Kickass Dystopian Reads – Lex Hirst
Not everyone realises that they love dystopian books, but they do, they just haven’t read the right ones yet. Or else they don’t realise that The Hunger Games is dystopian – just like all those people who watch Game of Thrones and still think they don’t like fantasy. Don’t be put off by labels like Young Adult, some of the most exciting writing goes on in kids’ fiction genres, I find. Here are five of my favourites to get you started.
The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness
This is not the only mention I’ve made of Patrick Ness’s masterpiece Chaos Walking trilogy on this blog, but it deserves to make several lists. Todd lives is Prentisstown, where everyone is constantly assaulted by a constant barrage of everyone else’s mental noise, the women have died and he is the youngest child waiting to reach his coming of age ceremony. Forced telepathy is slowly driving everyone in the town insane, and this unrelenting feeling of claustrophobia is portrayed brilliantly by Patrick Ness to the reader. This series is painfully exciting to read and also often heartbreaking – I simply couldn’t put it down and it changed the way I thought about YA books. If you’ve never read a dystopian book before, this is the place to start – I dare you to.
Obernewtyn – Isobel Carmody
This is the book that kicked it all off for me. What a world, what amazing characters and oh to be a coercer, farseeker and beastspeaker like Elspeth! Set in a post-apocalytic world that is trying to recover from a nuclear disaster known as The Great White, the Obernewtyn series focuses on a group of misfits who have developed powers of telepathy and mental coercion. The land is ruled the evil Council and fundamentalist religious group, the Herder Faction who send misfits into dangerous and isolated farms, but the misfits eventually learn to fight back. Elspeth is a mysterious and tortured character, and the slow-burning romance that develops throughout the series is full of tension. I’m still waiting on Australian author Isobel Carmody to finish this most beloved series which she started in high school in the 80s, but I know it will be worth the wait.
The Chrysalids – John Wyndham
This was recommended to me by a colleague at Shearer’s as a must-read in the genre, and she was so right. By the same author as ther somewhat more famous The Day of The Triffids (which is high on my list now), The Chrysalids has so obviously influenced so many of my favourite fantasy and dystopian writers since its release in 1955 – and the writing still feels very current, which is quite interesting when we’re talking about a futuristic book. David Strorm lives in the farming community of Labrador, which lies on the outskirts of the civilised land. In this post-apocalyptic world, people, animals and agricultural goods with mutations are killed or sent to the fringes by the fundamentalist Christian society that is trying to reclaim the land, and David comes from a particularly pious area – and is a secret telepath. This is a short and beautiful classic book with a lot of heart that will also get your heart pumping at the twists in David and his fellow telepaths’ lives. A must-read indeed.
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Obviously this has been huge over the last year or so, but I don’t think I could do a post about kick-ass dystopian books without mentioning it – this story was just so much fun! I thought I would be put off by the idea of children shooting each other, but these kids are so capable, and the writing is from such a purposefully antiviolence position that it didn’t really cross my mind to worry about the other kids being slaughtered. While I didn’t love the third book, I could see what the author was trying to do in the way for not glorifying war and violence – Katniss is quite obviously suffering from PTSD by then, which seems like an important message to me given the violence. Suzanne Collins came up with such imaginative settings for the book, the dystopian world feel new and fresh – and I loved the marketing angle of the Games, and that the participants in the arena had to play up to the cameras. This has become a cultural phenomenon and is the perfect trilogy to grab before you go on holiday.
Acid – Emma Pass
I just finished reading this new release YA book and it had me from the first couple of pages. This is an exciting, fun adventure story with a really cool edge. Jenna Stone is such a kick-ass teenage girl, very much in the vein of Katniss from The Hunger Games – she’s possibly even more hardcore as Jenna has to fend for herself as the only girl in a maximum security prison and she does it with style, and with a hectic handmade tattoo. I love how YA authors are coming up with these strong, independent female characters at the moment, but not losing the romance along the way. Why can’t we have the skills to take down an evil dystopian government but also get the boy?
Dystopian books I plan to read next:
The Inheritors – Jill Dobson
The Unidentified – Rae Mariz
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf – Ambellin Kwaymullina
Written by Lex Hirst
- Acid, beautiful and necessary, book review, dystopian fiction, Emma Stone, Isobel Carmody, John Wyndham, Obernewtyn, Patrick Ness, Suzanne Collins, The Chrysalids, The Hunger Games, the knife of never letting go, young adult
- October 31, 2013