Not too long ago, the dystopian trend rose to fame in literature, in film, in television — it seemed as if all of pop culture was suddenly obsessed with the bleakest versions of reality. But dystopian fiction has been around for much longer than this trend, and we can only thank our lucky stars that the “near and possible future” these stories describe still hasn’t come.

Still, these stories are not just enjoyable reads, but can also serve as a reminder of what the future may hold — it’s all up to us and what we do with our present.

Because there’s so much material out there, we’ve put together this list to help you get started on your dark, dystopian literary journey.

1. The Paranoia Begins: 1984 by George Orwell

1984

Winston Smith toes the Party line, rewriting history to satisfy the demands of the Ministry of Truth. With each lie he writes, Winston grows to hate the Party that seeks power for its own sake and persecutes those who dare to commit thoughtcrimes. But as he starts to think for himself, Winston can’t escape the fact that Big Brother is always watching…

A startling and haunting vision of the world, 1984 is so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the influence of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.

 

2. The Seemingly Perfect: The Giver by Lois Lowry

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The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

 

 

 

3. The Inescapable Trap: The Trial by Franz Kafka

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Written in 1914, The Trial is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century: the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the madness of totalitarianism, Kafka’s nightmare has resonated with chilling truth for generations of readers.

 

 

4. The Extremes: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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A vicious fifteen-year-old droog is the central character of this 1963 classic. In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex to “redeem” him, the novel asks, “At what cost?”

 

 

 

5. The Cost of Freedom: V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

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A powerful story about loss of freedom and individuality, V for Vendetta takes place in a totalitarian England following a devastating war that changed the face of the planet.

In a world without political freedom, personal freedom and precious little faith in anything comes a mysterious man in a white porcelain mask who fights political oppressors through terrorism and seemingly absurd acts. It’s a gripping tale of the blurred lines between ideological good and evil.

 

 

6. The Classic: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

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Chilling, prophetic and hugely influential, The Time Machine sees a Victorian scientist propel himself into the year 802,701 AD, where he is delighted to find that suffering has been replaced by beauty and contentment in the form of the Eloi, an elfin species descended from man. But he soon realizes that they are simply remnants of a once-great culture – now weak and living in terror of the sinister Morlocks lurking in the deep tunnels, who threaten his very return home. H. G. Wells defined much of modern science fiction with this 1895 tale of time travel, which questions humanity, society, and our place on Earth.

 

 

7. The Reader’s Nightmare: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.

Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.

 

What are some of your favorite dystopian stories? Share them with us in the comments!


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