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Dystopian Novels

Writers of dystopian fiction offer up stories that are set in worlds that may appear perfect at first glance, but have hidden horrors and undercurrents of corruption. A sub-genre of science fiction, dystopian novels explore society and politics in a way that can be both alarming and fascinating, and often holds up a mirror to our own world.

You'll frequently see themes like mass poverty, illness, pervasive drug use, and oppression. Fun stuff, right? Well, surprisingly, it is!

Take The Hunger Games, for example. In Suzanne Collin's world there is a massive divide between the rich and the poor, with the rich living a lavish life of food, drink, jewels, and entertainment, while the poor live a hardscrabble existence and never have enough - of anything. It's a utopia for the rich - an ideal world. And a nightmare for the rest. Except, then you see a little deeper and realize that even the rich with their charmed lives are oppressed and suffering.

Or, one of my favorite novels of all time, Brave New World in which Aldous Huxley writes about a world shockingly similiar to the one we live in today (even though it was written in 1931). A world where every single person is genetically engineered to be perfect for the life they live. Their capacity for intelligence, strength, compassion - everything - designed to make them content with their lot in life. And if they aren't, well no worries - they can medicate themselves with Soma, a feel-good drug.

What makes these stories interesting is more than just the worlds. It's the people in them. In The Hunger Games, we cheer on Katniss as she struggles to not only survive, but to change her world. In Brave New World, we follow the journey of a man who's eyes are opened when he visits a society outside of his own and sees, firsthand, that maybe things aren't as perfect as they seem.

If this has sparked your curiosity, check out some of these fantastic dystopian novels:


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Amazon Says: "Aldous Huxley is the greatest 20th century writer in English." —Chicago Tribune Aldous Huxley is rightly considered a prophetic genius and one of the most important li more...
Amazon Says: "Aldous Huxley is the greatest 20th century writer in English." —Chicago Tribune Aldous Huxley is rightly considered a prophetic genius and one of the most important literary and philosophical voices of the 20th Century, and Brave New World is his masterpiece. From the author of The Doors of Perception, Island, and countless other works of fiction, non-fiction, philosophy, and poetry, comes this powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations. Brave New World remains absolutely relevant to this day as both a cautionary dystopian tale in the vein of the George Orwell classic 1984, and as thought-provoking, thoroughly satisfying entertainment. less...
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The Giver by Lois Lowry
Amazon Says: Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. Jonas lives i more...
Amazon Says: Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world.When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does Jonas begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back. less...
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1984 by George Orwell
Amazon Says: View our feature on George Orwell’s 1984. Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell more...
Amazon Says: View our feature on George Orwell’s 1984. Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power 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. less...
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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Amazon Says: At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love more...
Amazon Says: At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed. It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.   For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.    A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize. Are you ready? less...
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Amazon Says: In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies? Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a more...
Amazon Says: In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies? Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now.... Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. less...
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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Amazon Says: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on t more...
Amazon Says: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games," a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. less...
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Anthem by Ayn Rand
Amazon Says: He lived in the Dark Ages of the future. In a loveless world he dared to love the woman of his choice. In an age that had lost all trace of science and civilization, he had th more...
Amazon Says: He lived in the Dark Ages of the future. In a loveless world he dared to love the woman of his choice. In an age that had lost all trace of science and civilization, he had the courage to seek and find knowledge. But these were not the crimes for which he would be hunted. He was marked for death because he had committed the unpardonable sin: He had stood forth from the mindless human herd. He was a man alone. Ayn Rand's classic tale of a future Dark Age of the great "we" - a world that deprives individuals of name, independence, and values - anticipates her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged." This centennial edition of Anthem, celebrating the controversial and enduring legacy of its author, features an introduction by Rand's literary executor, Leonard Peikoff, which includes excerpts from documents by Ayn Rand - letters, interviews, and journal notes in which she discusses Anthem. This volume also includes a complete reproduction of the original British edition with Ayn Rand's handwritten editorial changes. less...
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The Children Of Men by P.D. James
Amazon Says: Told with P. D. James’s trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling, The Children of Men is a story of a world with no children and no future more...
Amazon Says: Told with P. D. James’s trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling, The Children of Men is a story of a world with no children and no future. The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race. From the Trade Paperback edition. less...
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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Amazon Says: Story of a society in which all books are to be burned. more...
Amazon Says: Story of a society in which all books are to be burned. less...
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Divergent by Veronica Roth
Amazon Says: This first book in Veronica Roth's #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy is the novel the inspired the major motion picture starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, a more...
Amazon Says: This first book in Veronica Roth's #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy is the novel the inspired the major motion picture starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Kate Winslet. This dystopian series set in a futuristic Chicago has captured the hearts of millions of teen and adult readers. Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games and Maze Runner series, Divergent and its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant, are the gripping story of a dystopian world transformed by courage, self-sacrifice, and love. Fans of the Divergent movie will find the book packed with just as much emotional depth and exhilarating action as the film, all told in beautiful, rich language. One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior's society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she's determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous. Supports the Common Core State Standards. less...
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