Lesser Known Dystopian Novels Relevant For Today - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Lesser Known Dystopian Novels Relevant For Today

Alexander Wallace offers four dystopian novels which you may not have read.
Given that we seem to be living in one, the very genre of ‘dystopia’ seems to be perhaps the most appropriate thing to read nowadays. Even so, the popular discussion of such works are those that have long been hallowed as the classics, like Nineteen Eighty-Four or Fahrenheit 451 or Brave New World, or the few works from the young adult dystopian boom that have stood the test of time, like The Hunger Games. Here, I hope to expose the inquisitive reader to four more works of this type that I feel are worthy of a wider audience.

The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz.
Set in some undefined point in the near future, but not in New York or London or any great Western city. No, we’re in Cairo, where an entity of an unknown nature called the Gate serves as the ultimate arbiter for everything of consequence in that city. To better their lot in any way, hapless Cairenes need to wait in a sprawling line to petition the Gate to provide a balm for their suffering. What unfolds within the pages of The Queue is a bureaucratic, almost Kafka-esque plot through a city defined by that incomprehensible master.

The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley.
A criminal against a future world state has his mind wiped and is sent to a sprawling prison planet where there are no laws other than those of the bullet and the blade. Even so, there is a new civilization there, one where our main character has to survive and eventually thrive in order to find out what he had done to deserve being sent to a spaceborne Botany Bay. First published in 1960, The Status Civilization is a meditation on the nature of law and political power, and one that I am honestly shocked hasn’t endured more than it has.

Radicalized by Cory Doctorow.
The book’s marketing tagline is “Dystopia is Now.” Radicalized is not a single novel, but a collection of four novellas, in which Doctorow sets out to demonstrate how close our own world is to the dystopian nightmares of the mid-twentieth century. One novella is about hacking your own toasters, which are run by corporations who care not a bit about the fact that their customers are people that need to eat. One is about how an all-American superhero has to confront his most dangerous villain yet: institutional racism. One is about how a for-profit healthcare system could lead to an explosive political situation down the line. The last is about how close we are to society bursting at the scenes, and a group of survivalists finding the act of survival to be a much harder game than they bargained for. Radicalized is a collection for the worried and the fearful, and that is most of us today. If you read it, prepared to be scared in a way no horror movie can do.

Fatherland by Robert Harris.
History is oftentimes closer to our own nightmares than we’d like to admit. Fatherland imagines if one of the most awful regimes in human history survived what in our world was an ignominious defeat. Here, Nazi Germany is alive and well in the 1960s, as Welthaupstadt Germania (our Berlin) is rocked with a series of murders that seem to point to some ghastly plot. This is a country where things like phrenology are a state-backed science, and one where the embers of war are only so far away.

Read it, and be thankful that this is not the world we happened to live in.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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