Posts Tagged ‘Utopian and dystopian fiction’

A lot of people are familiar with the classic dystopian literature that you have to read in school.  These titles would include, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and A Brave New World.  A few more people are getting to know this genre through titles like The Hunger Games or the comic The Walking Dead that’s become a hit TV show.  Here are a some other notable dystopian novels I read this year:

Divergent. In the future, all 16 year old’s go through trials to join one of 5 factions, or they risk becoming factionless.  This is the story of one girl, who was raised in Abnegation (the selfless faction) joining Dauntless (the brave).  I thought the concept was interesting, but there wasn’t much information about why society had made the choice to divide everyone into these factions.

Shatter Me. This story is narrated by a girl in a prison/insane asylum whose touch kills people.  A warlord has her released so he can use her as a weapon.  The most interesting aspect of this book was the way it almost seemed like the girl had written it by hand.  It was very notably in her voice and even included things that were crossed out.

Enclave. After massive wars and plague, the story picks up with a human enclave living in the tunnels below a city.  They trade with other enclaves and avoid “freaks” who seem to be plague-ridden monster humans.  A girl, Deuce, becomes a hunter in this society and learns something disturbing about the nearest enclave.  The book  has definitely made me look at subways differently.

Eve. Eve has spent her entire life in an all-girl’s school after a virus wiped out most the earth’s population.  When she turns 18, she ends up leaving the school in unexpected circumstances and meeting men for the first time.  It’s interesting how many of these books involve coming of age and then discovering terrible secrets.

When She Woke. This book is loosely based on The Scarlet Letter.  It’s about a future when many prisoners are released after short sentences, but their skin is marked with a dye that alerts everyone as to what their crime was.  It’s a cheaper alternative to prisons, and in this future you can get marked red as a murderer for having an abortion.  It’s a depressing read but I think envisioning different outcomes of the abortion debate is really important, whether you are pro-life or pro-choice.  There are scary futures possible on both ends of the spectrum.

The Pledge. In this future, each social class has their own language, and all of the classes share one common language.  Knowing other languages is punishable by death.  This book was unbelievable in many ways, but the whole notion of restricting the languages that a person can speak was fascinating to me.

Finally, here’s a recommendation that’s not from 2011, but that I just picked up and read this year:

The Road. After a horrific nuclear war, a father and his son journey to the sea.  Along the way, you discover what happened to the boy’s mother, encounter the typical post-apocalyptic bandits, and start to wonder about the point of living in a world that’s been destroyed.  This book was compelling and depressing – it’s on Oprah’s booklist, so that should tell you something about the depressing factor.

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Have you noticed that dystopian fiction is on the upswing?   My best friend and I share a love of dystopian movies and books, so we were years ahead of this trend.  I’m trying to get her into the TV series “The Walking Dead,” which is about zombies.  I’ve finished all of seasons 1 and 2 in the past 2 weeks, and I’m excited for season 3!  I’m not normally a zombie person – I read very little zombie dystopian fiction, but this TV show is making me a convert.

I’ve been struggling lately to start exercising.  I’d like to have kids in the next year or so and I’ve been consciously trying to prepare my body for that, hence no longer taking anxiety medicine, trying to use my CPAP machine more, drinking water, and now exercising.  One of the most motivating thoughts I’ve had is just how completely unprepared I would be for the zombie apocalypse in my current physical shape.  Yeah, I look pretty healthy, but I start to get out of breath after 3 flights of stairs.  I don’t want to be dead weight, so I’m going to try to start walking and running.

This train of thought has led to me to wonder exactly what skills I could contribute if we were overrun by a plague of the undead.  My husband normally has a monopoly on all practical skills since he runs a construction company.  It’s pretty easy to see how useful being able to fix things and build things would be in that kind of future, but my line of work wouldn’t really transfer.   I don’t think there would be that much call for linguistics or research.  Here’s a list of skills I have that I think would be useful:

(1) People like to help me.  If you’ve ever traveled with me, you know what a bonus that can be.  There’s just something winsome and innocent about me that makes people trust me.

(2) I can knit.  Mostly scarves, but a blanket is just a wide scarf, so if we broke into a Michael’s and got lots of yarn, I could make blankets for us.

(3) I have scary good aim.  I know this because I visited my brother at OCS when he was a Marine and participated in family day, where I got to shoot M-16’s and M-203’s.  It caused a lot of comment among the Marines that my aim was so good and I got a few extra turns with the M-203 (grenade launcher) to see if it was a fluke.  I don’t rate this as my number one contribution because I don’t like guns and might freeze up if a zombie attacked me.

(4) If there were a book on survival, I would read it and learn a lot of useful things about the plants we could eat and how to tie knots, etc.  If anything is in a book, I can learn it.  The problem would be finding such a book on the run.

(5) I’m good at giving shots.  That could come in handy if anyone needs medical care.

(6) I’m good at languages, so if we had to travel or encountered people who didn’t speak English, I’d be a good choice for first contact.

Hopefully I’ll be able to add, “Runs quickly” or at least, “I can walk a lot” to this list in the next few weeks.

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