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Let's Talk Books - Dystopian

Today we are inspired by Victoria Roth’s thrilling dystopian, Divergent that I just recently read and reviewed.

Divergent is one of the many new Young Adult dystopians that have popped up on the market since the huge success that was The Hunger Games. But, dystopian isn’t a new fad, it’s been around a long time.

Dystopian, dystopia which literally means the opposite of utopia can be a very bleak read, especially for Young Adults, but the sub-genre has exploded. Like Twilight drove mass production of vamp fic, The Hunger Games has offered us up a ton of new fiction within this sub-genre - which in the past hasn’t even gotten enough attention to warrant the word dystopian to be entered into most Spell Checker Software.

Let’s talk today about pre-THG (The Hunger Games) and post THG dystopian fiction. I’ll tell you what I like, and I would love it if you chimed in and let me know what books are on your list. Once again, this is my list - you are not going to see Handmaiden’s Tale or Lord of the Flies - because while I did read and enjoy those books, I wouldn’t quite say they are my favorites.

The Hunger GamesSetting the Timeline:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
, September 14, 2008

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual 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 steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Top 6 Dystopian Novels - PreTHG

Brave New WorldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932) 

"Community, Identity, Stability" is the motto of Aldous Huxley's utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a "Feelie," a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing and senses his relationship with a young women has the potential to be much more than the confines of their existence allow. Huxley foreshadowed many of the practices and gadgets we take for granted today--let's hope the sterility and absence of individuality he predicted aren't yet to come.

Nineteen Eighty-Four1984 by George Orwell (1949) 

Portrays a terrifying vision of life in the future when a totalitarian government, considered a "Negative Utopia," watches over all citizens and directs all activities, becoming more powerful as time goes by.

Fahrenheit 451 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) 

The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.

The Running ManThe Running Man by Richard Bachman aka Stephen King (1982)

The Running Man is set within a dystopian future in which the poor are seen more by the government as worrisome rodents than actual human beings. The protagonist of The Running Man, Ben Richards, is quick to realize this as he watches his daughter, Cathy, grow more sick by the day and tread closer and closer to death. Desperate for money to pay Cathy’s medical bills, Ben enlists himself in a true reality style game show where the objective is to merely stay alive. (Nothing like the stupid movie!!!)

UgliesUglies by Scott Westerfield (2005)

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. 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 the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

The Host: A NovelThe Host by Stephanie Meyer (May 2008)

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.

When Melanie, one of the few remaining "wild" humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Wanderer probes Melanie's thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer's mind with visions of the man Melanie loves - Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.

Top 6 Dystopian Novels - PostTHG

The Forest of Hands and TeethThe Forest of Hands and Teeth  by Carrie Ryan (2009)

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

GoneGone by Michael Grant (2009)

In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE.
Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 1)The Maze Runner by James Dashner (2009)

Imagine waking up one day in total darkness, unsure of where you are and unable to remember anything about yourself except your first name. You're in a bizarre place devoid of adults called the Glade. The Glade is an enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. And no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids -- the Runners -- venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. So far, no one has figured it out. And not all of the Runners return from their daily exertions, victims of the maniacal Grievers, part animal, part mechanical killing machines.

Inside OutInside Out by Maria V. Snyder (2010)

Keep Your Head Down.
Don't Get Noticed.
Or Else.
I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I've got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? The only neck at risk is my own…until I accidentally start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution.

Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy)Wither by Lauren DeStefano (2011)

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.

Divergent by Veronica Roth (2011) pre-pub

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, 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 to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating 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 a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.


I didn't realize this before I wrote this, but is having a Dystopian Week this week... check it out and see if you dystopian matches!


~Mallary~ said...

1984 was one of my first "favorites". The fact that George Orwell wrote that book in 1949 still amazes me, because he was dead on about a few things. Talk about "visionary" lol.

I'm a big fan of Stephenie Meyer's the Host. I picked it up, not sure if I would enjoy it, simply from what was on the book jacket. I was pleasantly surprised though. I hear rumors of a sequel and I hope that eventually becomes true!

I haven't read THG yet, I know, I'm terribly behind on that craze lol. I do plan on reading them though!! Great post! :)

Karen said...

I'm interested in Brave New World and Divergent. I try to space out the reading of Dystopians - they can drag you I'm still not over FOTHAT!
Loved The Host also and my new fave - Enclave.

June G said...

I'm nearing the end of Divergent. I've flown through the pages and found it really engrossing. Loved Wither. It had beautiful writing. I'd like to check out The Host and the old classic A Brave New World. Maze Runner looks good too. Whew. You've hit on some good ones! Love this post. Well done, my dear!

Mflick1 said...

I just read Brave New World with my class this year and they really got into it, which was nice. They were, however, disappointed in the ending, They were waiting for a big revolution! Luckily I have a bunch of dystopians on my shelves and passed them out. Another favorite of mine is The Giver.

ParaJunkee said...

@Mallary - 1984 rocked me like a good SciFi can do, especially when you read it post 1984 LOL. What are you waiting for regarding THG??? LOL

@Karen - I have no idea what FOTHAT is -- drawing a blank LOL. I'm jealous I want to read Enclave badly!

@June - Sorry to increase your TBR - LOL

Jessica Subject said...

I loved Fahrenheit 451 in high school, although most of my class didn't. I just finished reading The Host, which is one of my favorite books of all time. I have The Hunger Games, Gone and Uglies waiting to be read, Inside Out on the way, and I look forward to the release of Divergent. I just started reading Dystopian this year and I'm addicted.

Sayuri said...

My favourite Dystopian YA is Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking Trilogy which starts with 'The Knife Of Never letting Go.' I read it when I worked as a bookseller and the author was coming for an event and fell in love with the book.

Sarah said...

The Hunger Games definitely introduced me to dystopian fiction. Like Jessice, I'm addicted. I'm so happy I read THG because now my eyes have been opened to this awesome genre :)

This is a great post by the way! I'm hoping to read Divergent sometime in the near future.

-Sarah @Inklings Read.

ParaJunkee said...

@Jessica - 451 is hard to get into. Very very hard. Most of my class hated it also, but she also made us read that and Martian in 9th grade. I think we might have been a little young for that one. As a class...anyway. It can be addicting.

@Sayuri - I haven't read that one. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

Fireflywishes said...

I think the best dystopian novel I have read in a long time is The Passage by Justin Cronin, although some people probably look at the size and think it's a bit daunting. It's freaking AMAZINGTASTIC! :) 451 is very good, I have THe Host and still haven't had time to read it yet. I also haven't read The Hunger Games trilogy yet but I plan too at some point. Several of the other books are also on my wish list too.

Great topic!
April @ My Shelf Confessions

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I'm so glad you defined dystopia fiction. I saw the term coming up and I felt too embarrassed to just ask what it meant. I enjoyed Farenheight 451. I didn't enjoy Lord of the Flies and I've been worried that The Hunger Games will be similar.

Tipsy - said...

Oh Wither, I'm drooling after you.

I love how Fahrenheit 451 was originally published in Playboy. It cracks me up every time.

Jennifer A said...

I'm loving the dystopian explosion! I never thought about The Host being dystopian, but I guess it is.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth was amazing! So, so good.

I also loved Delirium, Matched, and Across the Universe.

I can't wait to read Wither!

I haven't read Farenheight 451 since high school. I should really read it again, because I think I'd enjoy it more now.

Great post! :)

Jennifer of Little Shelf

Book Addict said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Book Addict said...

Of books not already mentioned, I like We by Yevegny Zamyatin, and the Ellison story A Boy and His Dog.

Aaron (Dreaming About Other Worlds).

Anonymous said...

WOW! this is such a fascinating list - Ive only ever read ONE of the books on here and my interest is caught by ALL the others youve profiled. Thank you. Now the tough part...which ones do i get first?!
Lani Wendt Young

Brie said...

My favorite dystopian novel is Brave New World, that book is just on a league of its own among with 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 of course, I have seen so many social theories and studies that use those books as reference, it’s just amazing.

The Running Man it’s another of my favorites, and I think that book was the one that inspired Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, and all those types of stories (Battle Royale’s movie adaptation is much better than The Running Man’s), I’m a huge fan of that book, for a crazy reason I find myself preferring Richard Bach’s books over Stephen King’s.

I read The Host and I quite liked it, Stephenie Meyer is a much better adult fiction writer than YA, at least in my opinion, but it had a somewhat slow but very original take on the postapocalyptic, alien invaded, world.

Overall I find that all those YA dystopian books should lose the YA label, because I think a lot of people miss out on them just because of that, and they are so full of social commentaries that anyone could enjoy and learn from them regardless of their age, but I think is a very positive thing that younger people are getting interested in something more than superficial teenage angst -which is also perfectly fine, I do love me some teenage angst, but there’s a lot more than that out there-.

meggerfly said...

I never even knew the term dystopian until somebody told me that that was what THG was. I've of course read Lord of the Flies and The Hanmaids Tale but that label was never brought to my attention. I have heard a number of awesome reviews about The Host and I have the Gone series. I guess I should move them up on my TBR list.

Bonnie said...

I have never considered myself a fan of dystopian fiction until I read your pre-THG list and it hit me that not only have I read just about everything on it but a lot of those books top my must-read list. Hmm.. Maybe I should pick up THG.

Enbrethiliel said...


I should probably read The Hunger Games so I can answer my own question, but I'm wondering about the implication that the trilogy (or the first book) was so revolutionary that we can divide all Dystopian Fiction into pre-HG and post-HG piles. But while the books which made your first list include some written for adults, those which made the latter are all YA novels. Just wondering: what is the basis of this cleavage in the canon?

Kylie1403 said...

This is a genre that atm I am quite drawn too! hehe! Thanks for the suggestions there are a few already on my to read list and other that have now been added

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