Dystopias and You

Dystopian novels are all the rage in YA lit right now—from The Hunger Games, Matched, and Scott Westerfield's Uglies series. While adults might shy away from the teen section, these series are well worth checking out. But what about dystopias written for adults?

This genre has a long and respectable history, including such classics as 1984, The Handmaid's Tale, and Brave New World. These classics maintain their creepy and unsettling appeal. For three contemporary dystopias written for adults, try these:

Never Let Me Go—Kazuo Ishiguro

This book follows the lives of Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, three friends who grew up at Hailsham, a boarding school for special children. As the three age, they learn just why they are special and attempt to deal with their fate. The relationships between the characters are exquisitely realized, the writing style beautiful, and the book pulses with a sense of foreboding. Ishiguro never explicitly explains the situation, but that only heightens the novel's impact. A must read for any fan of dystopias, it was also made into a popular movie. Never Let Me Go is a modern classic.

Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood—Margaret Atwood

Read Oryx & Crake first! Oryx & Crake follows Snowman, the last remaining human survivor of a worldwide apocalypse. As he journeys through the decimated landscape, flashbacks to his earlier life in a scientific compound, his university days, and his friendship with the eponymous characters explain how he got into this situation. Pulsing with mystery and emotion, this book will keep you riveted. The ending, while not particularly satisfying, does raise many questions. For that, turn to...

The Year of the Flood. This book, released after Oryx & Crake and clearly intended to be read afterwards, follows a different group of humans during the lead up and fallout from the apocalypse. Seen from another perspective, the events of Oryx & Crake take on new and deeper meanings. This book answers some questions raised in the first book, but creates plenty of its own. Both books deal with the role of science and genetic manipulation of animals, plants, and disease in ways that are frightening and challenging. Highly recommended for anyone interested in our own future; Atwood is a master of creating worlds that are so close to our own that the small differences feel both possible and yet very, very wrong.

While these may not be very exotic choices, these three books are a good starting point for anyone interested in dystopian novels. They will make you look at the world a little differently--and don't we all need to do that from time to time?

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