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The Handmaid's Tale and Dystopian Lit

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 1:47pm by PizzaPuppy

By now you've probably heard about Hulu's new 10-episode series of The Handmaid's Tale, based on the classic dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. In it, the former United States is now a totalitarian surveillance state that responds to plunging birth rates due to environmental factors by holding women captive and forcing them to bear the children of the ruling class. Freedom is heavily restricted (especially for women), and a secret police force called 'the Eyes' watches every public move. The story adeptly blends themes of fascism and politics, women's rights, language as it relates to power, and complacency within a society into a full and rich story. If you can't get enough of The Handmaid's Tale, we have the classic novel on audiobook as well as the radio dramatization. There is also a 1990 movie adaptation of the novel available for check out.

If you've already exhausted these options, and you're looking for something in a similar vein, here are some suggestions below on what to read after The Handmaid's Tale. For more suggestions on dystopian novels for all ages, take a look at the public lists for Adult Dystopian Fiction, Teen Dystopian Fiction and even Kid's Dystopian Fiction.

Classic dystopian novels include 1984 by George Orwell, A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Children of Men by P.D. James, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Many of these also have movie adaptations, which can be found on this list.

If you're looking for something lesser known, take a look at A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, set in a Catholic monastery after a devastating nuclear war and spanning centuries as civilization attempts to rebuild itself from the ground up. In it, the monks of the 'Order of Leibowitz' decide to preserve the last remnants of scientific knowledge until they deem that the outside world is ready for it. There's also The Fireman by Joe Hill, about a terrifying plague that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and the heroes who attempt to stop it, led by a man known as the Fireman. The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers follows a similar path, in which a rogue virus that kills pregnant women is unleashed on the world. Jessie Lamb is a 16-year-old girl attempting to navigate this new world who is ready to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the human race. And in The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, citizens over the age of 50 without families or jobs are deemed 'dispensable' by the government and sent to a facility to participate in experiments and donate their organs to more 'essential' members of society.

There are also plenty of great dystopian novels for a teen audience. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, Red Rising by Pierce Brown, and Uglies by Scott Westerfeld are extremely popular teen dystopian series. Some lesser known titles include Bumped by Megan McCafferty, in which teenaged girls must become fanatically religious wives or expensive surrogate mothers for couples made infertile by a widespread virus, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, where an accident of modern science creates a situation where men die at age 25, women die at age 20, and girls are kidnapped and married off to repopulate the world, and The Jewel by Amy Ewing, in which a poor girl from the inner city is purchased and trained to become a surrogate mother for royal children. In Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien, a 16-year-old girl who believes she is the last survivor of a nuclear war comes across another survivor with tyranical intentions, and in Unwind by Neal Shusterman teenagers can have their lives 'unwound' and their body parts harvested for others to use.

Last but not least, there are many excellent dystopian books for children. The most well known are probably The Giver series by Lois Lowry, in which a boy becomes one of two people in his society with memories of the past and discovers the dark secrets about the society he lives in. The Last Wild by Piers Torday explores a world in which animals no longer exist. The Among the Hidden series by Margaret Peterson Haddix revolves around a third child living in hiding due to a society where families are only allowed to have 2 children. And in The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth, a boy earns a coveted spot in a home for abandoned children that promises a near perfect existence: unlimited toys, food and the chance for another family. It isn't until he arrives that he discovers that all is not as it seems.


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