
One of the most influential science fiction books in modern history
#10 Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)
Most of William Gibson's novels revolve around a dystopian future society, but Neuromancer may be the best of them all.
This novel won the sci-fi "triple crown" for writers by winning the Nebula, Hugo, and Philip K. Dick awards.
In the seedy underground of a Japanese city, a computer hacker is hired to work on the ultimate hack.
In a world flushed with AI, virtual reality, genetic engineering, and corporations overpowering nations, the adventure follows.
Gibson beat many modern sci-fi writers to the punch, and this dystopian novel is one of the most influential in modern times. In fact, here is a list of themes that Gibson beat everyone to:
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Multi-national corporations overpowering the traditional nation-state
Gibson tackled these topics long before they became mainstream in popular culture. The concept of "cyberspace" makes its first appearance, with Gibson describing the word to describe "a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions."
Neuromancer: One of the Most Influential Books in Modern Science Fiction - A brilliant modern dystopia, and maybe William Gibson's best novel
Iron Heel by Jack London (1908)
Turn of the century dystopian literature
#9 Iron Heel by Jack London (1908)
Iron Heel is an excellent dystopian novel about the rise of a tyrannical corporate oligarchy in the United States. This book doesn't pay attention to technology the way most future dystopian science fiction novels do now.
This work stressed changes in society and politics, with the oligarchy formed by robber barons whom bankrupt all the middle class and seize power before enforcing a "caste system" of workers. This plot shows Jack London's socialist views at their apex, and this story was a far travel from his normal wilderness themed stories.
This was a fantastic dystopian novel that was far ahead of its time. While the phrase "Jack London dystopia" might seem really unusual, when you consider his willingness to write about dark topics, you can see the fit. Combine the Heart of Darkness like insanity from the Sea Wolf along with an impressive look at how society and wealth bankrupt the middle class into legal slavery, and you have the Iron Heel, a great dystopia that looks frighteningly more real day by day.
The Iron Heel: Jack London's Greatest Dystopian Work - The Iron Heel tends to fly under the radar, but it was a dystopian prediction by Jack London
The Running Man by Richard Bachman (1982)
#8 The Running Man by Richard Bachman (1982)
Written by Stephen King under the pen name of Richard Bachman, "The Running Man" is a fantastic dystopian novel about a frightening future where ratings and entertainment takes form in a manhunt, and where even the "winners" are losers. This novel is far superior to the movie, and in my opinion is one of the best novels written by Stephen King. "The Long Walk" is also an honorable mention and both embrace the idea of a strongly dystopian society using gimmicks and the illusion of hope to keep control and entertain the masses away from thoughts of further revolution.
What makes these two novels even more impressive is that they seem to embrace the reality show dystopia concept well before reality shows become commonplace. Richard Bachman's dystopian science fiction is, in my opinion, some of Stephen King's most entertaining work. They are fast reads and should speak to a much broader audience than much of Stephen King's literary or horror based works. Definitely worth the read!
The Running Man by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) - An amazing science fiction work that deserves bigger recognition
The book was far far superior to the fairly lousy (though strangely entertaining at 3 a.m.) movie.
Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks (2006)
#7 Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks (2006)
I've probably read over 200 books the last two years, and among many good novels, "Armageddon's Children" has been one of my favorites. This is one of the best novels written by Terry Brooks, and takes place in a post apocalyptic world around 2100, following (among others) a lone remaining knight trying desperately to fight off the demon onslaught and a group of street gang kids who roam the remains of Seattle trying to survive. The fantasy world of Shannara was supposedly spawned from the post apocalyptic wastes of Earth, and this series bridges the gap between the two.
While this might be even more post-apocalyptic than dystopian, there are several examples of societies (one demon, one "guided," two human) that while trying to make the most of form and function of government or order in the wastelands, also can qualify as almost being post apocalyptic dystopia in nature. Agree or disagree with me: this is an outstanding read!
Love Terry Brooks? Buy This Fantastic Book Right Here! - The first book in a great new series.
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (1955)
This dystopian novel was released under the title "The Re-birth" in the United States
#6 The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (1955)
This dystopian novel is another example of a post-nuclear world. This time the dystopia comes from a "need" for purity. As humans are being born with increasing levels of mutations and deformities, the state decides to execute anyone who isn't "perfect," meaning even one extra toe can be a death sentence. This attempt at forcing perfection in a post apocalyptic world is disturbing and effective, and has spawned many imitators. While you might think that this type of racial purity dystopia is a bit cliched or old school, take a look around newly released files on eugenics and remember that many racial superiority groups still exist. As politics in the US get more and more venomous, it's not hard to see this type of thinking taking over.
You Can Buy This All Time Great Novel Right Here - Also known as "The Re-Birth" in the United States
The Children of Men by PD James (1992)
#5 The Children of Men by PD James (1992)
Most people will know about the film with Clive Owen and Julianne Moore. The movie was very good, but is far different from the book. In this world, for reasons unknown, all men's sperm count plummeted to zero, and without reason or explanation, mankind now faces its own extinction. The fear mongering during this time has allowed governments extraordinary powers to keep the peace, and when a woman becomes pregnant, the implications are enormous. This is an extremely fascinating look at a possible reason for dystopia that people don't even think of, delving into the implications of a world with truly no hope at all.
Want to compare the book to the movie? Buy a copy of both here! - Both were excellent, I think I like the novel slightly more.
The Making of "The Children of Men"
Eight minutes on the making of the film "The Children of Men."
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895)
Dystopian Science Fiction at it's best: Dystopian Literature
#4 The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895)
"The Time Machine" is one of the best science fiction novels to ever be written. This novel is the story of "The Time Traveler" who builds a machine that allows him to travel to the far distant future. While this might not seem dystopian at first glance, but a seemingly gentle and happy society is plagued by predators who harvest people for food - if that doesn't qualify as a crappy dystopian society, I don't know what does. The hero tells his story to a man of his time, grabs weapons, and goes back into the future never to return. This novel is where the term "time machine" even came from. It's not the conventional definition of a cannibalistic dystopia, but it's a good precursor for this particular sub-genre of the dystopian literature.
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells - Your Library Is Incomplete Without a Copy!
Teaser Trailer for "The Time Machine"
This is for the more recent version of the movie.
1984 by George Orwell (1949)
Big Brother Dystopia
#3 1984 by George Orwell (1949)
This isn't the best written novel in that the ideas are extraordinary although the writing itself can come across as a bit stilted and dry, but it is one of the big three of the dystopian science fiction novels. This could very well be the most recognizable of the big three, as "1984" is synonymous with tyrannical governments, fascism, and dystopian science fiction. Even the phrases "1984" and "Big Brother" are now part of the common culture. Orwell's detailed novel shows how a government can manipulate the people by manipulating the truth and manipulating the news. This book is the source for arguing against a far right government getting unfettered power and ironically the conversion and final re-education of the main character at the end is perhaps the most frightening and overlooked aspect of this work. This makes 1984 one of the all time classic dystopian works.
1984 - The Very Title Is Synonymous with Dystopia
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
The best cultural dystopia ever written - and eeriely prophetic
#2 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
Guy Montag begins this classic novel as a fireman: meaning he is a man society calls on to burn all books, which are outlawed. Unlike "1984" or "Brave New World," "451" doesn't speak politically against the left or the right politically, but speaks against the dumbing down of society, specifically on how Hollywood pop culture slush and TV entertainment can create an entire nation of people who are not only incapable of fighting for their rights, but who don't even realize the importance of doing so. This is a brilliant novel that shows Guy going from soldier of the state to an independent free thinker who must go on the run to survive.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
Maybe the greatest piece of dystopian literature ever
#1 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
While this dystopian masterpiece and "Fahrenheit 451" could be interchangeable as the top two, "Brave New World" gets the nod because the writing itself is the best. This novel is incredible, showing a society where left leaning thinking and self hedonism is taken so far to the extreme that one person's utopia turns out to be an appalling place where the irony of a peaceful existence has caused society to lose all concept of art, honor, religious beliefs, or anything that often defines culture. The "utopia" has people who have no sympathy, no empathy, and this vision of a future is as chilling as any other on this list.
Is It A Brave New World? Judge for Yourself...
A Great Clip of Aldous Huxley on Dystopia
The great mind talking about how propoganda will be able to erase all resistance.
Vote Your Favorite Dystopias Up or Down - Or Add Your Own!
Vote for the ones you like, or if I'm missing one then feel free to add it on!
Which of the Giant 3 Is Best? - Dystopian Trinity | 3 Big Dystopia Sci-Fi Novels | Dystopian Classics
There are three dystopian novels that are generally considered the "Trinity," so to speak, of dystopian science fiction. So let's see which one everyone likes!
Which of the big 3 of dystopian sci fi novels is tops?
Types of Dystopia
What's your favorite style of dystopia?
So What Exactly Is a Dystopia?
There are many similar but slightly different definitions for what exactly makes up a dystopia. Common mistakes include labeling movies or books that are bleak science fiction or post-apocalyptic as dystopian. Now sometimes they might be - and there are works that can definitely qualify as all three, but being one doesn't guarantee the two others. Generally speaking, a dystopia is a futuristic (although that doesn't mean it has to be advanced - this can be a resurrected society after a disaster or such) universe where some type of oppressive societal control is maintained through a variety of methods that include but are not limited to bureaucratic, technological, moral/immoral, technological, corporate, or other totalitarian control. Many appear as a false utopia with the darkness right under the surface of what appears to be a good thing. These works often take a part of society the author views as a threat and exaggerates it to an extreme to get the point across of the dangers that could be lurking there in the future.
What Characteristics Do Dystopias Share?
Many dystopias share common characteristics, such as:
** Propaganda is used in many forms to help control citizens, whether it's brainwashing, advertising, controlling news, or using entertainment based means
** Often times freedom, information, and independent thought are severely restricted
** Many times a leader, oligarchy, religious idea, or concept is worshipped by the citizens
** Citizens are under constant surveillance or at least seem to be
** Citizens have no knowledge of the outside world, or fear it
** Many of the citizens live in a de-humanized state
** Uniformity is extremely important: conformity is in and dissent is strictly dealt with
** Many of these societies are an illusion of a perfect utopian world
Some of the Most Popular Types of Dystopia
Dystopia comes in many forms and sub-genres, to the point where there are even fan-based and academically based arguments over how many sub-genres there are, which books count in which category (or movie). This section will go over some of the many popular types of fictional dystopian societies as well as some of the most popular control methods for those in charge of these often terrifying worlds.
In this type of dystopia one, or multiple, large corporations end up controlling society. This can be done through a variety of methods including products, advertising, media control, or overwhelming influence of wealth. Movie and book examples: Running Man, Minority Report, Out of Time, or Jennifer Government (and somewhat arguably Fahrenheit 451). An extreme example of this type of corporation (although these aren't dystopian - they're apocalyptic) would be the Umbrella Corporation from the Resident Evil Series of movies.
Sometimes this is mixed in with government or political dystopia. In this situation society is often controlled by a mindless bureaucracy in which red tape, regulations, and government regulation make life a living hell for many people. The movie Brazil is a fantastic example, and there are many great made for TV movie dystopias revolving around the same scenario. Think if the Bureaucratic office from Futurama ruled the entire planet.
This is one of the most famous and well known because of how many classic works go this route. This dystopia is a result of extreme political ideology that can be from religious zealotry in politics, right wing extremism or left wing extremism. 1984, Brave New World, It Can't Happen Here, and The Iron Heel are all literary examples of political dystopia. A recent popular movie example would be "V for Vendetta." "The Hunger Games" falls in between Political and Corporate dystopias because of the oligarchy nature of the wealthy in Hunger Games. "Firefly" is another good example.
These are almost always science fiction based. Most of William Gibson's works fall under this category, as do many other types of cyber-punk science fiction. Movie versions arguably could include "I, Robot" (movie, not the Asimov book) and The Matrix.
Philosophical or Religious Control
This is another area some people put "V for Vendetta" under because of the theocratic dictatorship. The opposite extreme can also be argued for the movie "Equilibrium" where emotions are outlawed as they are pegged as the cause of all discord.
This one is a little bit more controversial as some people argue that most under this category really are post-apocalyptic stories where almost any government or settlement will have false utopia or dystopian tendencies. Take a look at the underground society in "A Boy and His Dog" or the Governor's town in the TV show "The Walking Dead" for some examples of this.
These often mix with political or other dystopias, but an example of this would be Soylent Green, with the shocker at the end revealing food being made from people. That also acts as a classic example of a false Utopia, which "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells also qualifies as. Another example of a false Utopia making a social statement would be the classic horror short story "The Lottery" which also has several movies based on the plot.
A Large List of Dystopian Novels
Feminist dystopias | modern dystopias | false utopias
This isn't a complete list of dystopian fiction, but it is a very solid list that includes most of the major classics and will certainly add quite a bit of length to your reading list.
This list of dystopian novels includes everything from feminist dystopia, to modern dystopia, corporate dystopia, false uptopias, post apocalyptic worlds, and everything in between.
Enjoy the read!
LIST OF DYSTOPIAN NOVELS:
1984 by George Orwell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
When the Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Island by Aldous Huxley
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder by James DeMille
The Giver by Lois Lowry
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster
Anthem by Ayn Rand
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
The Shape of Things to Come H.G. Wells
This Perfect Day by Ira Levin
After by Francine Prose
That Hideous Strength C.S. Lewis
Fast Eddie, King of the Bees by Robert Arellano
Neuromancer by William Gibson
The Running Man by Stephen King as Richard Bachman
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick
"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson
324: A Novel by Thomas Disch
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Utopia X by Scott Wilson
The Goodness Gene by Sonia Levitin
The Postman by David Brin
Naked Lunch William S. Burroughs
The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
The World Inside by Robert Silverberg
Time Out of Joint Philip K. Dick
Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
Kallocain by Karin Boye
A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L'Engle
Dystopia: Collected Stories by Richard Christian Matheson
In the Country of Last Things by Paul Astuer
Iron Heel by Jack London
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov.
The Children of Men by P.D James
A World Out of Time Larry Niven
The Long Walk by Stephen King as Richard Bachman
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Count Zero by William Gibson
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
The Domination by S.M. Stirling
Fatherland by Robert Harris
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Jennifer Government by Max Barry
Utopia X by Scott Wilson
Well Readers, You Make the Call...
Everyone keeps arguing over whether "Lord of the Flies" is dystopian or not,
Is "Lord of the Flies" a dystopian novel?
The Hunger Games: Young Adult Dystopian Novels
There's no age limit or restriction on dystopian literature. Part of what makes this so popular is how the feelings of being ostracized, put upon, or persecuted is universal. At some point almost all of us have been there, and many of us have had that fear during our worst moments of wondering if the whole world revolves around that. This is why ya dystopia books for teenagers and young adults are so popular. "The Hunger Games" is an extremely popular series that definitely displays a futuristic dystopia. These popular books are now being made into movies, as well.
The world here is definitely a dystopia where a very few ultra rich and powerful rule the common people ruthlessly, forcing each region to put up two children a year as tribute to compete in the "Hunger Games," a fight to the death scenario where only one can survive, and most often fall to children from a few of the top wealthy regions, who have children who train to compete.
With a female protagonist who puts her own life at risk to save her sister, the obvious class warfare in a serious future dystopian society, and a bevy of interesting anti-hero type characters you have a great young adult dystopia that will pull readers of all ages in and introduce them to a genre full of possibilities for readers of all ages.
Read Hunger Games Trilogy from Amazon
You can find all three books in the Hunger Trilogy right here from Amazon.com
V for Vendetta Dystopia
Dystopian Movie | Dystopian Story | Dystopian Graphic Novel
V for Vendetta is a great example of a dystopian story. This was a graphic novel that ended up with a movie based on the story. One of the key elements in this type of revolutionary dystopia is the irony of the lawbreaker, or the "revolutionary" (almost always labeled by the government in power as a terrorist) being a hero fighting tyranny.
The dystopia in "V for Vendetta" is one of the most common, in this case a theocracy that isn't about God but is about power. This religion based government is extremely controlling, extremely brutal, and is very similar to the "Big Brother" dystopia that Orwell feared in 1984.
V for Vendetta: See the Movie & Read the Graphic Novel! - Both follow a classic dystopia formula perfectly
V for Vendetta: Dystopia at its best!
Many Different Types of Dystopias
Feminist Dystopia | Right Wing Dystopia | Left Wing Dystopia | Post Apocalyptic Dystopia
One of the things I love about dystopian literature is that there are so many different styles and types of dystopia. It's almost like having dozens of genres within one. This is even demonstrated by the "Big 3 Dystopias:" 1984, Brave New World, & Fahrenheit 451, which all are different styles of dystopian fiction. "1984" is the Totalitarian Government State dystopia, "Brave New World" is the false utopia that turns out to be dystopian, and "Fahrenheit 451" is the cultural dystopia, the MTV mindless mush.
And these don't begin to scratch the surface. Margaret Atwood is famous for excellent dystopian novels that are all feminist dystopians, or worlds where women are enslaved or treated as slaves.
There are technology dystopias, where technology has gone on to destroy society (sometimes directly, sometimes not), there are others where fundamentalist religion has taken complete control.
And that's not even diving into post apocalyptic worlds, which are all pretty much dystopian.
This genre has a LOT to offer, as you can see by the long, and still incomplete, list up above. If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and really dig in to find some great dystopian novels. Your reading experience will always be richer because of it!
On a side note, these are also some of my favorite types of stories to write. If you've ever thought about dipping into this genre yourself, check out this article about writing a good dystopian novel.
Dystopian Movie Clips from YouTube
Because let's face it: dystopia has many faces and they're all so damned entertaining!
Can Non-Fiction Be Dystopian?
Dystopian non-fiction: is there such a thing?
This is an interesting question since in general dystopias are considered a genre of fiction. Most dystopian novels are science fiction in nature although this isn't always the case. So can there be non-fiction that falls under dystopia? This is a question that seems more like semantics, although the closest thing you could probably get to non-fiction dystopia would be certain whistle blower novels like early Upton Sinclair works such as "The Jungle" which was fiction but delved into reality to show an incredibly depressing and horrifying working conditions. The society accepted this at the time but it was horrifying for those immigrants coming to America hoping for a better life...but would this really be considered dystopia or true non-fiction? These questions are difficult - but it gives an interesting question to discuss on the nature of dystopian writing.
Jump Into Dystopia!
Take a look at all the amazing top dystopian novels offered on Amazon.com
For Listverse readers and other comment trolls
For comment trolls who read my article on Listverse before coming here and accusing me of plagiarism: I am the ORIGINAL AUTHOR (Shane Dayton) of this...just like they list me as the author of that article on their site at the bottom. In other words, they paid me for the right to use my article - so don't you dare accuse of plagiarizing...well myself, I guess.
Writing Dystopian Movie Reviews
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