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Book Review: Favourite Four: Dystopian Novels



There’s something irresistible about being given a glimpse into a world which is not our own. One that’s been reimagined for the better can be a compelling read, but what happens when the world takes a turn for the worse? Whether it’s because our anxieties about our home planet are tried and tested, or because we are simply fascinated with disaster, these four novels have captured our fearful imaginations and forged the way to a dark, dystopian destiny.
1. 1984 by George Orwell
Orwell’s petrifying depiction of our planet ruled by a tyrannical regime is the archetypal dystopian drama. The superstate Oceania is in a perpetual state of war, while Airstrip One (formerly Great Britain) is dictated by an omnipresent government, ruled by the elite Inner Party. Protagonist Winston Smith attempts to resist the regime without committing thought-crime, despite the oppression of the totalitarian Big Brother. In a world stripped of individualism, and composed of overbearing censorship and social injustice, this terrifying tale brings political fears to the fore in iconic Orwellian style.
2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The post-apocalyptic novel follows a father and son on a tender and terrifying journey to the south, as they struggle to survive amidst total environmental devastation. McCarthy’s detached tone and anonymous characterisation mirrors the bare and brutal setting of an inhospitable world which has been burnt down to ashes. By juxtaposing the father and son’s touching relationship with the unforgiving cruelty of nature, McCarthy writes with great poignancy about love, loyalty and protecting the place you call home.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Atwood’s hideous portrayal of female subjugation and the power of patriarchy is explored in this dystopian novel. A totalitarian Christian theocracy has overthrown the US government which abolishes all women’s rights, including forbidding them to read. Women in Gilead, where the novel is set, are enslaved and used solely for reproduction, including Offred, the story’s protagonist. Literally named after her father (Of-Fred), we discover her turbulent past and uncertain future as we follow her on a path to freedom in Atwood’s sharp, succinct and emotive commentary on the relationship between patriarchy and oppression.
4. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games trilogy is set in a post-apocalyptic universe in which Panem (the ruins of North America) is divided into a numbered hierarchy based on class and function. Dictated by an elite few in the Capitol, the annual Hunger Games is the epitome of the exploitation, as tributes are chosen to fight to the death and win glory for their district. This riveting adventure series highlights the devastating consequences of social oppression through the feisty rebel Katniss Everdeen and uses the disparity between the rich and poor as the premise for this enticing trio.

, Written by Jessica Panton


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