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Commonly extrapolating elements of current society, dystopian fiction explores the darker side of possible worlds. Discover more than a Brave New World here.
One of our Great Reads you may have missed in 2011. A brilliant thriller with a modern sensibility and super-fast pace and suspense that will delight fans of classic thrillers and films. Carrying on the tradition of ‘what if’ history novels started by Len Deighton with SS GB and continued with Robert Harris’ Fatherland The Afrika Reich is set in an alternative 1952. After the fiasco at Dunkirk forced Britain into an uneasy peace with Germany the Third Reich now control Europe and most of Africa. A personal feud forces a British mercenary on a reckless ‘last mission’, it goes horribly wrong and he is hunted down. This explosive thriller is a meticulously researched debut novel that is a must read for any fan of Robert Harris or Len Deighton. Click here to visit Guy Saville's blog and find out more about the book.
When a Victorian scientist propels himself into the year 802,701 AD, he is initially delighted to find that suffering has been replaced by beauty, contentment and peace. Entranced at first by the Eloi, an elfin species descended from man, he soon realises that this beautiful people are simply remnants of a once-great culture now weak and childishly afraid of the dark. They have every reason to be afraid: in deep tunnels beneath their paradise lurks another race descended from humanity the sinister Morlocks. And when the scientist's time machine vanishes, it becomes clear he must search these tunnels, if he is ever to return to his own era.
A shocking and stunning dystopian thriller from the Richard & Judy selected author of Mudbound. The story is set in a very right-wing near future America, where criminals are released back into society, injected with a colour and where abortion is classed as murder. If you liked The Handmaid's Tale this is definitely worth reading and it’s a perfect book for reading groups, as we can imagine some very heated discussions.
This is the much-anticipated final instalment of the Wool trilogy. The next Hunger Games . (The Sunday Times). Thrilling, thought-provoking and memorable ...one of dystopian fiction's masterpieces alongside the likes of 1984 and Brave New World . (Daily Express). In the aftermath of the uprising, the people of Silo 18 are coming to terms with a new order. Some embrace the change, others fear the unknown; none have control of their fate. The Silo is still in danger. There are those set on its destruction. Jules knows they must be stopped. The battle has been won. The war is just beginning.
In the author’s alternate 1980s Britain (which he parallels with the current political climate), Britain has lost the Falklands War, Thatcher is fighting for her political life as Tony Benn’s socialism engenders feverish devotion from young voters, and the country is on the verge of leaving Europe. Alongside these tides of change Alan Turing has created a small quantity of expensive, advanced artificial humans called Adams and Eves. Enter our drifter protagonist, 32-year-old Charlie Friend, who blows most of his inheritance on an Adam. He and his younger girlfriend Miranda share in Adam’s co-creation, both of them having a hand in determining Adam’s personality. The first of many challenges come when Adam and Miranda have sex, which leaves Charlie angry and humiliated: “He was a bipedal vibrator and I was the very latest in cuckolds”. And then Adam betrays Miranda, revealing to Charlie that she’s been lying to him. Moral dilemmas and existential questions abound when it seems that Adam is in love with Miranda in a very human sense, a love that’s partly exhibited through his penning of thousands of heartfelt love haikus. Alongside the oft-explored questions around sentience and what it means to be human, this often entertaining novel provokes fresh thought through Miranda’s complicated, tragic past, the characters’ complex current love triangle, and the future she and Charlie might forge for themselves.
A cracking sci-fi post-apocalyptic adventure thriller for teens. When Thomas wakes up, walks out of the lift he’s in he finds himself in a walled encampment – the Glade - surrounded by a maze alongside lots of boys. He wonders how he got there but no one knows. All they all know is that every 30 days a new boy arrives and every morning the big wall comes down between the Glade and the world inhabited by the terrifying Grievers, part-animal, part machine, and the boys will risk everything, to find out why they’re there and every evening the wall goes up again. This really is adrenalin pumping reading that fans of Michael Grant’s Gone series, The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies will love.
What happens when all the personal information held by tech companies is no longer private? What happens when this code of ethics is broken? When everyone in your world - in the world – can know all your secrets? This thoroughly thought-provoking novel addresses such questions - and more - as it explores the all-encompassing impact of recent, emerging and conjectured future technology through a haunting and powerfully personal account of one woman’s life. It’s 1997 and, at the tender age of 17, Laura Bow has created a basic artificial intelligence, which she names Organon after a Kate Bush lyric. Organon begins life as Laura’s imaginary friend. This creation is her outlet, a vent, a means of dealing with the loss of her father who vanished when she was seven. As Laura grows older and gains more experiences and memories, for a time working at the tech company her father founded and sold shortly before he disappeared, so Organon grows with her. Much like a skilled human personal assistant, it informs and supports Laura through her life, managing what she needs to be aware of, filtering out the superfluous, and anticipating her needs. But, as new technologies are developed and companies create intelligences with far less morality programmed into them than Organon, millions of personal and political secrets are unleashed and the world is sent reeling to the brink of breakdown. Shifting forward in decades from 1997, the cleverly-spun narrative spans Laura’s entire life, from the early years of dial-up Internet, to a speculative future that serves as something of a wake-up call. Taking in artificial intelligence, human intelligence, love, loss, and meaningful memories, this novel might make you reflect on how much time you spend online, and what you do and disclose there. Above all, this is an absorbing story about humanity, making moral choices and living your best life with love and ethics.
This is a pretty unsettling and powerfully compelling debut, well worth a read for the original storyline alone. The world seems to stop and some people hear the words ‘My Children. Do not be afraid’. Confusion and terror reign and we follow the lives of 26 people not all of which heard the message. This gripping is a high concept dystopian thriller that will appeal to fans of Inception or Flashforward and we look forward to seeing what James Smythe follows it up with.
August 2012 Debut of the Month. A clever, well thought out, young adult sci-fi adventure. Set on a future Earth that is only inhabited by people with dysfunctional immune systems that mean they can’t live anywhere else. These people are seen as throwbacks and are called, and treated like, ‘apes’ but Jarra our feisty heroine is out to prove them wrong. Great for fans of The Hunger Games – just not so grim and dystopian.
Darkly playful, Jeanette Winterson’s Frankissstein is an astonishing intertextual re-conjuring of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, melding an interpretation of Shelley’s novel and life with an exploration of what it is to be human, freedom, sex, gender and love. It’s thought-provoking, thrilling, and funny to boot. Contextualised in - and interspersed with - Shelley’s writing of Frankenstein, we are transported to Memphis where modern-day transgender Dr Ry Shelley attends a robotics expo to “consider how robots will affect our mental and physical health.” Here Ry encounters Ron, the Welsh inventor of a new range of Sexbots he believes will provide a woman to satisfy every male need, from deluxe bots who can hold a conversation (“she waits till you’re finished, of course, no interrupting”), to Germaine, a “70s feminist version with no bra, messy hair and a dildo for anal play”. It’s at the expo that Ry first encounters - and later falls for - Professor Victor Stein, a leader in the field of Artificial Intelligence who has dealings with The Alcor Life Extension Foundation, an Arizona facility that processes dead bodies with the aim of indefinitely extending life. Alongside the love story, and the juxtaposition of Frankenstein with contemporary conversations around A.I., the novel also addresses Brexit, bigotry, racism and English insularity: “The English are serial racists – one group gets accepted, another group becomes the scapegoat”. And back in Shelley’s day, England is described as, "small-minded, smug, self-righteous, unjust, a country that hates the stranger, whether that stranger be a foreigner or an atheist, or a poet, or a thinker, or a radical, or a woman.” Profound, absurd and mischievous, this is an incisive, suggestive romp for our times.
I am an absolute sucker both for quest-through-the-wilderness tales, and for post-apocalyptic landscapes. Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation delivers both, in creepily brilliant and utterly unforgettable style. Narrated by an unnamed female biologist, it tells of a scientific expedition - the latest of many failed ventures - into a desolate wilderness known as Area X, where they hear a "low, powerful moaning" at dusk. "I would tell you the names of the other three, if it mattered," the biologist tells us, doomily, "but only the surveyor would last more than the next day or two." It all gets progressively more sinister and alien and uncanny and disastrous - I'm not sure I've read a book which scared me, and stayed with me so much, for years - with the story expanded on in the world outside Area X in the following two novels in VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, Authority and Acceptance. A slice of dreamily written, haunting literary science fiction flows through the whole trilogy. ~ Alison Flood The Southern Reach Trilogy:1. Annihilation2. Authority3. Acceptance
The Road meets 28 Days Later in this heart-stopping, page-turning saga of rage, hope and survival. A global earthquake has released an inner rage in some people throughout the world that they cannot fight. For those who can, life becomes an ongoing battle to survive - at any cost - and for three in particular life as they knew it has gone...
Dystopia - The opposite of Utopia.
ORIGIN late 18th cent.: from dys-‘bad’ + Utopia. An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.
H.G. Wells was the first popular dystopian writer with the Time Machine (1895) in which the future doesn’t bring continuous improvements in human kind, rather its demise to the baser darker side of our nature. Through Metamorphosis (1915) by Franz Kafka, Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) by George Orwell and on to The Handmaid's Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood dystopian fiction continues to probe the darker areas of the human condition.
Perhaps all the end of world prophecies have fueled the demand, never the less the contemporary dystopian offerings are proving popular reading – especially among a younger audience. We hope you enjoy the selection.