9 Dystopian Novels to Take Your Mind off the Midterms
- November 7, 2018
You know it's bad when post-apocalyptic stories somehow make you feel better...
- The Circle by Dave Eggers. This brilliant novel veers from post-apocalyptic thriller to satire to parody as Eggers takes the tenets driving social networking and Silicon Valley megalomania to their logical conclusion in the tale of a young ingénue, Mae Holland, who goes to work at the Circle — a combination of Facebook and Google, with a dash of Twitter thrown in — and quickly becomes an integral part of a proto-totalitarian surveillance tool. ~ Darrell Delamaide
- The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. This story takes up what might have happened if Charles Lindbergh decided to meddle in politics. (I'm so freaked out now that I'm torn between wanting to bury my head in the sand and checking the polls twice a day. There's no sand nearby, so I seek solace in books with happy endings.) ~ Alice Padwe
- Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan. An unexplained event immediately kills every male animal on earth except for a man and his pet monkey (seriously). Vaughan’s masterful series of graphic novels is a ruthless and brilliant examination of men's harsh control over women, and what happens when that dark influence is suddenly gone. Seems appropriate. ~ E.A. Aymar
- On the Beach by Nevil Shute. In it, the only survivors of a worldwide nuclear war, including an American submarine crew, await their doom in Australia as radioactive clouds drift their way. Most commit government-sponsored suicide rather than suffer the horrible death of radiation poisoning. It makes clear that everything could have been prevented if there were saner hands on the button. If that isn't relevant to the current election, I don't know what is! ~ Larry De Maria
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. The novel opens with a character named Snowman, who thinks he is the last person on earth. Snowman is pestered by the Crakers, a group of artificially created humanoids who believe he is their prophet. Every day, the Crakers bring food in exchange for their origin story, which Snowman doles out grudgingly. Other than the simple-minded Crakers, Snowman is completely alone with his traumatic memories, and he hasn't had a shower in a while, either. ~ Dorothy Reno
- Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. This story takes us into the future, two millennia after a nuclear war reduces humanity to a brutish, Iron Age life. Which is more or less what this election is doing. ~ Carrie Callaghan
- The Stand by Stephen King. It’s about the breakdown of civilization after a strain of the flu, modified by the government for biological warfare, decimates society, with the survivors left to pick up the pieces. Ultimately, two groups — good versus evil — vie for control of the planet. A government you can’t trust to take care of its people? Two groups of people battling over the future of the world? Good thing this is fantasy…I mean, the flu part. (PSA of the day: Whatever happens in the election, get your flu shots now!) ~ Art Taylor
- World War Z by Max Brooks. The zombie apocalypse if reported by Studs Terkel. A bit dated by now (Howard Dean and Colin Powell stand-ins are key characters) but still highly entertaining and amazingly well considered. Skip the movie. ~ Chris Schneidmiller
- The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman. Ordinarily, a tale about a post-plague world where everyone dies of a mysterious illness by age 18 would be a real downer. But compared to binge-watching CNN and compulsively checking FiveThirtyEight.com, it’s positively uplifting. (Bonus: It’s an excellent, ultimately hopeful book.) ~ Holly Smith
[Editor's note: This list originally ran in 2016. Remember 2016?]
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