04 April, 2018

#AtoZChallenge: D is for Dystopia

Dystopian stories are all the rage right now, especially in young adult fiction. For some background, a dystopia is defined as an undesirable, often frightening, community in decline. It is the antonym of a utopia, the ideal society. Dystopian universes in literature and movies are usually set in the future and feature totalitarian governments, environmental destruction, the dehumanizing of people, and other cataclysmic societal events. It's usually supposed to have been a utopian ideal that has gone very wrong due to one - or several - flaws.

The most famous examples include Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, George Orwell's 1984, and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Also think of movies like Soylent Green, Running Man, and the Blade Runner.

New stories are published every year about this kind of universe from the Hunger Games to Divergent and, while I enjoyed these, I often find myself wanting something more complex, deeper, richer. Here are two dystopian novels I have discovered that do just that:

The Lord of the World - Robert Hugh Benson

In this 1907 novel, secular humanism has replaced God, Catholics are a tiny minority, priests and bishops are falling away, and the world is in a sort of chaos. One charismatic man promises peace in these hard times in exchange for unquestioning obedience. All who resist are subjected to torture and even death and this tyrannical voice is made leader of the world. In the tiny remnant of faithful, another man, this one a priest, guides his tiny flock through the disintegration of the country, inevitably bringing him into conflict with the Lord of the World. It has been hailed as a prophetic and compelling novel with deep theological insights and a well-written story.

A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller, Jr.

While slightly more on the post-apolocalyptic side, it's close enough to warrant mention as a dystopian novel. Published in 1959, it is the only novel Miller published during his lifetime. It is a masterpiece. The story follows an order of Catholic monks, centuries after nuclear war wiped out most of the population, who preserve scientific, theological, and other knowledge  for when humanity is again ready to use it properly. Combining history, faith, allegory, science fiction, and no small amount of sarcastic insight, this novel warns the reader of a future born of a cataclysmic disaster that is bound to repeat itself...over and over and over again if we do not heed the past and our own natures.

What are some dystopian novels you enjoy or are looking forward to reading?


This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, which involves writing one post every day for the entire month, using the alphabet as a theme. I hope to see you tomorrow for the letter E!


  1. I liked blade runner and running man. While I did read the divergent series and liked it for what it was (YA), I too enjoy more complex plots.

  2. I like dystopian fiction. Offhand I think of The Road (film and movie), but I guess that is more post-apocalyptic. There have been a number of others that I don't recall offhand. I've heard about Lord of the World and would like to read it eventually.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


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