What is it about dystopian fiction that keeps readers going back for more? Are we suckers for punishment? Maybe we find comfort in the reminder that yes, things could be worse. Dystopian fiction has been around since the 19th century. Mary Shelley, famous for her fictional monster Frankenstein, was one of the first writers to venture into the bleak world of dystopia with her 1826 novel, The Last Man, but the genre didn't explode until after WWII and the introduction of nuclear weapons. For decades, writers from H.G. Wells to Margaret Atwood have been creating dystopian futures that are both beyond our wildest imaginations and shockingly close to home. In this list of the best dystopian novels, extreme cosmetic surgery is enforced, America breaks into a second Civil War, and animals rebel. Prepare to be disturbed, and utterly enthralled.
The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans.
A young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. One day, she finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump - plant or animal? - but exudes a strange charisma...
Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.
Twenty years after a devastating flu pandemic destroyed civilization as we know it, Kirsten moves between settlements with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive.
Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs long thought to be extinct. There he meets Emiko. She is one of the New People, bred to suit the whims of the rich. Engineered as slaves, soldiers and toys, they are the new underclass in a chilling near future where oil has run out, calorie companies dominate nations and plagues run rampant.
In the rural settlement of Waknuk, David and his cousin Rosalind have a secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as they grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery, or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands.
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Beatrice Prior's society is divided into five factions - Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself.
At the Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skillfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party.
Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
Ben is a desperate man. With no job, no money, no way out, and a young daughter in need of proper medical attention, he must turn to the only possibility of striking it rich: participating in a reality TV game where the only objective is to stay alive.
A brilliant scientist constructs a machine which propels him to the year AD 802,701 where he finds himself on an idyllic Earth inhabited by the small, incredibly beautiful Eloi. Yet all is not as it seems, and beneath the earth a terrifying, cannibal race are lying in wait.
Global warming has melted the ice caps and primordial jungles have overrun a tropical London. Biologist Dr. Robert Kearns and his team of scientists confront a cityscape in which nature is on the rampage and giant lizards, dragonflies, and insects compete for domination.
Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. In just a few weeks she'll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty. And as a pretty, she'll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.
The night after a shooting star is seen streaking through the sky from Mars, a cylinder is discovered on Horsell Common in London. At first, locals approach the cylinder armed just with a white flag - only to be quickly killed by heat-ray, as terrifying tentacled invaders emerge.
Very ordinary small boys are marooned on a coral island. At first it seems as though it is all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death as ordinary standards of behaviour collapse.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He's surrounded by strangers whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It's the only way out - and no one's ever made it through alive.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world...
It's the 23rd Century and at age 21, your life is over. Logan-6 has been trained to kill, but his time is short and before his life ends he's got one final mission: Find and destroy Sanctuary, a fabled haven for those that chose to defy the system.
In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, a monk of the Order of Saint Leibowitz has made a miraculous discovery: holy relics from the life of the great saint himself, including the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the hallowed shrine of the Fallout Shelter.
The Principle of Simultaneity is a scientific breakthrough which will revolutionize interstellar civilization by making possible instantaneous communication. It is the life work of brilliant physicist Shevek. But Shevek's work is being stifled, and he soon finds himself being used as a pawn in a deadly political game.
Abandoned by her mother at the age of six, Amy is imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her.