One of my absolute favourite genres is dystopia (especially at the moment with the world looking a bit topsy-turvy). I can’t get enough of them and every time I see a new one coming out it jumps high up on my books-to-buy list, even though I still have a few of the old schoolers to cross off!
There’s still plenty I need to read (We, Blindness, Fahrenheit 451…) that might make this subject to change but for now, here’s a list of my top 5 so far:
1) 1984 by George Orwell
Orwell’s classic is always going to sit above the rest for me. The novel was written in 1949 and offers a vision of technology-driven totalitarianism, scrubbed of individuality and freedom of thought. The amazing thing about this book is how prescient it is in today’s society – he didn’t do a bad job of predicting how technology was going to affect the future, even with those technologies being in their very early stages at the time of writing.
Backed-up with a fast-paced story and excellent wordplay, Orwell’s 1984 is going to be a tough one to beat for generations to come.
2) Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
Butler’s famous Earthseed book is more of a post-apocalyptic survivalist dystopia. It is 2025 and chronic water shortages mean that Los Angeles and the rest of the country are rife with crime. Communities work hard to maintain self-sufficiency whilst job opportunities remain scarce. Lauren Olamina lives with her family in their walled community, but when the compound is overrun she is forced to escape into a world of danger and seek salvation.
Octavia Butler is a wonderful writer and I Parable of the Sower is definitely one of my favourite books – it balances adventure with psychological and sociological study, all set in a fascinating version of the future.
3) A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
This was one of those books that took me a while to get into. The opening scene is violent and the language is a huge adjustment. The use of a fictional language borrowing Russian words and with influences from Cockney rhyming slang and none other than Shakespeare is a bit of a shock to the system but I was amazed at how I started to understand it after just a couple of chapters!
The story revolves around Alex, the leader of a gang of teenagers who come out after dark, violently rebelling against society in acts of ultra-violence. However, whilst this book is highly descriptive and hard to stomach it is in fact and exploration of the morality of free will – whether it is better to have the option to be bad or to be conditioned to be good.
This is definitely one for everybody but for those who can stick with it it’s well worth the read!
4) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I know that this is a book that often divides opinion but for me it was a hit! The story is set in an English boarding school, Hailsham, where students are trained to be ideal citizens. However, the school has a dark secret and as our protagonist Kathy leaves school and reaches adulthood she discovers that everything is not as she thought.
The twist in this one is a real shocker and I didn’t see it coming. Ishiguro’s writing is wonderful, as always, and he manages to combine sci-fi, dystopia and romance in a brilliant subtle way.
5) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This one makes it onto the list because of the excellent characters and the unusual format. Another post-apocalyptic dystopia, set after a fast-killing virus rages across the world, explores the lives of several individuals leading up to and after the ‘end of the world as they know it.’
St. John Mandel conjures a world after technology, with small settlements and nomadic communities taking different approaches to how they handle their new world – do they try to hold onto the past or find a new way to live?
This wonderful novel spans generations and combines the power of 12 startling voices to share the experiences of British women of color. Mainly set in London we hear the story of a proud black lesbian playwright, her sassy super-feminist daughter and a sexually fluid millennial, just to name a couple.
It’s Black History Month in the UK and I decided this year I should finally get round to reading some of those incredible stories that I haven’t quite made time for yet.
I can definitely see why this books is a bit love it or hate it. The story of Dexter and Em is given to us in snapshots, Starting from their meeting at uni up to their late 30s, the book oozes sexual tension, but with an increasingly dark edge which reminded me of Sally Rooney’s novels.