Dystopia Novels: Are They More Relevant Now Than Ever?

the handmaid's tale

The world can feel like a scary place to be in 2017. With the rise of U.S President Donald Trump, a man whose foreign policy, immigration tactics and stance on woman’s rights all suggest that he is determined to undermine the basic human rights of everyone who is not a white male for the foreseeable future, coupled with the global refugee crisis and the continued issues around global warming, the world can seem truly frightening right now.

With this in mind, are dystopia novels the answer? Recently online streaming service Hulu showcased its trailer for its TV series version of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the ultimate dystopia novel, showing perhaps a renewed interested in such books among both readers and the viewing public.

Dystopia fiction has been in the public eye for a while now, particularly in young adult fiction, where cult series such as Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games novels, (which are basically a cross between Battle Royale and The Running Man), Veronica Roth’s Divergent series and The Maze Runner books by James Dashner all focus on young characters working with resistance groups against corrupt governments who mistreat them under the guise of supporting the greater good.

the hunger games

Within adult fiction the focus is more on nostalgia than on creating a legacy of new dystopia novels, (although there are a few notable exceptions nothing has really made a massive splash in the literary market in recent years) with the film and TV market in particular keen to rehash old dystopian classics, such as the new Blade Runner and the reimagining of The Handmaid’s Tale. Such a strong appetite highlights, in my opinion, the growing dissatisfaction of readers and viewers alike as we all strive to understand the madness that is Trump’s America and the confusion we see in our lives as a result of some, frankly bizarre political decisions that have taken place over the past five years.

Whilst in times of great unrest and confusion, such as now, it might be considered more prudent to reach for something fluffy and distracting, the drive towards more dystopia fiction showcases a need for resistance and an interest, perhaps, in convincing ourselves that our politicians, for all their corruption and poor decisions, are at least not as bad as they could be.

For anyone seeking to explore the dystopia genre, re-reading old favourites is a great place to go, and everyone should read 1984 at least once; for those seeking something more modern, there are still a number of writers, such as Margret Atwood and Dave Eggers, whose phenomenal novel The Circle is, coincidently, due to be released as a film shortly, are still writing really relevant and interesting dystopia novels.

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