Everyone is buzzing about the new trend of terrifying post-apocalyptic, dystopian, science fiction novels. In particular, Young Adult dystopian novels. Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games Trilogy and Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent are examples of some of the most popular of this genre on the rise. As a long-time fan of dystopian and science fiction novels I viewed this trend with initial excitement and then later, with disappointment at the amount of unoriginal novels that are churning out at a rather rapid rate under this enthralling genre.
I’ve decided to draw up my own list of my top ten dystopian, post-apocalypse, Young Adult and Adult novels that were published before this rising trend. I decided to leave out big titles such as George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and instead focused on the more recent and slightly lesser known titles.
1. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Mortal Engines is the first book of four novels in the ‘Instrumental Devices’ series and is number one on my list because it checks all the essential criteria of a good sci-fi novel. It has great characters that develop and grow throughout the series, an original concept and setting and finally, an action-packed plot. Mortal Engines is set in a post-apocalyptic world that was destroyed by the nuclear ‘Sixty Minute War’. All cities have broken off from their former countries to become ‘Traction Cities’, individual states that can move and must ‘consume’ smaller cities for their parts and engines in order to keep moving.
Mortal Engines has now been labelled under the new genre of ‘Steampunk’ novels, nevertheless it is still very much a thrilling post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel that deserves to be read!
2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road is one of the most haunting post-apocalypse novels I have ever read. It offers its readers no
comfort or hope, or explanation for why a man and his son are wandering the road. Their only aim seems to be survival and it is this idea – that in the end nothing will matter but survival is what is the most terrifying.
I’ve sneaked The Road on this list even though it is definitely more well-known than some of the other titles on this list due to the fact that Cormac McCarthy has published many other great novels. In addition the novel was made into a film in 2009
At a time when climate change is becoming an increasingly pertinent issue, Julie Bertagna’s trilogy demonstrates the possible consequences our energy consuming habits could have. The first title of the series, Exodus is set in the year 2100. The melting ice caps have caused the shoreline to rise and Mara’s home, island of Wing will soon disappear under the waves.
4. The Carbon Diaries: 2015, by Saci Lloyd
I recently read an article that suggested the reason why dystopian novels have recently become so popular is because we anticipate that our future will be similar to the dark, twisted novels that we are reading. Current political crises and the increasing threat of climate change might be what is causing us to turn to novels filled with dark post-apocalyptic imagery. If so, then the Carbon Diaries: 2015 is a very relevant novel for those interested in issues surrounding climate change and anyone who is interested in how our mistakes might catch up with us next year, rather than a hundred years into the future.
In the series, the UK has imposed carbon rationing due to recent natural disasters. The book is written in diary format, chronicling a year in the life of Laura, a sixteen year-old student in London whose life is nearly taken over by the stress of rationing, extreme weather and her family issues.
Like The Road, Never Let Me Go is not full of intense action scenes, instead Kazuo Ishiguro engages his readers through a much more subtle horror. The novel follows the story of Kathy and her friends who are raised in Hailsham, a very special boarding school in England. Never Let Me Go has also been adapted into a film, which is worth watching, but still read the book first!
6. Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
I loved Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale and think that this novel is also recommendable. Oryx and Crake has a very imaginative and original plot. It begins after the collapse of civilization by an event which is later explained by the protagonist, Snowman.
Scott Westerfield’s series of books; Uglies, Pretties, Specials and Extras is really well known however I wanted to include Uglies on my list because I think his books are so relevant today, in a world where people are becomingly increasingly concerned with looking like the models and celebrities we see in the media.
8. Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence
Children of the Dust is one of the more weird and scary post-apocalyptic novels on my list. The book jumps from three generations of a family during the
aftermath of a nuclear war. As you can imagine a lot changes in the family, as they struggle first against radiation, then a nuclear winter and finally feuds between rival groups to eventually become radiation-induced mutations and evolve into a new species.
The Giver presents a classic seemingly utopian society in which people have eliminated pain by converting to “Sameness” a plan that has also eradicated emotions and empathy from their lives. The novel follows the story of Jonas who has been selected to inherit the position of ‘Receiver of Memory’ or the ‘Giver’. The Giver has the role of storing all the past memories of the time before Sameness in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. I didn’t enjoy some of the other novels in the series like Gathering Blue, but would recommend The Giver as an enjoyable read.
I love the concept behind David Thorpe’s Hybrids, where teenagers are affected by a virus that causes them to merge with frequently used technology to become Hybrids. The virus has caused Britain to go under quarantine and the Hybrids are being rounded up by the Gene Police and sent to a mysterious Centre for Genetic Rehabilitation.
Now this is a dystopian future I can imagine coming true! I’m not proud to confess that I would probably end up merging with my mobile phone.
So that’s my top ten, a mix of young adult and adult dystopian, science fiction novels. As mentioned before I’m sure there are a lot more I could add, such as Lauren Oliver’s Delirium which also has a very intriguing concept.
What books would you add to the list? Or more importantly if you were a hybrid, which frequently-used technology would you most likely end up being merged with?