The first dystopian novel I ever read was George Orwell’s 1984. It was assigned reading in tenth grade, and I remember thinking it was really weird. It wasn’t a favorite. But it was my first taste of the dystopian genre. At that time, I did not go looking for more books like it.
My second dystopian read was Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and I’d have to say that it’s still my favorite dystopian novel. This books was first published in 1993, fifteen years before the dystopian craze took over the teen shelves in bookstores everywhere. I remember loving the book because it felt like it could actually happen someday. That man, in his desire for peace, would take away part of his own humanity. It was both enthralling and frightening, and I couldn’t put it down.
When The Hunger Games became popular, I read the series. By then I was a writer myself and I remember being impressed with the simplicity and brilliance of the story’s premise. Reading the books didn’t leave me with that same “This could really happen someday” feeling, but I enjoyed them as fantasy novels. In fact, most of the recently popular dystopian novels have more of a fantasy feeling to them than 1984 or The Giver. They’re still cautionary tales, but not nearly as creepy to me as true dystopian stories.
My series, The Safe Lands, is one of those creepy “This could really happen someday” stories. As I was writing it, I wanted to raise the question of “What if life was all about pleasing ourselves? Would life be better then?” So I created a world that lived that way. But all choices have consequences, and over time, The Safe Lands’ pursuit of pleasure brought its share of problems to its people. A disease turns into an epidemic. And the only way the government officials can think to solve it is to kidnap uninfected people.
In Captives, book one, Safe Lands enforcers conquer an outsider village and take several dozen young people to live in the city. Among them are three brothers, who each react differently to their new surroundings. Levi, the eldest, wants to rescue his people and get them out. Mason is more concerned with finding a cure for the disease. And Omar thinks he will enjoy living in this new paradise.
But Omar’s feelings have changed by the time book two comes around. In Outcasts, Omar wants to prove to his brothers that he’s not a failure and a traitor. So he fights back the only way he knows how, by using his artistic talents. But his actions just might get him liberated.
What is your favorite dystopian novel and why? What did you enjoy so much about the book? Did it make you think that the premise could really happen on earth someday? Or was it more of an enjoyable fantasy read? Let me know in the comments.