Monday, we’re talking about dystopias. Which means we’re talking about utopias. You can’t have one without the other. Dystopias are what you get when our ideas of societal perfection crash into reality and collapse on the flaws of human nature.
Monday, we’re talking about dystopias. Which means we’re also talking about utopias. You can’t have one without the other. Whether political, environmental, or technological, literary or historical, dystopias are what you get when our ideas of societal perfection run up against the hard truths of reality and the flaws of human nature. We’ll discuss where the idea of dystopia comes from, what dystopian worlds look like, and what they say about who we are, what we hope for, and what we fear.
- Gregory Claeys is Professor of the History of Political Thought at Royal Holloway, University of London. He's the author of several books of utopia and dystopia, including Dystopia: A Natural History [Indie bookstores|Amazon].
- Matthew Ivan Bennett is a resident of Plan-B Theatre.
We asked local bookseller Catherine Weller of Weller Book Works for a list of recommendations on dystopian novels. She lists her favorites here. The ones with asterisks are still on her "to read" list.
- We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1924)
- The Trial by Franz Kafka (1925)
- It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935)
- Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)
- 1984 by George Orwell (1949)
- Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1949)*
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1952)
- Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut (1952)
- Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962)
- Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (1963)
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (1968)
- Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin (1974)*
- Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney (1975)
- High-Rise by J. G. Ballard (1975)*
- Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (1976)*
- Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)
- Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
- Children of Men by P.D. James (1992)*
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992)*
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (1993)
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2003)
- Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004)*
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)*
- Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigulupi (2009)
- Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (2010)
- Zero One by Colson Whitehead (2011)*
- Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (2014)
- On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee (2014)
- Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (2015)
- Book of Joan by Lydia Yuknavitch (2017)*
- Walkaway by Cory Doctorow (2017)