Thanks to the incoming president and a Republican Congress which is trying to take healthcare away from millions of Americans, it's fair to say that our reality is looking more and more dystopian every day. So, while we can't recommend strongly enough that you take action to try and effect positive change in your own life and community (here's some ideas for how to start), sometimes you'll just need to retreat into the pages of a good book. But, like, you don't want to retreat too far. You definitely wanted to keep your senses sharp. You want to be familiar enough with fictional dystopias that you'll be able to recognize the dystopian elements of real life when you see them. Here then, are 10 dystopian novels to get you ready for the next few years.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Set in a future America, where a totalitarian government has taken over and dismantled all semblance of a democracy, this book (and Hulu's upcoming TV adaptation) deals with issues like female subjugation, sexual oppression, religious tyrrany, and the importance of resistance. Is there a better book to read right now? We don't think so.
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury's classic feels surreally appropriate right now, as it centers around a society in which books are meant to be burned, with the value of the written word being totally devalued unless used for propoganda, and in which the population uses technological media to numb their senses. Sound familiar?
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This sprawling novel is a profoundly beautiful and disturbing look at a world devastated by the advent of a biological plague. While it hops around in time to reveal more about the lives of each of its characters, Station Eleven is never anything less than a lucid, unflinching look at the desperate measures people will attempt in order to preserve what they can of their own humanity.
1984 by George Orwell
How long will it be before Donald Trump instates a Ministry of Truth in the U.S. government? Hard to say, really. Probably not that long. Undoubtedly it will be headed up by Scott Baio. Until then, read 1984 and laugh and weep with recognition.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
True story: I read this novel on a flight from Amsterdam to New York, and finished it just as we were soaring in over Manhattan. The view from my window was gorgeous and I felt utterly empty. What was anything worth, after all, when society was constantly on the precipice of falling prey to itself. I was so depressed. But then we landed and I felt okay again, because life was just as I remembered it being and nothing felt like it would ever be that bad. I... don't know how I'll feel reading this again now. Maybe it's not a great idea. Or maybe it is, because McCarthy sure can spin a good story.
Find Me by Laura van den Berg
This enthralling novel also takes place during a time of plague; a disease has swept across America which renders its victims memory-less, covered with silvery skin patches, and, ultimately, dead. Protagonist Joy is immune to the disease and spends much of the novel under strict observation at an isolated hospital with a curious group of patients and doctors. At once totally familliar and wildly surreal, Find Me is really a journey of self-discovery as the world around falls apart.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I don't really need to explain the plot here, do I? Collins' best-selling series centered around Katniss Everdeen is a now iconic depiction of a centralized government gone mad with power and a society which is willing to sacrifice its most vulnerable members for some semblance of a greater good. Fun times.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The mystery at the center of this book, the unspoken terrible truth that haunts each of its pages, is revealed slowly, so that when comprehension comes, the knowledge of just what makes the society depicted in this novel function is absolutely devastating. It also serves as a reminder that things can look absolutely normal from the outside, but be thoroughly corrupted from within.
The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips
Part dystopian novel, part mystery story, wholly engaging and revelatory, Phillips' novel has readers questioning the institutions in and organization of our society, and what it is we choose to do and who we choose to be within this system. It's also full of wit and tenderness, there's a compassion for our collective plights that is rare in the dystopian world, but so very welcome.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick
The novel that served as the inspiration for Blade Runner is set in 2021 and depicts a world devastated by war and populated not only with people, but also with androids, whose uncanny similarity to humans has caused the government to panic and order their destruction. Hmmm... a reactionary and xenophobic government set on hunting out those who are different from what they perceive as being normal? And this takes place just four years from now? Interesting. And, you know, terrifying.