My brother has had a huge impact on me, on my choices in films. Be it Terminator or Alien, Independence Day or Godzilla, my brother and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together. As I grew older, this love transformed into a love for dystopian novels and films, and this is one genre I cannot get over. Although there are a number of titles I am yet to read, believe me my to-be-read list is as tall as Jack’s beanstalk, but I’ll get there, one book at a time.
Here are a few dystopian novels I’ve read, and if you’re up for a world that is the polar opposite of utopia where death and despair rage on, do pick these up if time permits.
The Giver, Lois Lowry
This book made the strangest entry into my life. I was well into my second job, and my office decided to shift premises. As we were still settling in, fixing our cupboards and emptying all the cartons, a frail, beaten copy of The Giver lay on a carton near my seat. My editor picked it up and looked for a name. There was none. So she simply handed it to me. I hadn’t come across this book ever, and so after a quick search online, I realized how lucky I was to stumble upon the book.
The 1993 novel focused on young adults, with the main protagonist being a twelve-year-old boy. They live in an isolated community where every living being has been assigned a role and where lying is prohibited. Such as nurturers are those who care for babies. Jonas is chosen to be the next Receiver, a prestigious position in the community, however, this new role separates him from others and pushes him to behave unlike his friends and family. In a world sans any unique aspect, the Receiver retains all memories of the previous era that was fraught with pain, love, emotions of every kind, colour, taste and beauty. There is a place where all elderly and the weak are taken, but it is slowly found out that they are killed.
This book was on many occasions sought to be banned by parents in the United States, where they found the contents to be dark for children. The Giver was on the syllabi of many schools across the country. The book in a way reaches out to children, touching their thought process and pushing them to think—which is better, to feel emotions or to completely obliterate them? But this is what I’ve always found in most dystopian novels. A society, a world is made up of a number elements. Take out one or distort them, and a terrifying world comes forth.
Never Let Me Go, Kazua Ishiguro
Another one of my lovelies that I’ve scooped up from the Delhi Book Fair, Never Let Me Go touches upon the topic of death, decay and life in the way only the Japanese can. They have a despairing insight into the other world, into the aspects of life others may fear and they’re able to stare into the abyss and see for themselves, the truth. At least this is what I feel having read Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto.
The story begins with a carer, read nurse, in one of the hospitals in a dystopian world. Kathy has been caring for her patients for a long time, and between her nurturing and comforting, she thinks back to her life at Hailsham, a boarding school, her life with her friends and the story unravels to where they are now. The life of students seem regular, they go about their studies, they sports, their gossips and stories spun cleverly, but soon, cracks begin to appear. Soon it’s revealed how the students have been raised as clones and are meant to donate organs from who they were cloned. The story weaves in a love triangle between the protagonist Kathy and her friends, Tommy and Ruth, and how love was driven away, couples were kept apart. This is one dystopian novel that moved me on an emotional level. It tugged at my heart. Imagine not seeing the love of your life for years, and when you do, he’s due for a donation. These donations are not a lively event, but leave the donors drained and weak. Many often cannot make it post even one donation. The author does not showcase the harsh reality at the word go, but several truths tumble out slowly, bit by bit. It takes a dedicated reader to also join the dots and to understand how actions today affect the tomorrow.
Wool, Hugh Howey
A fascinating novel that actually started off as novellas, Wool was first published as a short story. As strange as it might be, I came across this book in my third workplace, when the office was shifting premises from the second to the ground floor. The administration could not handle the tones of books in the office space and were contemplating throwing them away. The second I heard of this, me along with a few other Samaritans, rushed back to the old premises and came away with piles of books. No doubt, Wool was a happy addition to my library at home.
The story is based in a bunker of sorts, like a silo, that runs hundreds of levels underground. Circular stairs are all that people have to commute from one level to the other. The levels are segregated such as IT has a separate section, farming, food, etc. Families and people often hardly moved a couple of levels above or below their station. Life outside is a deadly one where the air can kill, and the view is equally lifeless. The perennial dust in the atmosphere tends to clog their windows and cameras, and routinely, a criminal is sentenced to leave the safety of the silo to clean the windows of the grime.
Again, reality is dished out bit by bit, and what readers take for granted in the first few chapters, they begin to question its very existence a few chapters down the line. Cramped in a very small area, realization of clear and present danger, struggle to separate fact from fiction, Wool is definitely an entertaining read. Although I haven’t read the other books in the series, someday I will, and I look forward to unlocking the secret of the silos.
I’ve also read the Hunger Games trilogy and 1984, but much has been discussed about them. So I’ll let it be at this. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess was one book that held my attention like no other book before, so my thoughts on that will come up later in the month.
This post is part of the eighth annual A to Z Challenge that takes place in the month of April. The theme for this month is ‘Between Pages’. It’s my second attempt at this. Feedback is most welcome, constructive criticism, even more. Share your experiences and let’s enjoy this month of fabulous blogging.