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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.
An interesting and challenging speculative science fiction novel that begins in 2066. Covering a number of years and several time frames, Ben Holden is on the run after being targeted for his scientific research. It really does feel as though this world could be our future, enough is relatable and touchable to allow you to easily slip into what could be. Author Steve Holloway has a degree in Aquatic Biology and has worked around the world in marine science, it means that the scientific and oceanic world Ben finds himself in teems with possibilities and I particularly enjoyed these sections. The frequent moves in time and locations are clearly marked, which allowed me to flick between the different timelines in the plot with ease. Faith plays a part here, in terms of what is on offer in the future, and the main character’s transformation. I’m not in the slightest bit religious and found that this element, rather than overpowering proceedings, slotted into the story with ease. There is also enough action to keep the plot moving along at a good pace. Pelagia: Between the Stars and the Abyss makes for a refreshing and thought-provoking read.
A tense and concerningly believable read, ‘Queentide’ by Donna Fisher is a dystopian fiction about women. Set in 2026 Australia (in the near future but not futuristic-feeling), authoritarianism is rife and women are fast losing their voice in the maelstrom of patriarchal outrage. In a sort of exacerbated truth, 2020 pandemic lockdowns led to an increase of domestic abuse reports, and a society that, instead of resolving these cases, turned the blame on women, leading to an escalation in harassment and prejudice. As I read I saw the modern world we live in now but twisted, as though perceived in a carnival mirror. The writing in this book is brilliant. The radio broadcast with Kathleen Rae had my blood boiling and the characterisation of slippery, manipulative politicians and media outlets were all so well crafted and believable. I enjoyed reading as Lillith grows in strength and confidence, and I was intrigued and daunted by Insley’s more aggressive path. There are plenty of strong female characters, with their own backstories, flaws and views that helped to demonstrate a realistic variety of feminist perspectives. Amongst the agenda of Queentide, and as with any brilliant story focusing on people, individual beliefs cause conflicts about what the end goal is, and the means to achieve it. Will Queentide be able to remain united? Will their plans make a positive difference or lead to a direct role reversal? An evocative merging of political thriller and dystopian fiction, ‘Queentide’ has claws. It is a gripping read with grit, heart and good intentions and I’d highly recommend it. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
With bleak and evocative imagery, ‘Line’ by Niall Bourke, is a short yet intriguing read that I think would be perfect for fans of ‘1984’ and books that fall into the literary/dystopian fiction genre. The eponymous Line is everything to Willard and his girlfriend Nyla, with generations and generations of families being born, living and dying waiting to reach some unknown and possible better destination. There are strict rules that must be obeyed with brutal almost ritualistic punishments for anyone who breaks the rules or that attempts to skip the line. In the beginning I found it easy to draw parallels and see a commentary on immigration, that with this more dystopian setting reminded me of ‘The Wall’ by John Lanchester. As the story progressed I saw similarities between Willard and Nyla’s path and Julia and Winston’s storyline in ‘1984’. As the plot develops ‘Line’ also includes a commentary on corporations and their power. I liked the way that ‘Line’ develops. Avoiding spoilers as much as possible, I started to read thinking that the book was one thing, and as more details were revealed I understood that the scope of the book was much larger than I would have predicted. I found the writing succinct, with enough detail to expose the harsh realities of the line and the journeys beyond while encouraging you to get to know the characters. I liked the excerpts throughout the book that helped to explain the wider world and add exposition and context, this reminded me of the book in ‘1984’ and I feel it benefitted the overall story, allowing ‘Line’ to be the short and powerful read it is and removing the need for Willard and Nyla (and by default the reader) to spend time and pages searching for information. A brilliant read for fans of literary, speculative and dystopian fiction, one that I would highly recommend. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Amabssador
‘The Sparks in My Skull’ by I D Atkinson is a science fiction based Young Adult novel. An interesting concept, where young adults suffering from migraines develop additional cognitive abilities called aether varying from precognition to psychokinesis. The downside of these additional abilities are their time-bomb brain, that could suddenly develop a fatal brain bleed. In this dystopian story, where society lashes out in fear towards things and people that they don’t fully understand, we meet Echo and Flynn, who flee to a sanctuary for others with aether, but are they really safe there? ‘The Sparks in My Skull’ is an interesting storyline and each of the characters are infused with personality. The book introduces you slowly to each character and to the different forms and abilities that aether can take. I found the speech a little contrived and the initial incident at the party with Echo personally a bit frustratingly unbelievable. I feel a younger audience may like this book more and this book made me consider that maybe I am now a bit too old for Young Adult fiction. The plotline is interesting and entertaining, and I wanted to read more to learn about aether, and what would happen to Echo and Flynn. I would say ‘The Sparks in My Skull’ is an easy to read story that would be a great recommendation for fans of YA dystopian fiction and fantasy. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
I saw this as a modern take on 1984, ‘For Brito’ by RD Morris follows Everley, a dedicated Brito operative, savagely opposed to the unworking ‘InOps’ in society and dedicated to giving his time, energy and life for his country. In a world following Brexit and multiple waves of a pandemic, the country formerly known as Great Britain turns spectacularly insular, with it’s loyal and patriotic workforce now named operatives and living strictly rationed and regimented lives in service to Brito. As with any brilliant dystopian fiction, there’s enough fact here to make this future country plausible. With Brito’s history including WWII, Brexit as well as anti-immigration feeling and apathy towards the homeless and those receiving state support. ‘For Brito’ muses on the possibility of these nationalist, unforgiving and intolerant values and ideas becoming the british consensus in a way that leads us to an isolated country, where those who don’t work are expendable, and sometimes violently killed. As with 1984 or The Handmaid's Tale, and other great dystopian fiction, the status quo soon receives a shake-up. Initially, I was eager to read to find out which aspects of society the author had escalated and warped in order to create the very believable Brito I saw before me on the page. As I continued to read I was immersed and intrigued by Everley’s story, wondering what would happen to him at the end. The characters are interesting and well-rounded and I thought the plot was well-paced, detailed and immersive. This is a brilliant and gripping dystopian fiction with lots of tension and moments for understanding to dawn. I think this would be a great recommendation for fans of 1984 specifically and dystopian fiction more widely. I am interested in seeing what the author writes next. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
I met Tochi on a panel right before the pandemic hit and he was so delightful and engaging that I took a copy of his book home with me. Post #MeToo, a depressingly predictable number of male writers have suddenly turned away from tough guy narrators to writing women protagonist who are feisty and kick ass and love to give blow jobs. Tochi isn’t like that. He has a kindness and curiosity that imbues his characters with respect and believable complications. His young women are trying to find a place in the world that seeks to stifle them. That they are able to find ways through the many obstacles thrown in their paths speaks to Tochi’s sensitivities and I dare say his own family’s immigrant experience. Selected by our Early Summer 2021 Guest Editor Karin Slaughter
‘22 Stories Falling Up: A Novel’ by David Lawrence is a mystery steeped in technology and science fiction. In a world where technology is now able to merge with human consciousness, Emily and co-worker Phillip are on a quest to discover what happened in a secret project they were involved in. Left with few memories and feelings of distance and concern with no cause, the pair are eager to learn what happened in the Virtual Design project they signed up for, and why it was stopped. There’s lots of science fiction themes throughout this book. The advancement of technology, the AIs and interactions between people and technology are incredibly inventive and detailed, but not so detailed as to go over my head as I read. I like the idea of the party and Phillips and Emily’s journey taking place in a tower block, and their progression through the building almost like layers of encryption, requiring passing through before the truth and their memories are revealed. Aside from the technical aspects of Virtual Design, and the secret project, there’s other subtle science-fiction nods such as Emily’s apparent psychic abilities. These are referenced at the start and towards the end but I wonder whether these could be utilised a little more. The plot gets into full swing fairly quickly and the reader learns more about Phillip and Emily, their work, their relationship and the project as the story progresses. I did find at the start however that I would have liked a little bit more exposition, or something to help me form more of a connection with the main characters before the part got underway. I understand that more is meant to be revealed as the plot opens up but I personally feel I was missing an initial connection that made me care about finding the information out. I also still have questions about Phillip and Emily’s perspective. I felt I needed a bit more of an explanation about why they each perceived certain characters as different sexes, for example. This is a surreal story, which plays on the flaws we have as humans while presenting a technologically advanced quest for truth. Even though I was left with questions, it is a story I enjoyed and pondered over while I wasn’t reading. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
An exquisitely unsettling and fabulous blast of speculative fiction awaits in this provocative, hard-hitting debut novel. An unknown virus that only kills men hits Glasgow in 2025, as it spreads, confusion, lies, and heartbreak follows. As Christina Sweeney-Baird explains in her author’s note, she wrote The End of Men before Covid 19 affected the world. While the current pandemic remained tucked away in my thoughts as I read, this is very much a work of fiction and the focus lies with a female lead society coping with life during and after a pandemic. This is told on a world scale over five years and is set as a gathering of memories, as though this event has already come to pass and you are reading a piercing slice of history. This novel contains a huge number of characters, and I felt as though I was observing them at a distance. Having said that, some characters return throughout the book, and I formed more of a bond, felt more of a connection with them. Short chapters, headed by the day after the outbreak and name of the character ensured my focus remained sharp and on point. There are bubbles of humour to be found along the way, as well as the more obvious emotions. Yes this is so very close to what is happening right now, but it is different enough to make this novel more readable as a result. Joining our LoveReading Star Book collection, The End of Men is a powerful, thought-provoking read that is both epic in scale and intimate in memories. The LoveReading LitFest invited Christina to the festival to talk about The End of Men. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Christina in conversation with and find out why everyone should read this book. Check out a preview of the event here
Spanning twenty years, beginning four years from now, Rosa Rankin-Gee’s Dreamland is a haunting, visionary dystopian novel. Set against a bleak backdrop of escalating inequality, austerity and climate change in post-Brexit Britain, the novel feels both hyper-real and dream-like, suffused as it is in the ethereal melancholy of an abandoned seaside town and the longings of its inhabitants. Seven-year-old Chance and thirteen-year-old JD were born in London, which “was a fourth world country now. A hotbed. A timebomb waiting to go off. That, and an island for rich Russians.” And so their mother accepts a grant from a right-wing foundation for them to move to Margate at a time when droves of people are moving inland to escape the rapidly rising sea. It’s run-down, boarded-up, and subject to the hazardous consequences of climate change, from the rising sea, to the extreme heatwave that hits during their second summer. There are black-outs too, power outages, riots and looting, and then comes the Localisation Act, which grants greater autonomy to smaller regions, resulting in London isolating itself further from the rest of the country and a mass exodus from hard-hit Margate. The creeping sense of change, deterioration and desperation is palpable as Chance seeks to settle into herself, to make a life in Margate while her mother has a new baby to care for and a violent boyfriend to watch out for. And then Chance meets Francesca (Franky), and both their lives change forever thanks to a love that both sets them spinning and roots them, as the world spins out of control. Beautifully-written (the calm, crystalline language is loaded with longing), and powerfully prescient, this is a unique and captivating cautionary tale of our times.
Immensely enjoyable, this high fantasy novel contains characters and a storyline to die for. Oh, and if you think you don’t like fantasy, you might want to think again - this has heaps of drama, action, and thoughtful intrigue, as well as allowing an escape from the reality of the world we are living in. Ashes of the Sun is the first book in the new Burninglade and Silvereye Series. Gyre seeks revenge on the Twilight Order who took his little sister Maya twelve years ago, but when the siblings meet again they find themselves on opposing sides in a war for survival. When it comes to fantasy novels I am a reading fiend, I find that this particular genre offers some of the very best series going and can already safely say that this will be a series I will be camping outside of bookshops for. Django Wexler has built a post-apocalyptic world that you can immerse yourself in, I didn’t stop, doubt, question, just wholeheartedly believed. I grew in knowledge alongside Gyre and Maya, and absolutely loved the combination of technology and inner power. Not only is this a fast-paced beautifully diverse read, I found the humour perfectly timed. In the acknowledgements Django Wexler says that the novel originated after a series of conversations about Star Wars, and you can definitely see some influences as you read. Ashes of the Sun has it all, and comes with the higher than highly recommended tag from me.
Wow. I actually lost sleep with this one. It’s just brilliant. Lots of pop references which I enjoyed, love the fact that Sir David is viewed as highly as he should be. There are references from most of the past decades. The characters are just wonderful, so full of depth. I adore the way it is written in the past and the present, in letter form, book form and even text format. It will really capture the imagination of anyone who reads it, while also giving a stark warning - be wary of too much tech! Kid, Eliza and Pas are such a tight bunch having been through so much together, to have that kind of friendship is a blessing. I really hope this is the first of many books by this author, because they clearly have a flair for writing and drawing the reader in. Absolutely loved it!! Amanda O'Dwyer, A LoveReading Amabassador
Late, Late in the Evening sits as a fairly classic feeling dystopian fiction. In the opening pages we are introduced to police who are quick to violence, and as we read on we learn more about politicians who proclaim they’re working towards making their country great “again”, harking back to an idealised version of history that’s never truly existed. An idea I saw replicated in the quote from The Handmaid’s Tale at the start of the book. The concept of using easily identifiable characters, situations and events is to me the foundation of a dystopian novel and I think the author integrates these features well as he weaves his own story. From the start I was eager to learn more about our lead character Gabriel Dorfman. We are introduced to him in the middle of the action we are gradually told more about his past and how he came to be brought to Arlingham Hall. I was curious to read more about how Gabriel would use his chance for freedom and how his growing relationship with Caroline would affect that. This book is short enough to read in a day, but filled with detail from start to finish. For me this is a brilliant example of dystopian fiction and one I would happily recommend. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
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.