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Utopian & Dystopian Literature

One thing we know for sure about the future: it's unknown. Yet, as writers have been proving since there were writers, it can be predicted, often with a fairly high degree of accuracy. Maybe Big Brother doesn't literally stare at people in Communist countries, but in Soviet Russia 2+2 really did equal 5, at least according to Stalin's propaganda posters. And for those of us in the West, it's hard to deny that Aldous Huxley was pretty right-on, even down to the disconcerting mass consumption of soma.

Not all the predictions are accurate, obviously. Plato's Republic (thank goodness) never came to pass; it hasn't got as far as Bradbury's book burnings....yet; and we haven't been enslaved by morlocks....again, yet. But that doesn't make the novels in which these ideas are posited any less important or compelling.

Utopian (the ideal world) and dystopian (a horrible reversal of utopian) societies reflect both the way authors see things going, and the general attitudes prevalent at the time of writing. Sir Thomas More's Utopia (from which the word originated) wasn't intended to suggest such a perfect culture as he describes actually existed in the New World, but to demonstrate what the Christian humanists of his day thought such a society would look like.

There are more dystopian novels than utopian ones; perhaps this should be no surprise in a world filled with violence, anger, immorality, debauchery, and anarchy. It's hard to imagine things getting increasingly better in the face of such horrible conditions. Yet many authors have tried to envision such a turn, most of them philosophers. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the most famous, positing in Emile his concept of the noble savage, and in The Social Contract man's opportunity for constructing a proper societal structure.

The books in this section aren't philosophy, however, at least not in the sense that Rousseau's works were philosophy. Orwell, Wells and Huxley were all philosophers of a sort, but they were eminently practical, reaching the masses through works that avoided technical language and embraced the conventions of fictional adventure stories.

You don't have to agree with any of these writers to enjoy their books. While some of their predictions were demonstrably (and frighteningly) on point, the point is that they were thinking and reflecting on the places their contemporary situations might lead, not that they precisely charted the course beforehand.

Yet these aren't merely time-specific volumes; each embraces the universal themes of what it means to be human, how societies ought to be run, and where true goodness can be found. The answers provided may suprise you, or at least make you wonder why things aren't as bad yet as writers like Bradbury suggested they could become.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

 

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41 Items found Print
1984
Signet Classics
by George Orwell
from Signet Classics
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
1984
by George Orwell
from Harcourt
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
Among the Barons
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Simon and Schuster
for 5th-8th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Among the Betrayed
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Simon and Schuster
for 5th-8th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Among the Brave
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Simon and Schuster
for 5th-8th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Among the Enemy
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Aladdin Paperbacks
for 5th-8th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Among the Free
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Aladdin Paperbacks
for 5th-8th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Among the Hidden
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Simon and Schuster
for 5th-8th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Among the Impostors
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Aladdin Paperbacks
for 5th-8th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Animal Farm
Signet Classics
by George Orwell
from Signet Classics
Utopian/Dystopian Literature for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
Animal Farm
by George Orwell
from Plume Books
Utopian/Dystopian Literature for 6th-12th grade
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
Anthem
by Ayn Rand
Expanded 50th Anniversary from Signet Classics
for 11th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
Book of Ember Collection
by Jeanne DuPrau
from Yearling
for 4th-6th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley
from HarperCollins
Dystopian Literature for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins
Reprint from Scholastic Press
for 7th-9th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Caught
Missing #05
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Simon and Schuster
for 4th-7th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
City of Ember
Book of Ember #1
by Jeanne DuPrau
1st edition from Random House Books for Young Readers
for 4th-7th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Diamond of Darkhold
Book of Ember #4
by Jeanne DuPrau
from Yearling
for 4th-7th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Earth Abides
by George R. Stewart
from Del Rey
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
from Simon and Schuster
Science Fiction/Dystopian Literature for 10th grade-adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
60th Anniversary Edition from Simon and Schuster
Science Fiction/Dystopian Literature for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
Giver
by Lois Lowry
from HMH Books for Young Readers
for 7th-10th grade
1994 Newbery Medal winner
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
Reprint from Scholastic Press
Historical Fiction for 7th-10th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Hunger Games Trilogy
by Suzanne Collins
from Scholastic Press
for 7th-9th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Last Book In The Universe
by Rodman Philbrick
from Blue Sky press
for 3rd-7th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Looking Backward
Dover Thrift Editions
by Edward Bellamy
from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
Mockingjay
by Suzanne Collins
1st edition from Scholastic Press
for 7th-9th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Mockingjay
by Suzanne Collins
Reprint from Scholastic Press
for 7th-9th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
New Atlantis and The City of the Sun: Two Classic Utopias
by Francis Bacon, Tomasso Campanella
from Dover Publications
for 10th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
People of Sparks
Book of Ember #2
by Jeanne DuPrau
Reprint from Yearling
for 4th-7th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Redeemed
Missing #08
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Simon and Schuster
for 6th-8th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Redeemed
Missing #08
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Reprint from Simon and Schuster
for 6th-8th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Revealed
Missing #07
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Simon and Schuster
for 6th-8th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Risked
Missing #06
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Reprint from Simon and Schuster
for 6th-8th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Shadow Children Sequence - 7 Volume Set
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Simon and Schuster
for 5th-8th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Son
The Giver Quartet #4
by Lois Lowry
Reissue from HMH Books for Young Readers
for 7th-10th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Sophia House
by Michael D. O'Brien
from Ignatius Press
for 11th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
The Missing Collection
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
from Simon and Schuster
for 6th-9th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Time Machine
by H. G. Wells
from Signet Classics
Science Fiction/Dystopian Literature for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
Torn
Missing #04
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Reprint from Simon and Schuster
for 6th-8th grade
in Science Fiction (Location: A07-01A)
Utopia
Dover Thrift Editions
by Sir Thomas More
from Dover Publications
Utopian/Dystopian Literature for 10th-Adult
in Renaissance & Reformation Literature (Location: CLT-REN)