I half-wrote this a few weeks ago for a previous Top Ten Tuesday and never finished it, so I’m rolling it out for freebie week!
Ten Reasons I Love Dystopian Novels
1. They are creepy. They take a fear in modern society and play on it, presenting a rather scary not-too-distant future. 1984, anyone?
2. They can act as warnings. Only a rubbish dystopia would be so different from the present day that we wouldn’t be able to see how things turned out that way (unless the reveal is part of the author’s plan, see Oryx and Crake). The whole point is being able to see seeds in real life leading towards the dystopian world of the novel.
3. They are imaginative. From one idea, they explore how civilisation might advance (or, rather, regress) and create a credible world.
4. They make you care. Reading dystopian novels makes you confront some of the issues we face as a society. At the least, this makes you think; at most, it makes you care. They can shape your understanding of real life, and might even affect how you live it. (This is why all children should read The Lorax.)
5. In a similar vein, because dystopian writers are often dealing with difficult issues, they can inform us and encourage us to research further. Whether the subject is genetic engineering, cloning or virtual reality, these fictional works could influence the side we take in these debates.
6. They encourage you to question things. How many dystopian worlds are presented as utopian?
7. This also makes for three-dimensional characters. The ‘villains’ of the piece are rarely acting as they do simply to be ‘evil’; you just might understand the initial thought or idea that got out of hand. The ‘heroes’ are often outlaws of their society. Who is right and wrong? And who is to say who’s right and wrong? (Sometimes this feels very easy to answer.)
8. They are clever. The way they take our fears, mix in a bit of imagination, and create a believable world, requires great creativity – and often bravery.
9. This genre has produced some of our very best literature, including Brave New World and The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as Margaret Atwood’s excellent MaddAddam trilogy.
10. We get completely absorbed in these worlds – and then we can leave them. That is the important thing…!
Just read all of the aforementioned classics, or Lord of the Flies, Never Let Me Go, The Hunger Games, Station Eleven, the Delirium trilogy, Noughts and Crosses, The Giver, Goodhouse – possibly anything that describes itself as a dystopian novel – and see what I mean.