This time round, I’m going to recommend a few of my favourite dystopian stories. As always with this series, I invite you all to exchange your own recommendations in return.
The Trees by Ali Shaw
Undeniably strange in places, this book is one for those who want to be swept up in a tale that is dark and unsettlingly magical in tone. The story opens when the ground erupts with endless numbers of trees, tearing apart the landscape, displacing people, and ending their way of life as they knew it. We follow a group of four characters as they attempt to understand their new world, and to navigate the now hostile environment, encountering dangers from the people, animals and strange new creatures that now call the forests home. The characters are all complex and flawed; the prose lush and vivid; and the genre-defying story a tapestry of adventure, fantasy, and mythology, whilst also being something of a fable for the modern world.
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
I won’t say much about the plot of this one, to preserve the experience of seeing the truth unfold, but I will say that this book manages to bring a fresh take to a much-explored sub-genre of dystopian fiction. It’s a thrilling read, and yet it poses big questions about what it truly means to be human, and what we are capable of in terms of both compassion and cruelty. It’s brutal at times, and yet always full of heart, with the story itself carried by a fantastically well-realised young heroine.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
This is one of the most intense, claustrophobic, horrifying and captivating books I’ve ever read. It’s a masterclass in the fear of the unknown, and a fantastic example of the ways an author can toy with our senses to elicit an emotional response. Plot-wise, there is something outside. No one knows what it is or where it came from, but a single glimpse is enough to drive you to insanity and deadly violence. The pacing, plot, characters, and atmosphere are all brilliantly handled, combining to create a haunting tale that has stayed with me so strongly.
The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley
In this ethereal, hypnotic read, women have been wiped out by a fungal infection. Men await inevitable death, exchanging stories of the women they have lost, until a bizarre new species begins to grow from the bodies of the deceased. It is both beautiful and disturbing in equal measure; at once a dark and quietly terrifying dystopian, and a fascinating exploration of gender roles and the importance of storytelling. Through gorgeous prose and a fever dream of events, Whiteley ultimately asks us to question the importance we place on physical beauty in women, and the extent to which man is predisposed to revert to violence.
What are some of your favourite dystopian novels?