I love dystopian fiction. Reading about terrifying alternate and apocalyptic societies has always appealed to me. And if you like dystopian fiction too, here are four of the best dystopian novels to read in your lifetime.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is probably the greatest dystopian novel of all time. It is a frightening, almost prophetic vision by Orwell of a future where control and constant surveillance rule all. It’s themes of totalitarianism, state control, and the re-writing of history continue to hold ominous relevance in our society.
Nineteen Eighty-Four has made an impact on modern culture in a way few novels do. The novel coined the terms ‘Big Brother’, ‘Thought Police’ and ‘Room 101’ which are still used today to signify oppression.
The story’s protagonist, Winston Smith, is instantly likeable. And in his attempts to initiate rebellion against the state – for love and to retain his own freedom of thought – we see reflections of ourselves. Which makes his subsequent downfall all the more devastating for the reader.
Stephen King is the master of horror. But his dystopian/apocalyptic epic The Stand is arguably his greatest work.
A deadly strain of superflu – known as “Captain Trips” – is accidentally released from a United States laboratory. It quickly spreads around the US and kills almost everyone. Plagued by terrible dreams, the survivors cross the country to face the ultimate battle of good against evil.
The Stand has a great plot and contains some strong characters. Larry Underwood, Francis Goldsmith and Stu Redman for the good guys: Randall Flagg, Nadine Cross and the Trashcan Man for the bad guys. At more than 1000 pages, this one will certainly take a while. But it is worth every page.
My friend Ross Graham – creator of the superb Fauxhammer website – recommended this novel to me. And it is brilliant and unique.
It is the year 2045 and the world is dying. People live their lives in a virtual world called the OASIS. When the creator of the OASIS dies, he leaves behind a 1980’s inspired virtual Easter egg hunt which leads to the key to the entire OASIS. And the first person to find that key will not only own the virtual world but control the real world, too. And so Wade Watts, our protagonist, set outs on a deadly mission to retrieve the key and save the world.
Ready Player One is so much fun. If you like dystopian fiction, the ’80s and gaming then this is definitely the novel for you.
This is second time I have recommended this novel (see my article Six Novels to Enjoy During Lockdown). And with good reason as The Road is a masterpiece of dytopian fiction.
A father and his son travel through an America that is burned and dead, searching for food amidst the wreckage and trying to avoid the roving bands of violent survivors that patrol the roads. The world McCarthy creates is harrowing. It contrasts starkly with the warmth and love these two survivors show for each other.
McCarthy’s style and scarce use of punctuation can be quite distracting at first. Even so, this is a great novel and one which raises a worrying eyebrow at the future of mankind.
Dystopian Fiction Overload
There are so many great dystopian novels to choose from (and there are certainly some shocking ones too). So picking the right one can be tricky. But if you’re a fan of this genre give the above books a try; you won’t be disappointed.
(Image by Natalya Latunova, courtesy of Unsplash)