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The 13 Best Dystopian Novels

Updated June 14, 2019 320.4k views13 items

This best dystopian novels list includes some of the best known stories of dystopias in literature and some of the best novels of all time. Dystopias have become a fascinating genre over the last century as disillusioned writers witnessed and reacted against imperialism, two world wars, including the Nazi and Stalin regimes, and the treacherous Holocaust. These writers played with the darkest sides of humanity, unearthed by war and technology and used satiric irony to present a destructive vision of the future of society. The results were these books about dystopian societies and classic dystopian novels.

What are the top dystopian novels? What are the best selling dystopian novels? Dystopian novels are characterized by a lack of individual freedom, heroes that know something is wrong and contain many WTF moments that make you rethink the current status quo and become aware of the constructed nature of our values and standards. The best of this genre of literature gets readers thinking about their own lives, freedoms, and societies.

Cast your votes below for your top dystopian novels, or rerank this list your own way to include all the great dystopian books on your reading list. From famous titles to lesser known works, the works on this list should give you a good place to start when you're looking for your next book about dystopian society. Whether you feel better or worse after read all of them is up to you...
  • Published at the height of the women’s liberation movement in the seventies, a young British guy named Evelyn comes to America and ends up in the hands of a militant feminist colony in the desert headed by a mother goddess with four nipples who decides to turn him into a woman...yeah. Now our hero becomes the heroine, Eve.

    Be prepared for numerous gender swaps, a one-eyed, one-legged villain called Zero and a cave that literally symbolizes a vagina as Eve, mentally unprepared to be a woman, takes on the roles of virgin, whore and mother. Carter’s business is to demythologize absolutist and traditional stories such as the good old Creation story, which blames the female for humanity’s fall and does so through a technique she called "moral p*********y." And now you want to read it.
    • Written during the Cold War, Bradbury was attempting to criticize the increasing censorship in the U.S. In the novel’s f*ture American society, which is on the brink of war, citizens are motivated solely by pleasure, which leads to chaos and the banning of critical thinking and reading.

      The main character, Guy Montag is a fireman, not a traditional civil servant that arrives in a red truck and fights fires, but one that actually causes them when someone is caught with books. Guy is curious about literature and starts collecting confiscated books in his home. When his Captain finds out, his house is burned and he flees to the wild. There he joins a group of men dedicated to memorizing books and passing them on orally.

      Bradbury’s famous dystopia has been alluded to in practically every medium, from Michael Moore’s documentary title Fahrenheit 9/11 to a Simpsons’ episode to a flame-throwing character in StarCraft named Gui Montag, making it a pop culture phenomenon.

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      • A popular young adult trilogy that’s being turned into a movie, The Hunger Games is a genius examination of power and Collins takes risks with graphic content despite her young audience.

        In the novels, Panem has replaced North America, led by a Capitol full of wealthy citizens hiding behind excessive plastic surgery. The twelve districts that surround the Capitol are dirt poor and each has its own industry, whose product supplies the Capitol.

        To discourage rebellion, the Capitol holds an event called The Hunger Games, during which two young tributes from each district are put into an arena and forced to fight to death until one winner remains.

        Katniss Everdeen takes the place of her younger sister and throughout the course of the three books in the series, becomes a symbol of resistance for the people in the districts and a major threat to the Capitol. A love triangle is thrown in, of course, but Gale, her childhood friend and Peeta, her fellow District 12 tribute, who are both men, are a more realistic, human variation of the Twilight triangle.

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        • Another young adult novel that has heavy allegorical traits and counteracts, say religious stories teaching kids to obey, is the Giver. The conformist society in which the twelve-year-old protagonist Jonas lives in is disguised as utopian, as dystopias often are. The members of the society live in perfect nuclear families without even giving birth to their own children. Everyone has the same color eyes and are colorblind and deaf. No animals exist within the society and the weather is kept constant.

          Jonas, who has unique light eyes and can see color as well as hear, has a wet dream one night about being in a bathtub with his friend Fiona and his mother makes him take pills to suppress his emotion. At the Ceremony of Twelve, he is given a job called "Receiver of Memory." The Giver becomes his teacher, passing on memories that give Jonas a deep emotional impression of both dark experiences like violence and sadness and happy ones like love and beauty.

          His family takes in a baby named Gabe who cries at night and can’t sleep. Jonas realizes the baby can receive memories and runs away with him when Gabe is sentenced to be released, or killed by lethal injection.

          Critics were unsurprisingly appalled by the mature content of the young adult novel but its defense of freedom won it the 1994 Newbery Medal.

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