From genetic manipulation to a restriction on women’s rights, the issues that populate dystopian novels speak to my deepest fears: a look into a possible future where humanity morphs into new. So that’s what I did this summer. I read seven dystopian novels in the span of two months.
My Dystopian Novel Summer Reading List
– A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
– Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
– 1984 by George Orwell
– A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
– The Road by Cormac McCarthy
My favorite? The Road.
Coming at the end of my reading list, McCarthy took a familiar genre and broke many rules—no explanation for the cause of this post-apocalyptic world, no chapters, no traditional three act structure—but all for the stake of the novel. The nameless father and son wander a harsh and yet awe-inspiring world full of dangers lurking on the periphery. In a lawless, broken world, the form added to the emotional and physical terrain of the novel. Full of surprise, menace, and tenderness, The Road changes the rules with a consciousness that adds to a popular genre.
And there’s no better way to cleanse the dystopian palette than to watch the sci-fi TV show, Orphan Black. The show is about cloning and doesn’t pull any punches with plot. A less confident show would have teased the audience with red herrings, but Orphan Black understands that drama and tension comes from revealing secrets, not withholding information. Anchored by a fearless performance by Titiana Maslany, who performs every single clone herself and brings life to a variety of characters, this show doesn’t paint characters as villains and heroes. Each is flawed. Each has vulnerability. Each has a motive. With a strong lead and a charismatic supporting case, the show also allows us to have an explicit discussion about the way others claim the bodies of women. Dark, funny, and suspenseful, it’s a show worthy of binge watching.