Thursday, May 13, 2010

Modern Dystopia

Dystopian literature is certainly on the rise today. While certainly one reason for that could be our society, another is because dystopian has changed and shifted with the times.

One of the good things about dystopian literature is that it envisions the future. And the future could hold anything. As we explore the possibilities, newer and more ingenious books are being written.

THE HUNGER GAMES has probably had the most influence on the rise in popularity. It's twist is inventive--in the future, the world is split into different districts, and once a year, the districts must offer children to fight in an arena. The future in this novel is based on survival and politics.

But THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is no less a dystopia--but it's more about zombies than politics. Although many would classify this as just a "zombie novel," it's actually a dystopian--only in this world, instead of district factions and child arenas, the world fell to a zombie plague. It's still survival, but a much different kind.

At the same time, THE CITY OF EMBER is a dystopia. The world isn't overrun by zombies or split into factions--instead, it's tightly contained in a secret underground world, awaiting a time when they can re-emerge on the surface. THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO doesn't even take place on our world, and there's fantasy elements involved in the linguistics of the world, but it's still a dystopia--a future that didn't quite go as planned. LIFE AS WE KNEW IT, on the other hand, takes place in a world that could be tomorrow. There's no repressive government, no Big Brother, no monsters or apocalypse. Just the moon--knocked too close to Earth, and the environmental damages that causes. Likeswise, LITTLE BROTHER takes place in a world that could be tomorrow--but one that's reacted in an extreme way to the threat of terrorism.

Dystopian lit encompasses all of these plots: a society on a new planet with talking dogs to a place extraordinarily like the world we live in, with just one element changed or exaggerated. As time moves on, dystopian lit changes, too: we are constantly re-visioning the future and developing new worlds to fit it.

So--what dystopian world do you want to see?

PS: Looking for a great dystopian to read? Check out this comprehensive and amazing list!

11 comments:

Miriam S. Forster said...

I'm always intrigued by the blurry line between good and evil, and the difficulty of fighting evil without becoming the very thing you hate.

Because of that, I'm a sucker for dystopias that grow out of a society's genuine desire to do the right thing. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is an excellent example.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I love the way dystopian literature paints society. The rules seems clearly defined and its the struggle to break free that I enjoy.
Ogg to check out that reading list now. :)

Alesa Warcan said...

I like reading about most dystopian settings (not all books of course) but I have a special place for dystopian societies in post apocalyptic worlds. They usually give characters something to struggle against, be ingenious for, or something to be crushed by...

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm reading The Hunger Games right now. It's really good. My son read it first, but he won't give anything away no matter how many questions I ask.

I haven't read enough modern dystopian books to mention any other books. I'm getting into them now.

Christina Farley said...

All those books you mentioned I love. So I must really like dystopia literature. I like the what ifs of it I think. There's just so much that can be done in this genre too.

I'm off to check out that link.

Kate said...

Oryx and Crake is another great dystopia book.

Sashi said...

As a fellow writer of YA dystopia, I think ultimately people read and enjoy it (I know I do) because of the way humans ultimately survive the dystopic conditions. There's nothing more interesting to me than the ingenious ways in which human beings surmount difficulties. That's ultimately what dystopian literature presents.

Crimey said...

Like Miriam, I love my dystopians to have a blurry line between good and evil, right and wrong. I like the antag and protag to have underlying characteristics that cross the line, and leave me unsure of who side to take. My current WIP is a post-apocalyptic novel that I hope to blur the lines in...

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Hm, I'm definitely more attracted to dystopian literature now--more than I ever was, but it may just be because of the rise in popularity. Then again, I never really gave it much thought as a genre. I had read The Giver and Among the Hidden (the entire series actually) without considering them as a dystopian genres (and it seems to me they certainly must be now)--not sure if the Giver is, but it seems perhaps it is. Great analysis, Beth. And thanks for the link to the list!

Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf said...

Great post. Many thanks for the link to my list.

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