The Chrysalids - John Wyndham

The Chrysalids - John Wyndham

“Learning to accept yourself is easier when ‘thought’ than said”

The novel takes place in a dystopian society set in the future after a nuclear holocaust. The inhabitants of the society subscribe to a fundamentalist religion focused on keeping all living things in their “pure” form, denouncing genetic mutations. 

Typically, I shy away from first person books but since my friend Carlos gave this to me for Christmas, I decided to give it ago. Five pages in, I realize the main character is a child and I’m dealing with his thoughts in first person and I almost noped right out of there. However, I stuck with it and was surprised with how well first person worked for this book, especially once the twist is revealed. The ending was cool, and one of those scenes that flows so well you can imagine it in your head.

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

“Genetically modifying babies seems like the inevitable direction we’re going”

Largely set in a futuristic World State of genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning that are combined to make a utopian society that goes challenged only by a single outsider.

Again, this is such a classic that it feels like I have no right to give my opinion about it. I liked the idea behind the novel, that a society could be so utopian that it’s actually dystopian, but in general, I wasn’t really interested in a bunch of teenagers having sex. The second half of the book was great, and I liked the ending, despite it not being “happy.”

The Trial - Franz Kafka

The Trial - Franz Kafka

“You think the DMV is bad? Bureaucracy at its finest”

The novel tells the story of Josef K., a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor to the reader.

I needed a break from Kafka after reading this. I had planned to read a bunch of his stuff, one after another, but decided that would be a bit much. “The Trial” reminded me a lot of how things get done in China. “Go here, then do this, get this signature, talk to this person, ah but you needed this form, sorry you need 4 copies of this and not 3, we’re not open now…” Just an endless runaround that ultimately ends with the main character calling himself a dog. Weird ending, but somewhat fitting.

A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick

A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick

“Drugs plus California in the 90s never seemed more appealing”

The semi-autobiographical story is set in a dystopian Orange County, California, in the then-future of June 1994, and includes an extensive portrayal of drug culture and drug use (both recreational and abusive). 

The movie was weird, so I was expecting the same from the book, and it delivered. Because many of the main characters are drug addicts, the writing also follows their drug-induced thoughts, which at times was confusing. In addition, it switches between third and first person which can be difficult to follow. Overall, I liked this book and looking forward to reading more of Dick’s harder sci-fi.

1984 - George Orwell

1984-Cover.png

“Living in China doesn’t seem so bad after reading this”

What can be said about 1984 that hasn’t already been said since this book first came out? It was sad, intriguing, insightful, and unpredictable. I think so many people like this book because at some point or another, we can relate to either the plot, the theme, or the symbolism that Orwell manages to weave throughout 1984.

Animal Farm - George Orwell

Animal Farm - George Orwell

“If dystopian novels are too complicated, just use animal metaphors”

I actually read this after I published my own dystopian novel, “Contraception” and my first thought was: “Orwell wins the dystopian genre.” Simple, clear, and effective, this book is a classic for a reason.