Previously on Welcome to the Apocalypse:
We looked at my favorite Nuclear Holocaust novels.
We checked out Five novels about earth’s most neglected enemy: Plants That Kill.
Today we also have a review of the Apocalyptic Zombie/Mythological Creature novel Acheron by Bryon Morrigan.
Today on Welcome the Apocalypse, we will be tackling the interesting topic of Adult Dystopian novels, in honor of Presenting Lenore’s Dystopian February.
Dystopian fiction is all the buzz right now, especially in the Young Adult genre. Yet, of all the genres of fiction, Dystopian is one of the toughest to define. For many, Dystopian Fiction is used as an umbrella term for any type of novel depiction a dark future, or societal breakdown. This would include Apocalyptic and Post Apocalyptic novels, as well as tales of social isolation and deterioration like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
Others, like myself, prefer a more specific definition for Dystopian Fiction. I have nothing against people using it as an umbrella term, but when I want a dystopian tale, I am looking for something specific. When discussing the differences between Post Apocalyptic novels and dystopian novels, I often say that you don’t need an apocalyptic event to bring about a Dystopia, and not all Post Apocalyptic events lead to dystopias. For example, there is a subgenre within apocalyptic fiction called “cosy catastrophes,” in which an apocalyptic event occurs, and by the end of the novel, the Survivors are living in relative comforts. The most used example of this is Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.
For me, I can never truly come up with a good definition of Dystopian. The key elements have always been a degradation in society, and an oppressive or overly regimented governmental or social system. Yet, it comes down to the feel of the novel. Some novels just feel like a true dystopian novel, while others, while having dystopian elements, have focus on other things.
Today, I will be presenting my 10 Favorite Dystopian Adult novels. In no way am I saying these are the best dystopian novels, simply my favorite. This was a tough list for me. There are some novels that I love, like Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, that many consider Dystopian, yet I didn’t include because I personally never thought of them as Dystopian novels. You may even notice a lack of some classics, like 1984, which I have read but in reality, isn’t a favorite of mine, or Fahrenheit 451 which, I hate to admit, I have never read. I should also note that I am specifically choosing Adult novels, not because I hate YA Dystopian novels (which I don’t) but because I think these novels have made a greater impact on my life.
I would love to hear what some of you favorite Dystopian novels are, adult or otherwise. I would also like to know how you personally define Dystopian Fiction.
My Top 10 Adult Dystopian novels.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
I read Brave New World in 8th Grade English, and have been fascinated by it ever since. Huxley’s description of a regimented society whose reproductive technology has lead to a strict caste system which determined your place in the world frightens me even to this day.
Audiobook Version: There is an audiobook version of Brave New World from AudioGo narrated by Michael York.
It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935)
Sinclair Lewis novel It Can’t Happen Here describes a very real scenario of a Populist Politician’s rise to power. It’s deftly mirrors Hitler’s rise in Germany, and eerily predicts some of the unconstitutional actions our government will undertake during the Red Scare of McCarthyism and the Vietnam era.
Audiobook Version: There is an audiobook version of It Can’t Happen Here from Blackstone Audio narrated by Christopher Hurt
Drowning Towers by George Turner
Drowning Towers is a near future Australian Dystopia which centers on a family who is among the upper “Sweet” class, yet fall into the much larger “Swill” class, and must deal with the ramifications. The story is book ended by a future generation on the verge of a new Ice Age who laments the “Greenhouse” peoples focus on economic issues, instead of dealing with the upcoming ecological collapse.
Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of Drowning Towers.
The Disappearance by Philip Wylie (1951)
While dated, and full of Wylie’s strange views on sexual politics, The Disappearance is a brilliant novel that gives you two glimpses of potential dystopias. The novel moves back and forth between two competing storylines, one where all the men have disappeared, and one where all the women have disappeared. Both genders decisions and their dealings with the loss of their opposites lead to tragic results.
Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of The Disappearance.
Nature’s End by Whitley Streiber and James Kunetka (1986)
The team that brought you Warday now takes you on a tour of the world where the environment is collapsing, and overpopulation is taking its toll. It’s depiction of sprawling over populated cities with its beauty obsessed denizens, plus the drastic desired solutions of an egomaniacal antagonist makes this tale stand out.
Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of Nature’s End.
Children of Men by P.D. James (1992)
PD James’s dystopian novel describes the breakdown of civilization as it is discovered that women can no longer get pregnant. The United Kingdom is ruled over by a despot called The Warden of England. Yet, one group has found the ultimate treasure, a pregnant woman. Children of Men is a chilling Dystopian thriller.
Audiobook Version: There is an audiobook version of Children of Men from AudioGo narrated by Julian Glover.
Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd Century America by Robert Charles Wilson (2006)
Julian Comstock presents a dark, disturbing future dystopian United Stated that is modeled after the Roman Empire. Julian Comstock is full of brutal battle scenes, as well as the rise and fall of a hereditary president. While brilliant, it’s a dark and tragic tale.
Audiobook Version: There is an audiobook version of Julian Constock from Macmillan Audio read by Scott Brick
Fitzpatrick’s War by Theodore Judson (2004)
After years of War where biological and genetic weapons wipe out a large percentage of the Earth’s population, the Yukon Confederacy has risen from the ashes. Fitzpatrick’s War is the autobiography of a Yukon Soldier, Robert Mayfair Bruce, although it’s highly edited and footnoted by a future historian. The style allows you to experience his story, yet also get a glimpse into the future society through their revisionism.
Audiobook Version: There is no audiobook version of Fitzpatrick’s War.
The Postmortal by Drew Magary (2011)
The Postmortal follows society after a treatment that extends life indefinitely is discovered. Despite the obvious benefits of such a treatment Magary frighten outlines many of its unforeseen consequences. The Postmortal takes you step by step through the breakdown of society through the eyes of one character.
Audiobook Version: There is an Audiobook Version of The Postmortal from Tantor Audio read by Johnny Heller. You can read my review here.
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921)
We is the grandfather of the modern dystopian novel and the inspiration for 1984. It describes a future society, under the rule of The Benefactor, whose every moment is accounted for. All characters are numbers, and everything from when they sleep to who they sleep with is mapped out by OneState. Yet, one man begins to question all he believes, due to a chance encounter with a unique and frustrating woman
Audiobook Version: There is an Audiobook Version of We from Tantor Audio narrated by Grover Gardner.
For more on the modern definition of Dystopian and its use as an Umbrella term, check out this interesting Post at the blog Po(sey) Sessions.