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SALT LAKE CITY — The cultural enthrall over the dystopian genre that ignited and took off with books and movies like the Hunger Games and the Divergent series hasn’t subsided but rather intensified. In fact, these initial 21st-century dystopian novels set the stage and opened the way for countless writers to delve further into the dystopian realm, creating and recreating hypothetical utopian and dystopian realities.
The core of all dystopian novels, though, revolves around age-old questions concerning individual liberty vs. government control and truth vs. falsity. But the dystopian genre isn’t revolutionary. Older novels such as “Brave New World” and “1984” pose similar questions that the Hunger Games does, but the trendiness of the dystopian genre is certainly turning a new page in literary history.
“Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel
“What I mean to say is, the more you remember, the more you’ve lost.”
― Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
After a flu virus wipes out almost the entirety of civilization, individuals are forced to group together in small groups of scattered cities. The book is told through the eyes of an eclectic group of characters, ranging from an 8-year-old orphaned girl who joins a traveling Shakespearean troupe to a thrice-divorced Hollywood actor. The group of artists travels around the North American continent giving performances and discusses which plays they should perform.
These discussions prompt the question to readers: what values, opinions and truths should be passed on and told, and which ones forgotten or not shown? Mandel explores humanity’s greatest insecurities, showing how fear, used as a driving motivator, ultimately inhibits individual development and destroys societal progression.
“The Uglies” by Scott Westerfeld
“It's not the traveling that takes courage, Tally. I've done much longer trips on my own. It's leaving home.”
― Scott Westerfeld, The Uglies
Three hundred years in the future, everyone is required to become “pretty” at the age of 16 through getting cosmetic surgery. Westerfield’s novel depicts a dystopian society in which each citizen is forced to conform to a societal standard of “pretty,” with those who have not had the surgery separated from the others. The story is told from the perspective of Tally Youngblood, who is almost 16 and anxiously awaiting her turn to cross over into the “pretty” city wherein she will have no responsibilities or obligations, however she changes her mind about joining the city after discovering the real agenda behind why the city implements the cosmetic surgery.
The “Uglies” is a book series, which includes the books “Pretties,” “Specials” and “Extras.”
"Red Rising" by Pierce Brown
“Funny thing, watching gods realize they’ve been mortal all along.”
― Pierce Brown, Red Rising
Seven hundred years in the future mankind has colonized several planets, one of which is Mars where the story originally begins. Sixteen-year-old Darrow is a Red or a miner who toils beneath Mars’ surface attempting to make the planet more habitable. As Darrow uncovers the treachery behind the ruling class, The Golds, he pledges his allegiance to an underground organization called the Sons of Ares and infiltrates the upper-class rankings. Darrow attempts to destroy the organization from within but struggles with the gruesome and immoral reality in which he is forced to exist.
Universal Pictures bought the rights for a film adaptation in 2014.
“Matched” by Allyson Braithwaite Condie
“It is one thing to make a choice and it is another thing to never have the chance.”
― Ally Condie, Matched
Young people are matched by government authorities with their life partners at 17 years old in this seemingly utopian society. Matching ensures that the rising generation will more likely produce healthier offspring. However, the protagonist, Cassia, begins to question this societal makeup as she witnesses the growing regulations the government imposes upon the people, questioning how truly “ideal” this world is. After she begins to develop feelings for another boy, Ky, who Cassia is not matched with, Cassia begins to become increasingly wary and unsure of her society.
The book is part of a trilogy, which includes the subsequent books, "Crossed" and "Reached."
Disney is the process of developing the trilogy into a film adaptation.
“Delirium” by Lauren Oliver
“I guess that’s just part of loving people: You have to give things up. Sometimes you even have to give them up.”
― Lauren Oliver, Delirium
After intensive bombing, most of civilization has become decimated. Only small pockets of individuals exist in the now war-ravaged society of alternate present reality. This particular society does not give off any pretense of utopia but is rather enshrouded with electric fences, with a government that severely constricts travel. The totalitarian regime’s primary purpose is to prevent individuals from feeling and expressing love, explaining that love is a disease, "the deliria" that ravages humanity. When Lena, a teenager, falls in love with Alex, a boy who never had the procedure that took love away from him, she struggles to leave familiar society behind for the quest of something greater — love, but doesn’t anticipate the cost.
Delirium is the first book in the trilogy set. "Pandemonium" and "Requiem" are the books that follow after.
The series was picked up by Hulu to run as a TV series in 2014.