Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dystopian Favorites

Alex and I actually were talking before this post and really trying to suss out our favorite dystopian books.  As we started listing dystopian novels, we realized that there were just so many!!  I mean, some of my most favorite books are dystopias.  However, I think I've narrowed it down to a favorite.

This is the version of The Handmaid's Tale that I own.  It portrays the outfits that women wear in the book, marking them as "breeders."  Basically, they were the only women who were fertile and are handed off to multiple men to try and have babies and repopulate the world.  However, I think it's important to also show this cover:

Women in Atwood's novel were meant to be silent.  They weren't supposed to have interactions with the husbands (though, not THEIR husbands.)  They were not to talk to people, not to go anywhere without an escort.  Their only job was to be a baby-maker.  What's more, is that the world came INTO this.  Women had jobs, families, lives and freedoms not ten years before.  In fact, Offred, our main character, can remember when she was married and in love and made love as opposed just to being knocked up by whomever happened to own her that month.  Women are no longer along to read or have opinions or anything.  All because of wars and declining fertility.

It's a very powerful novel, making you see how easily people can be affected by a change in the status quo, a threat that the human race will come to an end.  Atwood also demonstrated how easily things can revert back to a time when women had no freedoms, when really, no one had any freedoms.  The fact that Atwood's writing is fantastic makes this a book that must be picked up.

Like Cassy, most of my favorite books are dystopian, too. But one of my big favorites is one of the best dystopian series for teens in recent memory: The Hunger Games.

Maybe you've heard of it?
I chose to write about The Hunger Games because, of all the dystopian novels I have read, it has my favorite dystopian setting. I love a lot of things about these books, but the biggest one is the world Suzanne Collins created it in. (You know how lots of people say the Lord of the Rings books were just a vehicle for Tolkien to describe an amazing world with detailed languages he invented? Well, they say that. This is kind of like that, except I like Collins' writing far better than Tolkien's.)

If you aren't familiar with the series, I'll give you the history. Panem, which is a post-apocalyptic North America, is divided into thirteen districts and the Capitol. District 13 was crushed by the Capitol as an example to the other districts, as punishment for rebelling, bringing an end to the Dark Days (a rebellion against the Capitol's power). The Capitol has complete power over the poor districts, as demonstrated by the annual Hunger Games, wherein one male and one female between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are chosen at random to compete in an arena (a new one is built each year with different dangers and challenges) to the death, with only one tribute (contestant) surviving. The winners go on to mentor the tributes  from their district in future years. It's all a way for the Capitol to say "we own you" to the districts, and it works (for 75 years, anyway).

There are a lot of details I'm leaving out, either because they're spoilers or because I would have to mention spoilers in order to properly explain them. But to sum up why I love this dystopia so much: the clash of the decadence of the Capitol and the squalor of the districts (well... most of the districts) is such an excellent contrast, and it's portrayed so well. That's how you build an excellent dystopian novel: a solid setting with a great backstory and thoroughly explained difference between the haves and the have nots.


  1. Omg, I have so many favorites. I took a class on Utopian/Dystopian Lit in college that was perhaps my favorite ever. There are quite a few movies that I love as well, and sadly, I haven't read the books that many of them are based on. But, I would have to say that my favorite books are "The Giver" (because it was my first one in this genre) and "The Hunger Games." I enjoyed "1984" and "Fahrenheit 451" but I wouldn't consider them favs. I loved the movies of "A Clockwork Orange" and "V for Vendetta" but I never read the books. I also love the films "Equilibrium" and "The Island." I don't believe that "Equilibrium" is based on a book, and I'm not sure how closely "The Island" follows the book of the same name so I don't know if its based on it.

    On the flip side, I absolutely hated "Animal Farm" and did not care for "Brave New World", so it works both ways.

    1. I didn't know you took a Utopian/Dystopian lit class!! HOW SUPER FUN! (who taught that bdubs.)

      You should stick around for Thursday! Between the two of us, there have been a lot of good dystopian books so you might see some more then. ;)

      Also, I don't think Animal Farm was MEANT to be a dystopia. I think it was just Orwell's take on how bad communism is.

    2. I don't remember who taught it. I'm pretty sure it was an adjunct person.

      I will definitely be around for Thursday. That may be so with Animal Farm. I read it in 7th grade, so I think partly I didn't quite get it at the time.