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25 Dystopian Novels to Read in 2024

Dystopia, a man and his dog silhouette in foreground

15 January 2024

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We are diving deep into the intriguing, thought-provoking and (very often) chilling realms of dystopian novels. Now, if you’re like me and enjoy a good plot twist that makes you question the future, then dystopia is for just you.

But what exactly is dystopian, you ask? It’s typically described as a sub-genre of science fiction. Expect societies plagued by oppression or poverty. Communities riddled with corruption, severely impacted by climate change or marked by invasive governmental surveillance. These tales are typically gloomy, featuring a protagonist who discovers society’s flaws and attempts to rebel against the system. This resistance, even if it doesn’t lead to immediate success, symbolises a glimmer of hope, and the possibility of a better future.

Almost all dystopian novels share these three characteristics: a flawed future society, a protagonist that rebels, and ultimately, a scrutiny of our current societal structures, norms, and values. What’s not to love?

So, let’s get into 25 of my favourite dystopian novels that you should read this year.

1

1984

by George Orwell

This classic dystopian novel is a must-read for anyone interested in the genre. The story follows Winston Smith, living in a suppressed society led by Big Brother, who dreams of rebellion. It’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of totalitarianism, and it’s just as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1949.

1984 by George Orwell, book cover

2

The Handmaid’s Tale

by Margaret Atwood

This is another iconic dystopian novel, set in a future where a religious group has taken over the US. The story is narrated by Offred, who belongs to a class of women called ‘Handmaids’. In this dystopian society, due to rampant infertility, Handmaids are forced into sexual servitude to bear children for the ruling class, and offers a haunting vision of a society marked by misogyny.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, book cover

3

The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

The government enforces a ruthless annual event, in which one boy and one girl from each district are selected by lottery to participate. The story follows a young girl named Katniss, who must fight to the death in the arena until only one remains. The novel explores themes of survival, authoritarian power, societal inequality and the effects of war.

The Hunger Games by Suzanna Collins, book cover

4

The Fifth Season

by N.K. Jemisin

In a world known as the Stillness, which undergoes devastating climate changes every few centuries, we follow the lives and struggles of three women, Essun, Damaya, and Syenite, who are orogenes: individuals capable of controlling thermal and kinetic energy.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, book cover

5

The Maze Runner

by James Dashner

A group of teenagers wake up in a strange place known as the Glade, with no memories of their past, surrounded by an ever-changing, lethal maze. As they scramble for survival and strive to solve the mysteries of the Maze, they uncover unsettling truths about their own existence and the dystopian world beyond.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner, book cover

6

The Giver

by Lois Lowry

“The Giver” explores a society where sameness is enforced, and individuality, emotions and memories of the past are non-existent. The plot unravels when the protagonist, Jonas, is appointed the community’s Receiver of Memory, leading to an awakening of sensory experiences and emotions, ultimately questioning the morality and cost of this seemingly utopian society.

The Giver by Lois Lowry, book cover

7

Fahrenheit 451

by Ray Bradbury

This future society outlawed books, and “firemen” burn any that are found. The narrative follows Guy Montag, a fireman who becomes disillusioned with this oppressive regime and embarks on a dangerous quest for knowledge, challenging the status quo and unraveling the oppressive nature of his society.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, book cover

8

Divergent

by Veronica Roth

Set in a society split into five factions, each symbolising distinct virtues, the story follows Tris Prior, a girl who discovers she’s a Divergent, possessing qualities from multiple factions. The discovery leads her on a journey filled with danger and revelations, as she uncovers an ominous plot within her seemingly perfect society.

Divergent by Veronica Roth, book cover

9

The Children of Men

by P.D. James

Mankind has become infertile, and society is on the brink of collapse due to the impending extinction of the human race. The narrative revolves around Theo Faron, a disillusioned historian who becomes the unlikely champion of a desperate cause when he is asked to safeguard the only pregnant woman on Earth.

The Children of Men by P.D. James, book cover

10

The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

This novel chronicles the journey of a father and his young son across a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm. The story explores themes of survival, hope and the deep bond of love between a father and his son amidst the stark reality of a world stripped of civilisation

The Road by Cormac McCarthy, book cover

11

Ready Player One

by Ernest Cline

Set in a dystopian future with overcrowded slums and severe poverty, individuals escape from their harsh reality into the virtual utopia known as ‘OASIS’. The plot centres around the protagonist, Wade Watts, who embarks on a high-stakes quest to solve a complex series of puzzles left by the OASIS’s creator, with the promise of immense wealth and total control of the OASIS.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, book cover

12

Ender’s Game

by Orson Scott Card

A young boy, Ender Wiggin, is handpicked by the military to save Earth from an impending alien invasion. The plot delves into Ender’s training in a space military academy, his strategic brilliance and the implications of war.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, book cover

13

The Time Machine

by H.G. Wells

This ground-breaking sci-fi novel follows an unnamed protagonist, referred to as the Time Traveler, who invents a time travelling machine. In one time jump, the Time Traveler encounters a bleak future for humanity, where two distinct species have evolved, one that is frail and small, who live in fear of the other, who eats them.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, book cover

14

Uglies

by Scott Westerfeld

In a future society obsessively concerned with physical appearance, a young girl named Tally Youngblood uncovers the sinister truth beneath her society’s compulsory cosmetic surgery, sending her on a journey to resist the system and fight for freedom of inidividuality.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, book cover

15

Parable of the Sower

by Octavia E. Butler

This dystopian novel follows the journey of Lauren Olamina, a young woman with hyperempathy, in a society destroyed by climate change, wealth disparity and corporate greed. Amid the chaos, Lauren founds a new faith, Earthseed, based on the idea that “God is Change,” and strives to build a community that can survive the collapse of civilisation.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, book cover

16

Never Let Me Go

by Kazuo Ishiguro

The novel follows Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, who grow up in Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic English boarding school, only to gradually discover a chilling truth about their predestined roles in society.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, book cover

17

Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

This novel presents a futuristic society overseen by World Controllers, where humans are bred in laboratories, removed of familial ties and conditioned to belong to one of the five castes, each designed for specific roles. The story unfolds when two citizens, Bernard Marx and Lenina Crowne, visit a Savage Reservation, a place untouched by the societal control, and meet John, a naturally born man.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, book cover

18

Snow Crash

by Neal Stephenson

In a future America where society is dominated by corporations, Hiro Protagonist, a hacker and pizza delivery driver, stumbles upon a new computer virus, the “Snow Crash”, that has the power to infect both machines and human minds, and embarks on a thrilling adventure to unravel its mystery.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, book cover

19

A Clockwork Orange

by Anthony Burgess

This dystopian novel delves into the life of Alex, a brutal, teenager with a love for classical music and a predisposition for extreme violence. The novel explores themes of morality, free will and the use of extreme measures to control society, set against the backdrop of a future Britain plagued by rampant crime.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, book cover

20

The Power

by Naomi Alderman

“The Power” flips the script on gender dynamics when women gain the sudden ability to release electrical shocks from their fingers. This new-found power is initially used for self-protection, but as the power balance shifts from men to women, society’s structures and norms begin to crumble.

The Power by Naomi Alderman, book cover

21

The Stand

by Stephen King

In this epic post-apocalyptic novel, a catastrophic pandemic decimates the world’s population, leaving just a handful of folks to deal with the fallout. The narrative then transitions into an ultimate good versus evil showdown, as survivors are drawn into the conflict between elderly Mother Abigail and a malevolent Randall Flagg.

The Stand by Stephen King, book cover

22

The City of Ember

by Jeanne DuPrau

This post-apocalyptic book is set in a city built underground to escape a global disaster. But when the city’s power starts to fail and food runs low, two brave teens, Lina and Doon, stumble on secret plans that could lead everyone to the surface. It’s a suspenseful race against time as they try to crack the code and save their city before the lights go out for good.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, book cover

23

The Man in the High Castle

by Philip K. Dick

This novel imagines a world where the Allies lost World War II, and the US is divided between the Japanese and the Nazis. The story follows a set of characters under totalitarian rule, who discover the existence of a mysterious book that tells a different ending to the war, stirring up resistance against the oppressive regime.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, book cover

24

Noughts & Crosses

by Malorie Blackman

Set in a parallel universe where racial hierarchies are flipped, and ‘Crosses’ (dark-skinned people) are the ruling class over ‘Noughts’ (light-skinned people). The book tells the tale of a forbidden romance between Sephy, a Cross, and Callum, a Nought, against the backdrop of social injustice, racism and societal divisions.

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman, book cover

25

Red Rising

by Pierce Brown

In a distant future set on Mars, society is segregated into colour-coded castes. Darrow, a labourer from the lowest Red caste, mines beneath the surface of Mars, under the illusion he’s helping to create a habitable planet for future generations. However, he soon discovers that the surface has been habitable for years, and the Reds have been living in deception—setting into motion an epic plan to infiltrate the highest caste and dismantle the system from within.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown, book cover
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Written By Eira Edwards

Eira is a writer and editor from the South of England with over five years of experience as a Content Manager, helping clients perfect their copy.

She has a degree in English Literature and Language, which she loves putting to work by working closely with fiction authors.

When she’s not working on manuscripts, you can find her in the woods with her partner and dog, or curling up with a good book.

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