The best dystopian novels of all time

04 August 2017

Our fascination with reading about societies worse than our own never seems to diminish. Despite often being bleak, joyless and at times downright depressing, dystopian fiction, from 1984 to the smash-hit adaptation of the summer, The Handmaid's Tale, shows no signs of going away. 

For anyone in need of an introduction to the genre, here’s our pick of the best dystopian literature ever written. 


The Time Machine

The Time Machine

One of the first portrayals of time-travel in literature, The Time Machine is the story of a Victorian scientist who travels to the year 802,701 AD to find that humanity has descended into two distinct races, the charming but child-like Eloi and the sinister and dangerous Morlocks.

This new paperback edition is part of the Pan Paperbacks 70th anniversary collection. 

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1984

One of the best known dystopian novels of all time, Nineteen Eighty-Four is George Orwell's terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is slave to a tyrannical regime lead by The Party.

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Brave New World

Heavily influenced by the science fiction writers, such as H.G. Wells, who went before him, Aldous Huxley presents a future where the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers. This edition of the 1932 classic includes an introduction from Margaret Atwood, and time-travel appropriate 3D glasses.

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The Road

The Road

A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible. Cormac McCarthy’s classic novel The Road is one of the most shocking, harrowing and bleak visions of the future ever created.

The book was adapted into a BAFTA-nominated film starring Viggo Mortensen in 2009.

 

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The Handmaid's Tale

In this classic of feminist fiction, Margaret Atwood presents a world where women’s bodies are controlled by the state and 'Handmaid's' are forced to provide the families of the elite with children. The best-selling TV adaptation, starring Elisabeth Moss and Samira Wiley has been nominated for multiple awards in 2017, and a second series is already in the works.

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Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Our favourite dystopian novel of recent years, Station Eleven moves backwards and forwards in time, presenting the glittering years just before a flu epidemic brought the collapse of civilisation alongside the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after. It’s a novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything – even the end of the world.

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A Clockwork Orange

A nightmare vision of a society overrun by nihilistic violence and governed by a menacing totalitarian state, A Clockwork Orange is one of the most inventively-written dystopian novels ever published, written in teen slang 'Nadsat', a dialogue Burgess created for the novel. Fifteen-year-old Alex and his gang of friends rob, kill and rape their way through life, until the State puts a stop to his riotous excesses. But what will his re-education mean?

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Fahrenheit 451

Possibly the most terrifying scenario for all dystopias for booklovers, Fahrenheit 451 is set in a not-too-distant future where books are burned and intellectual thought is illegal. Guy Montag’s job is to burn the books, because they're considered the source of all discord and unhappiness.

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Looking for more contemporary dystopia? Take a look at the best books to read once you've finished The Handmaid's Tale here. 

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