Ever came across terms like "Big Brother", “Thought crime” and "Newspeak"? Ever wondered what is this frenzy all about? Well, it is about Dystopia.
Hello readers!! What do you think about mass surveillance of citizens by their own government? What if profit-motivated corporations directly controlled governments? What happens when religious extremists take control of government and pass laws to control women? What are the dangers of putting people into rigid social castes from which they have no hope of escaping?
Dystopian fiction can help us think about all these scenarios without actually having to live through them or maybe we are living in it already?!
Dystopian literature is a form of speculative fiction that began as a response to utopian literature. Dystopian novels often explore themes like anarchism, oppression, and mass poverty. It can be a way to educate and warn humanity about the dangers of current social and political structures.
Here are some of my favourite picks from this genre:
"1984" by George Orwell
This book has a way of making you think you know exactly what you believe about everything and then turning you completely upside down and making you question whether or not you believe anything at all about anything. It's the strangest feeling.
We are controlled by our governments, and often in ways we are not consciously aware of. Advertisements, marketing campaigns and political events are all designed for us to elicit a certain response and think in a desired way.
1984 takes this to the extreme. Cultural brainwashing becomes the chief goal. Subjugation becomes normality.
"Oryx and Crake" by Margaret Atwood
Imagine you are the last homo sapien on earth, surrounded by the new breed of humans - passive, docile Children of Crake who are physically flawless, void of envy and jealousy, do not understand violence or sexual drive, unable to be artistic or comprehend technology.
Atwood takes a current trend (bio/genetic engineering) and extrapolates it to an insane extent, creating a horrifying world of social disparity, violence, genetic hybrids.
Is it wise to artificially alter something created and perfected by Nature over millions of years? Does a man have a right to engineer a "perfect human" ?
"The Handmaid's Tale" and "The Testaments" by Margaret Atwood
I stumbled upon this series 4 years back and the day I watched the first episode, I was appalled.
In this once-futuristic world — the book was published in 1985 about the near future — America is taken over by a religious sect, and the order of the country is pushed back several centuries. Horrifyingly, women are domesticized and subordinated to men, even though environmental degradation and its impact on fertility means that fertile women are inordinately more precious and desired.
The Testaments, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, was released last year (Winner of The Booker Prize, 2019).
It continues the story of The Handmaid’s Tale, 15+ years later. However, instead of continuing Offred’s story, it follows Aunt Lydia’s story (the antagonist becomes the protagonist, what a change of perspective!).
(Beware : A dystopian classic often leaves you in deep reflection)
"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley
The idea of how far science can go without being immoral is peppered throughout the book.
Set approximately 632 years after the creation of the Model - T, a World State controls society with the intent on eradicating personal thinking and individual creativity. Aldous Huxley takes on consumerism, the media, genetic engineering, recreational drugs, religion, herd mentality, individualism, and lots of other socially relevant topics, weaving them into a science fiction setting that our world resembles more every day.
In 'Brave New World' people are controlled by inflicting pleasure.
Don't miss the series on Netflix!
"The Animal Farm" by George Orwell
A MUST READ FOR EVERYONE!
I am flabbergasted at how lucidly Orwell criticizes political maneuvers, using animals to explains what humans do. This books elucidates well upon the vicious cycle of revolution and how it ends on the same state as it began. Easily read in one sitting, it'll force you to critically analyze whether you know what you know.
Fun fact : Did you know Eric Arthur Blair better known as George Orwell was from Bihar, India?
After you are done reading, do watch this amazing song- 'Trouble in Town' by Coldplay which is based on this book.