I remember in high school that I was assigned to read a fair share of Dystopian novels. Looking back, it was completely understandable since it was the Reagan-era after all. The cold war was running on its last legs and I remember that the notion of nuclear war was a bona-fide fear of mine and that damn "The Day After" TV movie didn't help...
But you know what? To a 14 year-old, most of these post-apocalyptic tomes didn't make sense and honestly, half the time, I didn't know what the fuck I was reading.
Perhaps my teachers should have first and foremost explained the very notion of Dystopia in the first place. Quite simply, it's a vision, of an often futuristic society, which has developed into a negative version of Utopia. Bang. Simple. I got that. To break it down more, a dystopia is often characterized by an authoritarian or totalitarian form of government and features different kinds of repressive social control systems, lack or total absence of individual freedoms and expressions and a state of constant warfare or violence. Got that, too... OK, bring on the Orwell!
Looking back, my young brain couldn't grasp the lofty intellectual notions and ideas of books like "1984" or "Animal Farm." Case in point, I remember laboring through Aldous Huxley's "A Brave New World" and seeing gigantic text blocks of grey. that's a turn off for any kid.
With all that said, I recently stumbled across this nifty list compiled by Popcrunch on their Top 16 Dystopian Books.
Currently, I'm reading Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" and I have to admit it's one of the most depressing books I've ever read. But it's gorgeous in its simplicity and effectiveness. "The Road" places on Popcrunch's list and here's a sample of what they had to say:
"There’s bleak, then there’s freaking Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy boils down the essence of a post-apocalyptic dystopia to its bare bones, completely omitting almost all details. There’s a father and son, who are never named. There was a nuclear disaster, and almost all plants and animals are dead, with humans mainly reduced to cannibalism. They’re trying to get somewhere warmer (and hopefully better) before winter hits, and the father is slowly dying of radiation poisoning. While the ending has the slightest possible glimmer of hope, the rest is just ash filled skies, storms and people torturing and eating one another. For all its stark bleakness, it still won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, which should give you an indication of its pedigree."To read the entire list, click HERE.