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The Fascinating World of Dystopian Fiction (by Krystle )

In this week's article, we will dive into the dark and fascinating world of dystopian fiction. The word dystopia comes from ancient Greek words meaning bad and place respectively, and is usually translated into “not-good place”. The dystopian genre thus focuses on phenomena and depictions of society where the future is bleak, and things are mostly sinister, scary or simply undesirable. Usually set in an imagined more or less near or distant future, dystopian novels often deal with a diverse range of issues, with totalitarian states being a recurrent theme in many of them. Mass surveillance, tinkering with genetics and widespread oppression are just some of the common themes to be found within this genre. Authors of dystopian fiction often write about things that worry or scare them, which results in novels where hopelessness, oppression and lack of freedom are common features.

While much dystopian fiction is aimed at adults, there is also a large number of young adult fiction writers who have authored books in this genre. Some notable examples are The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth and The Maze Runner by James Dasher. While adult dystopian fiction often depicts a future with no hope, young adult dystopian fiction often includes a lot more hopefulness. The rise in popularity of dystopian fiction in teens and young adults has been attributed to young people's increasing concerns about their future, which is caused by a greater awareness about societal issues. While this awareness is a good thing, history has shown that a rise in interest in dystopian fiction has occurred before the Second World War as well as the Cold War, which could be a sign that something similar is about to happen again...

In this article, I will give an overview of three of the most well-known works of dystopian fiction, which were all written sometime during the 1930's and 1940's. These are Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Kallocain by Karin Boye, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. At the end of the article, you will find a list of other dystopian novels to put on your reading list.
Image result for 1984 bookNineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a novel written by British author George Orwell. Published in 1949, this novel is set in an imagined totalitarian state called Oceania, which consists of the British Isles, the Americas, Australasia as well as the southern part of Africa. Oceania is ruled by the Party, led by a mysterious figure known as Big Brother. Big Brother is everywhere: he watches you everywhere you go – also in your home – via telescreens that operate every second of the day. In Oceania, English as we know it is no longer in use. While being similar to “normal” English, Newspeak, as it is called, has some unusual features. The language was invented by the Party in order to prevent political rebellion, and therefore all words that might be used in such a way are gone. As an example, the word “bad” no longer exists: it has been replaced by the word “ungood”. To say that something is really, really bad, you would instead use the word “doubleplusungood”. The purpose is simply to eliminate all forms of ambiguity and nuance that “Oldspeak” (Standard English) was able to provide. The language is thus standardised to completely extinguish the incidence of “criminal thoughts”.

Nineteen Eighty-Four follows the life of Winston Smith, who works at the Ministry of Truth (also known as “Minitrue”), which is responsible for altering records to fit reality. This is called “rectifying” in Newspeak, and is simply a process in which old records are changed to whatever the Party deems fit. While Winston is loyal to the State and in fact enjoys his work, he does have his reservations. He feels a resentment towards the State and Big Brother, and these feelings are expressed in his diary. He of course never makes his feelings known in any other way, since that could cost him his life. In his frustration with the oppression and rigid control of the Party, he becomes fixated on a powerful Party member known as O'Brien. Winston believes O'Brien to be a secret member of the Brotherhood – a mysterious underground organisation working to overthrow the Party. He begins a covert affair with a co-worker, Julia, always careful to be on the lookout for signs of Party monitoring. One day, Winston receives a message from O'Brien, who wants to meet him. Winston and Julia go to his apartment, where O'Brien asserts his hate for the Party, and gives him a book written by Emmanuel Goldstein, the alleged leader of the Brotherhood. Winston begins reading the book, and soon finds himself in a situation worse than he could ever imagine...
Image result for kallocain bookKallocain
Kallocain, written by Swedish author Karin Boye in 1940, is set in deeply authoritarian and oppressive society, known as the Worldstate. Due to the perpetual threat of war from the neighbouring Universal State, all houses and other buildings are located mainly underground. “Police eyes” and “police ears” are built into every home to ensure that the Worldstate's citizens can be watched around the clock. Children are indoctrinated with the Worldstate's values from age seven, where they are taken away from their parents and put into special children's camps where they are trained to be loyal “fellow-soldiers”. Society is strictly collective, with everyone living in the same houses and wearing the same uniforms. Everyone is supposed to be equal, which means that individuality simply does not exist.

Kallocain is written in the form of a diary, and follows the life of Leo Kall, who lives with his wife Linda and three children in Chemistry City No. 4. He is a loyal fellow-soldier, and works as a chemist in one of the Worldstate's laboratories. The novel begins with Leo making a sensational discovery: he has invented a new drug, kallocain, named after himself, which can be used to read people's minds. It works as a truth serum, which makes every person injected with it blurt out the unfiltered truth about anything. This invention is of course a huge triumph for the State, which can now use the drug to prosecute people for their thoughts. The book describes Leo's quest through the State's institutions to make kallocain a legal substance. During this journey, he discovers a side of himself that he finds very unsettling.

Leo has always disliked his boss, Edo Rissen, who he suspects is having an affair with his wife. Throughout the book, Rissen stands firm in his criticism of the state. Leo usually does not pay him any attention, but this changes after his experiments with kallocain. During these experiments, Leo becomes familiar with a story about the Desert City. The Desert City is said to be a harsh and gruesome place, filled with noxious gases and bacteria. It is nevertheless described as a utopia, because the people living there are free from surveillance and state scrutiny. This story, together with Rissen's comments, make Leo doubt his firm belief in the State. His loyalty wavers, causing him to become scared of his own thoughts – so scared that he thinks his wife will report him to the authorities. Because of this fear, he decides to inject his wife with a dose of kallocain, to find out whose side she is on. It turns out that what she tells him is something entirely different than what he had expected...
Image result for brave new world book Brave New World
Written by British author Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932) is a novel set in an imagined future where pain, sadness and worry no longer exist. This has been achieved through intensive conditioning of all the state's citizens, as well as widespread use of a happiness-producing drug called soma. All humans are created in bottles, and divided into one of the five main castes in society: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta or Epsilon. The bottles containing human embryos move along conveyor belts in a so called hatchery, where they are conditioned to belong to one of the five castes. After birth (“decanting”), infants are put in a nursery where they are taught the values of the World State through sleep-teaching (“hypnopaedia”). Members of each class are taught that their caste is superior, while in reality, there is a strict hierarchy with the Alphas being the leaders and the Epsilons being destined to perform menial labour.

Brave New World tells the story of Bernard Marx, who works as a sleep-learning specialist at the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre. He belongs to the upper class in society, but is unusually short for being an Alpha, which gives him a strong inferiority complex. He has clearly not been well-conditioned, since he is often angry, resentful and jealous. Soma does not seem to work very well for him, and he does not enjoy promiscuous sex – another prominent feature of World State society. The citizens are taught that “everyone belongs to everyone else”, which means that promiscuity is encouraged, and monogamy frowned upon. Bernard is vocal about his criticisms of society, which causes the Director of the hatchery to threaten him with exile to Iceland.

One day, Bernard goes on a holiday to Malpais, which is the name of the so called “reservation” where the “savages” live. The savages are humans who have not been incorporated into the rest of society, and thus live like people did before the age of the World State. While there, Bernard encounters naturally born children, as well as disease, old age and religion, for the first time. He meets Linda, a woman who was born in the World State, but left behind at Malpais during a visit, and her son, John. Later, it turns out that John is in fact the Director's son, a fact so embarrassing that it causes the Director to resign. Bernard receives permission to bring Linda and John back to the World State, where John soon becomes a sensation. John, who grew up with only the works of William Shakespeare to read, is appalled by the apparent shallowness of life in the World State. He is determined not to become like the rest of the World State's citizens, an endeavour that turns out to be a lot more difficult than he thought...
List of other dystopian works
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
The Trial – Franz Kafka
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguru
Logan's Run – William F. Nolan & George Clayton Johnson
Battle Royale – Koushan Takami

The Giver – Louis Lowry
The Running Man – Richard Bachman
We – Yevgeny Zamyatin
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Player Piano – Kurt Vonnegut
Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
The Children of Men – P.D. James

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Private wrote on 29-08 11:08:
Felicity wrote:
i LOVE dystopian books!!
battle Royale is one of my all time favourites.
i also would recommend:
- the road 
- the testing 
- the passage 
- unwind 
- reckoning
- the 5th wave 
- the circle 

i am trying to read as many dystopian books as possible, so thank you Bloom for this post!!

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Private wrote on 28-08 15:20:
BloomCissi wrote:
I'm glad to see that so many are into dystopian fiction!
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Raquelle wrote on 27-08 20:32:
Raquelle wrote:
as soon as i'll have time and motivation to read again i will definitely go through that list - thank you!
i think dystopia is favorite genre of mine. brave new world is one of the best books i've read.
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Private wrote on 27-08 20:25:
Luminescence wrote:
I love the fact that you included one of my favorite books here (1984)! Other great dystopian works not listed e.g. Divergent series, The Hunger Games, 5th wave, and The Host. 🙌🏼
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MasileinDE wrote on 27-08 17:46:
MasileinDE wrote:
The Guardians by John Christopher
11/10 - you'll never see bonsai trees the same way you used to
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Private wrote on 27-08 15:03:
BloomCissi wrote:
Krystle wrote:
Great article, really enjoyed reading it!

Kallocain sounds like a good book. This part specifically reminded me of another book I've read but I can't remember what it was called.
"Society is strictly collective, with everyone living in the same houses and wearing the same uniforms. Everyone is supposed to be equal, which means that individuality simply does not exist."

Brave new world also sounds interesting ah, gotta check these out when i get time!
I'm really glad you liked it!
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Private wrote on 27-08 09:37:
Azriel wrote:
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Marcelien wrote on 26-08 20:46:
Marcelien wrote:
i LOVED the battle royal movie (original). i really wanna read the book. as well ass 1984. im all about that dystopia, man. its my drug.
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NixieFae wrote on 26-08 19:15:
NixieFae wrote:
I absolutely love dystopian books! Most of these I have either read, seen their tv adaptions or both! I highly recommend people to read, The handmaid's tale, 451, animal farm and battle royale!
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Private wrote on 26-08 14:30:
Rochellette wrote:
Oh wow! You look in my bookshelf??? My husband and I are really big fans of this genre of  books and the adaptation  movies are pretty well made too if someone wants to check out before reading the books. Thanks for this, is always good to invite people to read and read good books, the layout is perfect!
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Krystle wrote on 26-08 10:13:
Krystle wrote:
Great article, really enjoyed reading it!

Kallocain sounds like a good book. This part specifically reminded me of another book I've read but I can't remember what it was called.
"Society is strictly collective, with everyone living in the same houses and wearing the same uniforms. Everyone is supposed to be equal, which means that individuality simply does not exist."

Brave new world also sounds interesting ah, gotta check these out when i get time!
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Private wrote on 25-08 22:39:
Xemnas wrote:
Battle Royale, you mean the Superior Hunger Games? The way it portrays societal issues and the expectations of school children is absolutely delicious. 

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