Top Dystopic Novels
This is the third installment in our series of Top 100 Books in Science Fiction & Fantasy. Here we take a look at some of our favourite books in the dystopic, post-apocalyptic sub-genre.
Nevil Shute’s classic novel is set a year after World War III has devastated most of the world. The inhabitants of the Southern hemisphere live out their lives, waiting for the inevitable air currents that will bring radiation poisoning. Meanwhile, a US submarine now under Australian naval command, is sent out to uncover a Morse code signal coming from the States.
Avoid the Kevin Costner movie at all costs and check out the anti-survivalist, dystopic novel that the movie was based on. In this story, a drifter stumbles upon a postal worker’s uniform and puts it on (having lost all but the clothes he was sleeping in). The uniform of the postal worker becomes a symbol of restoration to a society that has destroyed itself.
With a movie in the works, readers will want to get started right away with this novel. Interestingly, many point out how it’s not actually science fiction per se. Unlike many post-apocalyptic, dystopic novels, it lacks the zombies and other features seen in post-apocalyptic scifi. Instead it offers a more human story, as it follows a father and son as they travel south to warmer weather, some years after a cataclysm devastates the Earth, kicking up dust clouds and dramatically changing Earth’s weather patterns.
Huxley’s novel was originally conceived as a parody on a utopian novel written by H.G. Wells, Men like Gods. In this novel, society is controlled by The World State. Reproduction is done purely through high tech birthing centers and people are birthed into caste systems. Individualism is shunned, while a group mentality, along with habitual drug use and meaningless sex is encouraged.
The story of a world where firemen are used to set fire to books and in which intellectualism is feared may be Ray Bradbury’s most significant novel. The irony of course is that the novel is misinterpreted by many as being a reaction to censorship when in fact it was Bradbury’s reaction to a world where, increasingly, television factoids are replacing true knowledge found in books and libraries. Wow, he must love the internet…
George Orwell’s 1949 classic totalitarian state has formed the basis of many other dystopic stories. Without Orwell’s dystopic novel we wouldn’t have terms such as Big Brother, Thought Police and doublethink- concepts that are integral to 1984 and frankly make me very glad that Orwell got it wrong – mostly.
This dystopic novel set in 2021 depicts a world where mankind is facing the end, not through nuclear war or the melting of the ice caps, but through male infertility. With a lack of future comes a lack of caring in politics and all other areas of life, allowing private armies and state police to take over while citizens in the UK are forced to learn husbandry skills in case they become the last people alive. In all of this though, there is the glimmer of hope with talk of a pregnant woman.
A Time Traveller builds a time machine and travels to the year A.D. 802.70 to find humans are still around in the form of Eloi. All around him, buildings seem to be empty, with no new construction, and the Eloi have no knowledge of agriculture, though they feast on fruit, in an apparent Utopia. The Eloi is a society that has no use for knowledge or even curiosity. Worse, the Eloi are being “taken care of” by a tribe of cannibal humanoids who toil underground to feed the Eloi, much in the same way mankind feed cows to fatten them up for the slaughterhouse.
Though Atwood has claimed this book is not science fiction, having won the Arthur C. Clark award, we at IGP beg to differ. Atwood’s tale portrays a totalitarian, theocratic state where women are subjugated and placed according to a caste system with “wives” at the top and ending with “jezebels.” A place where fertility is prized above all else.
George R Stewart’s innovative tale in which the majority of mankind succumbs to a fatal disease is a masterpiece. The first half of his novel focuses on the way that the natural world changes and responds without humanity there. The second half of the novel addresses what can happen when there are so few humans left. Natural selection in Earth Abides has gotten rid of humans that aren’t focused primarily on survival, leading to a lack of learnedness.