Those of you who know me personally or are familiar with my blog might be aware of the fact that I love reading contemporary women’s fiction. I love the positive vibe those books have and how they always find a good enough solution to every problem that arises. But sadly the real world is nothing like that. If you take a look at what’s going on all around the world you soon realize that these stories can really only be fiction.
It sometimes scares me to open the newspaper or watch the news on TV. There is so much hate and violence everywhere. And it’s not just big politicians and world leaders, but everyday “normal” people who bully, discriminate, hurt and lie.
Thus, as much as I enjoy reading contemporary women’s fiction, there’s a part of me that also really enjoys getting lost in dystopian books. Maybe it’s the fact that the subjects they treat are relevant and concern everybody. But then again, other genres do that to. So maybe then, it’s the fact – and this scares me – that their futuristic worlds often resemble our present world in more ways than I’d like to admit.
I picked up my fist dystopian book about ten years ago and have since read many more. For the sake of this post, however, I have picked three books that stuck out the most to me and that I recommend all of you read.
1. Brave New World by Adulous Huxley
The story is set in a future where the World Controllers have created the perfect life with the aim to make all people happy and obedient. In order to do so, they have genetically manipulated their people (humans are basically created in great labs), brainwashed them and given them recreational sex and drugs to make sure that all their needs are fulfilled. What they target in the end is happy consumerism.
Everything runs smoothly until one individual wants to break free and organizes a trip to the Savage Reservation where people still lead the old and imperfect life.The story that evolves from there really scared me. It is all there: violence, oppression, hatred, control, surveillance, imprisonment. There is not one individual who is truly free and any fight for personal freedom or individuality is reported and stopped immediately. It is a sense of Big Brother is watching you all the time and there is literally no way out. Nothing that you could hope for. The citizens have everything you would think they needed – what with free drugs and sex 🙂 – but still they are not really happy. They are simply lost in this state of functioning without ever questioning anything. They are completely trapped and most of them don’t even know it.
2. 1984 by George Orwell
Even though the year 1984 is the past now, George Orwell’s proclamation of the future written in 1949 is still as daunting and scary as it must have been all these years back. Maybe even scarier.
WAR IS PEACE.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
Imagine a world living by these truths. Terrifying, isn’t it? Orwell portrays a world of total oppression. Everything the citizens do is monitored by Big Brother. Everybody is everybody’s enemy. The past is rewritten so as to strengthen the argument of the state, and the truth is whatever the authorities want it to be. Black is white and 2+2 equals 5 if they say so. Language is manipulated to an extent where communication becomes impossible and therefore obsolete.
Much like in A Brave New World any form of uprise and revolt is useless because no one can get out of the whole system. There are no holes. So it is easier to just comply and do what you are told. Don’t think about the why. Don’t question the stated truths. Just function.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood
While the other two books are scary, terrifying even, this one takes it to a whole new level for me personally. Mainly because I see so many things of our current time mirrored in Gilead. It is impossible to read the book and not think: Is this where we are heading?
Some may call it a femin
ist dystopia, but I believe that it is much more than that. While it surely focuses on the oppression of women, used only for reproduction or to please the men, men aren’t free either. They as well are victims of mass hangings, public events set up to literally tear them apart and constant surveillance. And in all of this the Handmaids are the essential and yet most oppressed group of all. They are brought up and trained to reproduce and then give their babies away to be raised by whomever the state sees fit.
In Gilead, literacy is forbidden because knowledge means death to the world and to the form of democracy that the leaders have set up. There is no questioning the status quo, no standing out or breaking the rules. It is either comply or die.
While writing this blog post, I have stumbled over an article in The Guardian by Margret Atwood herself where she discusses the coming about of the book. If you are not familiar with the book, I recommend you read the article first and then go on to read the book.
So even tough the three books are rather different in the specific subjects they treat, there are some aspects that they all have in common: Individualism is dead. There is total control and no more personal freedom or privacy. The people live in constant fear of being caught on the wrong foot. Manipulation is key.
Can you imagine living in a world like that? In a place where your opinion no longer counts and your life is worth nothing? A place where power hungry leaders control your every move and there is no way out for you but death? I can’t. And I’d love to put a positive spin on this whole post and say that whatever dark futures these books predict, our future will ultimately be much brighter and the things happening in the books are impossible. But I can’t. Because are they really?
I don’t understand much about politics, but I do believe that I understand a thing or two about humanity. Shouldn’t we all be equals? Shouldn’t we support and love each other instead of doing everything humanly possible to bring each other down? Yes, there are problems and yes people mess up sometimes, but wouldn’t we all live better if we’d forgive each other instead of holding a grudge?
I might not be able to change the world. I am one small individual after all. But I can try and be a good person each day. And who knows what I can change? Didn’t Ghandi once say be the change you want to see in the world? Heck, I might not see my progress each day or ever even, but at least I can go to bed knowing that I have given my best.
I loved reading all three of these books because they made me stop and think. They shook me up and led me to question the things that are going on at the moment. And I believe that questioning things and not taking everything for the bare truth is always a good thing to do especially in today’s time.
Realizing that some scenarios out of these books aren’t that farfetched scared the heck out of me. But maybe that’s a good thing because I believe that ignorance isn’t always bliss. I might not be able to handle the news most days, so it’s a good thing I have these books to shake me up and sharpen my senses every now and then.
If you aren’t familiar with these books at all, I highly recommend you read at least one of them. They make for really good reads as well as really good conversation makers. And I do believe that they make us question a thing or two about the path we seem to be on at the moment. And that sure is a good thing.
If you have read any of the above books, I would love to hear what you thought in the comments. Or maybe you have a book suggestion? I’m always looking for new books to read and I’m sure that there are many more dystopian ones that I would enjoy reading.