I’m sure few people would disagree that dystopian is huge right now. And it’s not just the Hunger Games trilogy that is drawing readers to this genre. But why do people like reading dystopian? What’s the appeal?
For those of you that do not know what dystopian books are all about, here’s a quick primer. Basically, dystopian fiction depict dystopian society (the opposite of a utopia). These books often have elements of science fiction and usually also fall into the parameters of speculative fiction. Some classics include Huxley’s Brave New World, or, one of my favorites, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
More recent dystopians include The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, The Uglies, Matched, and XVI. For a list of additional dystopians, check out the Goodreads Dystopian List and the Dystopian Book Club list from the Teach 8 YA Book Blog.
I’m sure everyone has their own reasons for why they love dystopian fiction. For me, I have several. While it comes off sounding a bit glass half-empty, seeing how much worse life could get actually makes me feel more optimistic and hopeful. If things could always get worse, maybe any troubles in my life aren’t as bad as I think.
Then there is the sci-fi element. I enjoy sci-fi, but only when it doesn’t go too far. Most of the dystopians I enjoy, and the ones I’m currently writing, have elements of sci-fi but they keep them vague. They give just enough. I like to refer to this as casual sci-fi.
And then there is the alternate history or the possible future, which I think of as reverse history. In my 9-5 life, I think a lot about history. I’m a trained archaeologist, after all. Most of the successful dystopians I’ve read have a good grasp on history and sociology. They ask what-if and then take it to the next level, exploring what could actually happen were the what if to come to fruition. The realism behind most dystopians is extremely appealing.
To me, dystopians are the ultimate sociological experiment. But the writers also tell good stories full of all of the plot elements we have come to expect from any good book, regardless of genre. So if you like a good story but also enjoy those make-you-think moments that dystopians are so good at inducing, then dystopian fiction may be for you.
If you haven’t read a dystopian novel, go ahead and give one a shot. The worst that could happen is that you end up not liking it. Or you could discover an entire genre you never knew you loved.
If you already are a dsytopian fan, why do you like them? What’s your favorite dystopian novel?