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I love the concept of alternate realities. I also enjoy smartly expressed societal remarks. Therefore, I love the well-written dystopian stories. Here are some favorites:
Animal Farm by George Orwell - modern classic
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell - modern classic
Orwell is incomparable. Really. I prefer the basic story of Nineteen Eighty-Four over the basic story of Animal Farm, but I prefer the ending of Animal Farm over the ending of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
* I was not a fan of the made-for-TV TNT version of Animal Farm.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - modern classic
This is what I tell people who have yet to read it: If our society was like that depicted in this book, then this book would not exist. That in itself is reason to read this book. It is as if you are reading a secret. Fahrenheit 451 is about books, about censorship, about rules, about literacy, about society, about alliances, about priorities, about memories.
* No, I haven't seen the film.
+ Related Booklist: Time Travel
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut - short story, modern classic
In the year 2081, everyone is equal: masks disguise the beautiful, weights are worn by the strong, and the intelligent are distracted by headphones spitting out noise. This tale of egalitarianism has a startling conclusion. You can read the story online at various sites, such as this school site I came across.
* Please, please, read the original before you see 2081, the upcoming feature film based upon the short story. Please, please let the film stay true to the original! I have not seen the 1995 made-for-TV film.
The Uglies sequence by Scott Westerfeld - ages 12 and up
Uglies is the first thought-provoking book, Pretties is the bubbly second story, and Specials is the shiny conclusion. Read my reviews of the books. I love the concept - Is beauty truly skin deep in a world where everyone is made pretty? - and I love the execution. Westerfeld has another book set in this world called Extras; a non-fiction guide to the series titled Bogus to Bubbly: An Insider's Guide to the World of Uglies; and a graphic novel series.
+ Uglies was chosen as a recommended read by the postergirlz, the teen lit advisory council for readergirlz.
Additional dystopic tales:
Feed by M. T. Anderson - ages 12 and up
My brain attempted to reject the slang in the first few pages. After the first chapter, I grew used to the vernacular and the rhythm. I highly value communication, independent thinking, and (the accurate use of) big words. I dislike product placement and most mainstream advertising, and this book played upon those dislikes and the characters' fears well. I was glad to come back to reality. Sometimes, when I hear or see an ad for blue jeans, I think of this book.
The Giver series by Lois Lowry - ages 10 and up
I enjoyed The Giver, the first book in the line, far more than any of the books which followed it. When I discuss The Giver with friends or teachers, I find that our reasons for liking the story are rather different. Also, I tend to see the ending in a sad light, while many others see it in a hopeful light. Funny, since I'm usually the poster girl for hope and happiness.
The Jenna Fox Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson - ages 12 and up
I don't want to summarize the books here. I want you to go read them and discover what happens for yourself, spoiler-free, especially the first book, The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Let me know what you think after you've read the three books!
Rash by Pete Hautman - ages 10 and up
The story, though continuous, has three definite sections to it. I preferred the first portion because I liked the set-up and the setting of the dystopic future. The second portion, with its football storyline, did not hold my interest. That could be because I'm not a football person, though. It was still a well-told story.
The Last Book In The Universe by Rodman Philbrick - ages 10 and up
As soon as I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. It's a book about books, after all! This might be the juvenile title most closely related to Fahrenheit 451. It's written in a very different style, but it shares some of the same ideas.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - ages 14 and up
This bestselling trilogy - in which citizens in a post-apocalyptic world must compete to the death in a televised event - has been made into a series of films and inspired a whole new crop of dystopic stories.
Those I haven't read but want to read and should read:
Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Iron Heel by Jack London - My mother introduced me to Jack's writing at a young age.
The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix - upper elementary school
To date, I have only read the first novel in the sequence, Among the Hidden. I was saving the others for later. (I do this to myself. By "this," I mean I delay gratification and postpone rewards. Bad, bad kitty.) In this case, I like Haddix's novels so much and read them so quickly that I told myself I'd wait until the last Shadow book was released, then read them all in a row. Now that that book has been published, I plan to do that at some point in the future. (Future. Ha! No pun intended.)
Tip of the hat to Wikipedia's dystopian lit list, which served as a springboard for this post.
My favorite television series that involved dystopia is, of course, the original version of The Twilight Zone. I really liked the early seasons of Sliders, a show all about alternate realities. Though I like the concept of dystopia, I love the concepts of alternate realities, as I stated earlier. The chaos theory, the butterfly effect, time travel - bring them on!
Check out my time travel booklist.