Saturday, July 10, 2010

What Makes a Good Dystopian Society? Read-A-Like List: Activity #8

For this challenge Karin the Librarian asks us to create a list of books we've read with similar themes. From Big Brother (1984) to The Sisterhood (The Forest of Hands and Teeth) I like reading about a protagonist desperately trying to figure out what's wrong the prevailing order. So, some of my favorite dystopias from this year are:

The Maze Runner  - Thomas wakes up in an elevator without any idea where he is or who he is. Turns out he's one of many boys living in a community surrounded by huge walls that open each morning into a labyrinth and close each night to keep out monsters. But when the elevator brings new surprises the boys realize that time is running out to solve the maze and figure out who's behind it all.

The Hunger Games - The Capitol reigns the Districts with an iron grip, each year reminding the citizens of their subjugation by requiring two kids from each district to fight to the death in a televised arena. I love Katniss' story. She faces her fears with stubborn courage becoming the Capitol's worst nightmare.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Mary lives in a village surrounded by a fence keeping out the Unconsecrated, also known as the infected or zombies. When the Sisterhood, entrusted with the village’s history and safety, betrays Mary’s trust and a breach occurs she must choose between the home she knows and the unknown world in the forest.

What makes a good dysopian story? For me, the powers that be need to be spooky, deceptive, dangerous, manipulative and wield a lot of unchecked power over the lives of those they govern. And they usually govern through fear. They don't have to be a hated power. Take for instance The Sisterhood who the villagers trust and only through circumstances does Mary find out they withhold information to heighten fear in order to maintain power. In The Maze Runner the boys feel incredibly manipulated which leaves them feeling powerless and resentful of "the man behind the curtain."And Katniss feels manipulated by the Capitol as well as scared of its unbridled use of power to stifle lives in the Districts. A mark of each story's ruling power is deception. The control of information is usually what keeps protagonists jumping through hoops - they never know what's happening, things are not often as they seem and their plans are often laid to waste because they are misinformed.

What makes a good dytpopian society to you? What are some of your favorite messed-up fictional communities?


  1. Dystopian books are one of my favorite kind of books to read. I love when a new society if build and I get to read about all the good and bad and the troubles the main character is going through. I also love the fact that it's an entirly different world that I get to explore and discover.

    I love all the disopian books you listed but if you have yet to check it out i would also recommend Unwind by Neal Shusterman

    You can check ou tmy review for it at my blog

    Great post!

  2. Caitlin - I like reading fantasy for the same reason - getting to explore a different world. Thanks for the reading suggestion! I'll check out your review tomorrow...when I'm more awake!

  3. I'm you 100th follower! Congratulations for this milestone.

    I have tried to read dystopian novels but I lost interest really fast, so I will leave these for you to enjoy. It's wonderful knowing what one likes and dislikes reading.


  4. I love to see the world after society has crumbled. One of my favorite Dystopian worlds is from Scott Westerfeld's UGLIES, PRETTIES, and SPECIALS trilogy. I agree with Caitlin about UNWIND too. Absolutely fantastic!

  5. dystopia has been everywhere, i liked the Westerfeld series but thats really as far as I have gotten

  6. I've never heard of The Forest of Hands and Teeth but I've recently gotten pretty into dystopian novels so I might have to check it out.

  7. I've read all three of these titles and loved them. All hail, dystopian lit!

  8. I think I would like dystopian novels. I've read some similiar adult themed ones and have like them.

    Sherri @ Urban Girl Reader

  9. My favorite is the old school classic, Brave New World. That society freaks me out.

    Stephen King's novel, The Stand, is pretty freaky about it's view of the future. I don't usually read King, but I thought this one was really well done.

  10. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is one of my favorite books! Have you read Dead-Tossed Waves? I can't wait for the third book:-)

  11. Wonderful list! One of my fav dystopias is WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks. Very creepy and chilling. Loved it!