In recognition of Donald Trump, North Korea and the slow inevitable trudge towards global veganism, we’ve compiled reviews from the dystopian and post-apocalyptic genres. Revolving around totalitarian governments, nuclear war and seemingly idyllic worlds, these novels each offer a potential glimpse into our future. But seriously, what’s the worst that could happen? Let’s take a look.
1984 (1949) George Orwell
Utilitarian in style and plot, 1984 is considered a modern masterpiece of dystopian fiction. Integrating philosophy and plot, 1984 tells the story of Winston Smith, a lowly member of ‘The Party’, which controls the continent of Oceania. In this world, there are two distinct classes. The first known as ‘the proles’, relating to proletariat, make up the vast majority of society. The second is made up of members of ‘the party’, whose roles include fabricating photographs and rewriting history. In this world, people are monitored through tele-screens, a device that sees and hears every single thing you do. All are weary of the ever-watching gaze of ‘Big Brother’. In order to escape detection and leave a legacy, Winston starts a journal, recounting his life and true thoughts. Amidst the chaos and control, Winston meets Julia, and together the two defy their overlords in every way they can. With elements of suspense, horror and romance, 1984 tells a compelling story of redemption and revolt. At its core, this novel is a story of courage, an act of defiance against a society which seeks to manipulate its citizens.
Some quotes for you to pull out during lulls in the conversation –
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”
The Giver (2006) Lois Lowry
In a colourless world, memories of pain, war and famine are locked away to preserve the harmony of society. In The Giver, society is highly controlled, from your occupation to your partner, your freedom of choice is non-existent. In an effort to not repeat the errors of the past, the community has removed history from the minds of its inhabitants. Knowledge is not lost however, as all memories are safeguarded by “ The Giver”. Jonas, twelve years old, is chosen to be “The Listener”, his purpose to absorb the memories of the past and to preserve knowledge for the future. Among the identical dwellings and nuclear families, dark intentions lie. As the novel progresses, Jonas uncovers horrors and plots, and inevitably must make a jaw clenching decision. Immersive and mysterious, The Giver is a coming of age story, and forces us to confront the demons of our civilisations past. Not too dense and easy to read, this book is a great place to start for readers new to dystopian literature.
Some quotes to make you look more edgy on Instagram –
“I don’t know what you mean when you say ‘the whole world’ or ‘generations before him.’I thought there was only us. I thought there was only now.”
“We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.”
“Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps it was only an echo.”
“The community that the Giver had achieved came at such a great price. A community without danger or pain. But also, a community without music, colour or art. And books.”
The Road (2006) Cormack McCarthy
The more courageous of us should definitely read Cormack McCarthy’s The Road. Harrowing and disturbing, The Road has all the hallmarks of speculative horror fiction, from cannibals and chattels the world of post-nuclear America is harsh and merciless. In this world, a nameless father and son trudge down a highway, seeking a ‘safe haven’ from the impending nuclear winter. Devoid of punctuation, with chapters reminiscent of free form poetry, this novel is unending and rambling by nature. This style mimics the nature of the plot, representing the constant presence of danger and mortality, with no pause for rest. Littered with remnants of the past, crumbling skyscrapers and tattered billboards, The Road is a warning of an all too real possibility, a world scorched by fire. It’s is intense to say the least, and not recommended for the light hearted. The visceral imagery and nerve wracking suspense are extremely effective, and amidst all the carnage one of the best depictions of paternal love ever written. This book, for better or worst, is simply unforgettable.
Some one liners to shake up your next family gathering –
“Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.”
“What he could bear in the waking world he could not by night and he sat awake for fear the dream would return.”
“The nights were blinding cold and casket black and the long reach of the morning had a terrible silence to it.”