Dystopian, Fiction, Reviews, Uncategorized

9 Best Dystopian Fiction Novels

Since I did a roundup of the 9 Best Apocalyptic Fiction Novels a few weeks ago, I had to follow that up with my picks for best dystopian fiction novels.

As I mentioned in the first post, I draw a distinction between dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. To reiterate, in my opinion, a dystopian novel is one that puts forth the notion of a flawed utopia, which usually occurs after a great disaster. You can normally identify a dystopian by the presence of a strong government or ruler.

Merriam-Webster defines “Dystopia” as:

An imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives. An anti-utopia.

One of the first dystopian novels I ever read, and probably the most famous of the few that existed before The Hunger Games started a dystopian YA fad, is George Orwell’s 1984. 1984 definitely sparked my obsession with dystopian fiction. I’d read The Giver and Among the Hidden by that time, but it wasn’t until 1984 that I knew what these types of books were called and thus how to track down more of them to read. And 1984 also kicks off my list of the 9 Best Dystopian Fiction Novels!

9 Best Dystopian Fiction Novels

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1984 by George Orwell

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 . . .

My Take: This is the one that started it all for me. Relatively simple in its composition and ideas, 1984 nonetheless possesses that special something that endures and permeates our culture.

You can read my full review of 1984 here.

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

My Take: I really enjoyed this series overall. I liked the story, but I also liked that Collins wasn’t afraid to shy away from violence. Once they hit high school, I believe teenagers are old enough to contemplate the big ideas of our world, the pretty and the not-so pretty.

You can read my full review of The Hunger Games series here.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

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In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

My Take: It’s rare these days that a book makes me stop to look up a word, but Divergent made me stop and look up two!! Abnegation and Erudite. This was overall a great series, but I can’t say I saw the direction the third book would take us in and that absolutely shocking death! Also, I’m still a little jealous of how young Roth was when she wrote this and gained international acclaim. Her and Victoria Aveyard.

You can read my full review of Divergent here.

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Matched by Allie Condie

In the Society, officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.

Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one…until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow—between perfection and passion.

My Take: This was a beautifully written series. Most of the books on this list sacrifice more lyrical prose in favorite of plot and action. The Matched series has plenty of plot, a little less action, and plenty of beautiful writing.

You can read my full review of Matched here.

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Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Ninety-five days, and then I’ll be safe.
I wonder whether the procedure will hurt.
I want to get it over with.
It’s hard to be patient.
It’s hard not to be afraid while I’m still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn’t touched me yet.
Still, I worry.
They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness.
The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.

My Take: I still haven’t finished this series, I just recently picked up Pandemonium. But this was another book I really enjoyed and I’m excited to see where the series goes. It also inspired by my love for this E.E. Cummings poem: [I carry your heart (I carry it in].

You can read my full review of Delirium here.

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

My Take: This is one of the more recent books I’ve read on my list and one I’ve raved about. I haven’t finished this series yet either, but I will soon.

You can read my full review of Red Rising here.

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The Giver by Lois Lowry

In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.

My Take:

This is probably truly one of the first dystopian novels I ever read, though I didn’t know it at the time. I often forget about this one when I’m thinking of Dystopian novels. I probably need to do a re-read of this one. I also read Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son, but I remember The Giver as being my favorite of the four.

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Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world– and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally’s choice will change her world forever…

My Take:

This is a great dystopian series from the pre-Hunger Games craze. Many books on this list came out in the wake of The Hunger Games mania, but this series pre-dates that. This is by far my favorite series by Westerfield.

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Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Luke has never been to school. He’s never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend’s house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend.

Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He’s lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family’s farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside.

Then, one day Luke sees a girl’s face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he’s met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows — does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford “not” to?

My Take:

I honestly don’t know if I read this or The Giver first, but this is another series I often forget about. Both because I read it so long ago and because it’s aimed at a bit younger audience. I read all the rest of the books in this series and enjoyed them. I should probably reread this as well.

Anything you would add to my list? Leave me a comment below!

 

Dystopian, Fiction, Reviews, Young Adult

Reached

Reached Ally Condie (Matched #3)

After leaving Society to desperately seek The Rising, and each other, Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again. Cassia is assigned undercover in Central city, Ky outside the borders, an airship pilot with Indie. Xander is a medic, with a secret. All too soon, everything shifts again.

This is the third book in the Matched series. It was every bit as beautiful, engrossing, and unputdownable as the other two in the series. I still think Book 1 was probably my favorite, but this one tied all of the plot points up neatly, or as neatly as possible. All of the characters got an ending that left me feeling satisfied.

I love reading YA and YA dystopias in particular and I must say, this is by far the most beautiful and poetic of all the series. Most YA novels make do with work-horse language, with the occasional profound, quotable moment. This one is littered with it. I suppose some people might find that annoying, but I love it: you CAN blend stellar, action-packed plot with elevated and beautiful language.

Overall, this is definitely not a series to miss!

Have you read this series? Or this book in particular? Leave me a comment below!

Dystopian, Fiction, Reviews, Young Adult

Matched

Matched by Allie Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

I finally got around to reading this book.

Why the hell did I wait so long?!

This was on my spring break TBR list.

It’s now October.

*sigh*

Anyway.

Matched was fantastic. It’s been awhile since I’ve been so taken with a YA book. Some people hate that the Hunger Games have made dystopia novels an “in” thing. But I love it. I love dystopias. I’m glad there are now so many for me to read. I remember when all I really had was 1984 and Brave New World. Somehow, I’ve still never gotten around to reading Utopia by Thomas More. But now, I have so many books to read!

Condie’s novel is the true successor to 1984 and Brave New World. This is a straight dystopia, born of a society that dictates every instance of its citizens lives. As in Orwell’s novel, the trappings of culture (art, music, poetry) are virtually outlawed, except for One Hundred of each that were selected to be saved. In an effort to promote equality, the citizens routinely find that the rules shift and new things become outlawed. The heroine, Cassia, seems to find these things arbitrary. In the least spoiler detail, the Society one day decides to cut down all the Cottonwood trees.

One theme of the novel that comes up in different ways, explicitly and not so explicitly is this: “You don’t mess with other people’s lives”. Which is exactly what the Society does. To everyone, but especially to Ky and Cassia. This theme, while very evident in this society, is as pertinent in their world as in ours. People aren’t just things for you to play with. You can’t just mess with their lives because you feel like it.

Matched is the first in a series. While I’m interested in seeing where it goes, I hope that Condie remains true to an idea that really shaped Matched for me. That the love between people can be strong enough to bring down a society. Or at least, I think that’s where she’s going. I loved that the relationship between Ky and Cassia, while a small thing in the grand scheme of their world, is everything. This isn’t Katniss, the leader of a rebellion. These are just two kid who were never supposed to fall in love.

It’s beautiful.

Top Ten Tuesday, Uncategorized

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Summer TBR List

As always, TTT is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is the top ten books on your summer reading list!

I’m so stoked for this one now that it’s officially summer for me!

1) The Night Eternal by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan: This is the third and final book in their Strain Trilogy. This is vampire horror/thriller at its finest. Once I finish this book, I’m going to do a series review. I read the first book in the series right when I got home for Christmas and the second one mostly in the hospital over Spring Break.

2) The History of Love by Nicole Krauss: I’ve heard nothing but praise and great things about this one. I recently picked up a copy at the used bookstore.

3) A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin: ‘Nuff said.

4) Matched by Ally Condie: This is was on my Spring Break reading list, but I still haven’t gotten to it.

5) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: Pretty behind the trend on this one, but I’m excited to read it.

6) 11/22/63 by Stephen King: Summer is the time for chunksters! This will actually be my first Stephen King novel.

7) IQ84 by Haruki Murakami: First Murakami novel though I have a couple on my shelves.

8) The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen: Dystopian literary thriller. Sign me up.

9) The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma: Victorian London + History + Literature + Time Travel + H.G. Wells

10) The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons:  Sequel to Hyperion. Despite what I’ve heard about the rest of the series, I’m still excited to read the rest. I’m a definite completeist. And I just started this one last night!