A dystopia is, in literature, an often futuristic society that has degraded into a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian. Dystopian literature has underlying cautionary tones, warning society that if we continue to live how we do, this will be the consequence. A dystopia, thus, is regarded as a sort of negative utopia and is often characterized by an authoritarian or totalitarian form of government. Dystopias usually feature different kinds of repressive social control systems, a lack or total absence of individual freedoms and expressions and constant states of warfare or violence. Dystopias often explore the concept of humans abusing technology and how humans individually and collectively cope with technology that has evolved too quickly. A dystopian society is also often characterized by widespread poverty and brutal political controls such as a large military-like police.When and why did dystopias become so popular? There have always been a few around. Brave New World which was written in 1934 is a classic in the genre. Lord of the Flies, written in 1954 by William Golding, is one that shows up frequently in school English classes. But the genre seems to have just exploded in the last few years. Check here for a list of some dystopian novels.
If literature is a reflection of our times, what does all this dystopian literature say? Now, I freely admit that I am old, but this emphasis on dystopias is a bit disturbing for me. I was a teenager in the 1960s. I have always loved science fiction. I grew up with the books of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov (among many others) whose visions of the future were mostly optimistic. The original Star Trek was one of my favorite television shows. You couldn't really find a more hopeful version of the future than that. Man would visit the stars and meet new people who would add to the richness of human experience. Boldly going where no man had gone before! The future was bright and filled with wonderful possibilities.
But now the future seems so dark and grim. Humankind has destroyed the world. Humans have so little choice and no hope. I read a lot of young adult books but I haven’t read all the current dystopias. I was even avoiding them for a while. Off the top of my head and without going back to look at my list of books read, here are the ones I have read recently:
- The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
- Matched by Allie Condie
- Delirium by Lauren Oliver
- Wither by Lauren DeStefano
- XVI by Julia Karr
- Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky