In the last few years, a very big wave for the dystopian genre was created. Most of the people that are into this kind of artistic work are presumably familiarized with the novels that made it popular, but there are probably younger ones who have seen/read “The Hunger Games” and “The Divergent” series and don’t know some of the biggest names from this category. Because of this, I decided to make a list of eight books and authors that everybody should read if they are into dystopian tales or want to give it a try.
Yevgeny Zamyatin was a Russin author who lived between 1884 and 1937. He wrote SF and political satire, but his most famous work is the novel “We”, which he wrote in 1921.
“We” is set in a future where only one nation exists (“One State”). In this world, people have no names and they are known for a number which they receive. The main character is D-503, a spacecraft engineer. In a world where individuals are not allowed to have feelings but only have logic thoughts and behaviors, D-503 meets a woman, I-330, that does all things that are illegal: drinks alcohol, smokes and has sex for pleasure.
If the plot is not enough to get you into this story, just think of the fact that “We” was the first work banned by the Soviets. Zamyatin managed to smuggle his book out of Russia and is now known as one of the first Soviet Dissidents.
Aldous Leonard Huxley lived between 1894 and 1963. He was an English writer who graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in English literature. He wrote nearly fifty books and was nominated seven times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
His dystopian novel “Brave New World” is one of his greatest works and has a full review on our website.
Huxley is considered a pioneer of the dystopian genre and one of the greatest novelist of the last century, so if you haven’t read any of his works, you should definitely do so.
Kurt Vonnegut was an American writer who lived between 1922 and 2007. He wrote several dystopian novels such as “Player Piano” and “Harrison Bergeron”, but I will talk about his most known work in the name of “Slaughterhouse Five”.
Vonnegut published “Slaughterhouse Five” in 1969. In it, the main character, Billy Pilgrim, believes he was a prisoner of an alien zoon and also time traveled. This book is actually more than a dystopian story. The author manages to include religion and philosophy in all that madness. Actually, the role of religion in Billy’s life is a key point of the novel.
George Orwell was an English novelist who lived between 1903 and 1950. His birth name was Eric Arthur Blair and is best known for his dystopian novel “1984” and his allegorical novella “Animal Farm”.
“1984” was published in 1949 and has its plot in a world where people are victims of propaganda, omnipresent surveillance and war. In his book, Orwell creates a superstate name “Oceania” which is ruled by the “Party” which has as a leader the “Big Brother”, who has an intense cult of personality but may not even exist.
Orwell was a genius of the genre and even if he was not the first who wrote dystopian stories, even today, he continues to influence the popular and political culture.
Ray Bradbury was an American author who lived between 1920 and 2012. he wrote books that belong to different genres such as SF, horror, mystery, but his most famous work is the dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451” which we gave a full review on our website.
He received numerous awards including a Pulitzer Citation in 2007. New Your Times called Bradbury “the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream”.
William Golding was born in Cornwall, England in 1911 and lived until 1993. He won a Nobel Prize in Literature and a Booker Prize award in 1980 for his book “Rites of Passage”, but his most memorable work is the dystopian novel “Lord of the Flies”. His famous story presents a group of boys that find themselves trapped on an abandoned island after an accident. You can find the whole detailed review of “Lord of the Flies” on our blog.
Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick was an American writer known for his SF stories who lived between 1928 and 1982. He wrote numerous popular books, some of which were also a starting point for very popular movies such as Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report.
The book I will present shortly today was published in 1968 and is called “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. This was the story that made the 1982 “Blade Runner” possible. The plot is set in San Francisco in a time after a nuclear global war made life on Earth really hard for most species. It has two main characters: a bounty hunter, Rick Deckard, who has to find six robots that are missing and John Isidore who helps the fugitive androids.
Margaret Atwood is a Canadian author born in 1939. She is a versatile writer who won many awards during her life and who has a very huge book portfolio from you can choose. She wrote poetry, children books, short fiction books, non-fiction books. She even participated in the Hogarth Shakespeare project and reinterpreted “The Tempest” in her novel “Hag Seed”.
Her dystopian book which also is a huge television success is “The Handmaid’s Tale“. The novel was published in 1985 and tells the story of a totalitarian regime which takes over the US government. We, the Badgers, are big fans of this story and gave it a full review last year.
So, what do you think? If we missed some important name for this genre please let us know. We are always happy to discover new writers and books.