Dystopian Novels that Warned You this Was Coming

Or, a manual for navigating dystopian present/future.

When I first read 1984 by George Orwell, I was pretty spooked. Soon after, I watched it performed as a play and I was even more spooked. I told my dad that it scared me a little bit, especially the TVs with eyes (webcams) and ears (Amazon Echo) and how they invaded what a person did even when they were alone- their private moments and thoughts. My dad responded with a cool “You think that’s terrifying? How about reading 1984 in 1983?” Touché, Dad, touché.

Fahrenheit 451 was my assigned summer reading one year in high school. I was worried it would be boring, but I LOVED it. It felt so relevant and the writing seemed contemporary and engaging to me, even as a teenager reading a book written in the fifties. If you love books or hate fire this story will freak you out in a way that makes you question the role of technology and government. To be honest, I was super scared of the kindle for years just for this reason- I thought it would overpower hard copies.

Speaking of my fear of the kindle, I am now reading The Handmaid’s Tale for free on my beloved device. I don’t need to tell you much about why this is relevant or frightening. I want to always live in a society where women are treated as equal counterparts in the workplace and have complete personal control over their own bodies.(This protest hits a little close to home!) Also, The Handmaid’s Tale has parallels withFahrenheit 451, in the “banned and burned books” department.

The Hot Zone is not sci-fi or a dystopian story- it is real life. Every member of my family has now read this book, which is a strange thing for a household to bond over, but we can all carry informed conversation on the topic of wide-spread epidemics and the hysteria surrounding Ebola and Zika. These diseases don’t go away- this informed account of Ebola was written in 1995.

Slaughterhouse Five Do you ever feel like you are unstuck in time? Things are going backwards or the past has moved forward? This is a war story, among other things. It is also absurd, thoughtful, and humorous.

One of my favorite myths is about the original radio broadcast of War of the Worlds as a special Halloween episode in 1938. As the story goes, people heard the broadcast and thought it was actually happening! Not many people, though, as the broadcast was not received by a large number of people. Despite its rumored ability to create mass hysteria, or perhaps, because of it, this story from the late 1800’s has continued to frighten us using every relevant form of media.

The Stranger avoid becoming disillusioned and dispassionate. Avoid guns, they are seductive and damaging. (Orange is the New Black won’t let us forget that.) Maybe avoid prostitutes/pimps for the same reason? Warning: the stream of consciousness will suck you in and confuse you greatly.

 

 

Related: Summer Re-Reads and In the Handmaid’s Head

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