Post-Apocalyptic Dystopias: Top 15

This book list is credited to bryoneybrynn who had asked for some sci-fi recs, with a lean towards dystopias, over on her livejournal. As I replied to her entry, I realized I had about 14 or 15 books to recommend she read; many of them are both post-apocalyptic and present a dystopian society. A few are one or the other, and some are also considered part of the cyberpunk genre. A couple are repeat recs. Recs are in no particular order. Each book will have a link to its entry on Indigo’s website (Canadian book company), a link to a wikipedia entry (if there is one), a brief summary, and original publish date.

WARNING: Wikipedia entries contain spoilers; read at your own risk.

1. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
First Published: 2003
Wikipedia Link: Oryx and Crake
Summary: The narrator of Atwood’s riveting novel calls himself Snowman. When the story opens, he is sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. He searches for supplies in a wasteland where insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the pleeblands, where ordinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes – into his own past, and back to Crake’s high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

2. On The Beach by Nevil Shute
First Published: 1957
Wikipedia Link: On The Beach
Summary: They are the last generation, the innocent victims of an accidental war, living out their last days, making do with what they have, hoping for a miracle. As the deadly rain moves ever closer, the world as we know it winds toward an inevitable end….

3. He, She and It by Marge Piercy
First Published: 1991
Wikipedia Link: He, She and It
Summary: In the middle of the twenty-first century, life as we know it has changed for all time. Shira Shipman’s marriage has broken up, and her young son has been taken from her by the corporation that runs her zone, so she has returned to Tikva, the Jewish free town where she grew up. There, she is welcomed by Malkah, the brilliant grandmother who raised her, and meets an extraordinary man who is not a man at all, but a unique cyborg implanted with intelligence, emotions–and the ability to kill….

()4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
First Published: 1985
Wikipedia Link: The Handmaid’s Tale
Summary: It is the world of the near future, and Offred is a Handmaid in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is allowed out once a day to the food market, she is not permitted to read, and she is hoping the Commander makes her pregnant, because she is only valued if her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, a husband and child. But all of that is gone now…everything has changed.

5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
First Published: 1932
Wikipedia Link: Brave New World
Summary: Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone in feeling discontent. Harbouring an unnatural desire for solitude, and a perverse distaste for the pleasure of compulsory promiscuity, Bernard has an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress.

6. Neuromancer by William Gibson
First Published: 1984
Wikipedia Link: Neuromancer
Summary: The novel tells the story of a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer to work on the ultimate hack. Gibson explores artificial intelligence, virtual reality, genetic engineering, and multinational corporations overpowering the traditional nation-state long before these ideas entered popular culture.

7. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
First Published: 1968
Wikipedia Link: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Summary: By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . .
They even built humans.
Emigrees to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn’t want to be identified, they just blended in.

8. Babylon Babies by Maurice G. Dantec
First Published: 1999
Wikipedia Link: Babylon Babies
Summary: In the hidden “flesh and chip” breeding grounds of the first cyborg communities, Toorop, a hard-boiled Special Forces veteran of Sarajevo, is hired by a shadow organization to escort a young woman, Marie Zorn, from Russia to Canada. But what appears to be a routine job is anything but. After completing the mission, Toorop discovers that Marie is no ordinary girl. A genetically altered pawn in an elaborate plot, Marie is carrying a dark secret that could spell destruction for all humankind–if Toorop doesn’t track her down before it’s too late.

9. Air by Geoff Ryman
First Published: 2004
Wikipedia Link: Air
Summary: Chung Mae is the fashion expert of the farming village of Kizuldah, Karzistan. As such, she represents the villagers’ connection to the culture of the wider world beyond their fields. But Mae’s role is about to change drastically. The Net, and unlimited information, has finally come to Kizuldah, and it’s soon to be followed by Air, a new communication technology that will connect everyone, everywhere, without wires or computers. But the initial test of Air is a disaster; people are killed by the shock, and Mae ends up imprinted with the memories of a dying old woman. Realizing the changes the future will bring to Kizuldah, Mae struggles to lead her people to prepare themselves, while preserving the values that have always held the village together.

10. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
First Published: 1953
Wikipedia Link: Fahrenheit 451
Summary: Nowadays firemen start fires. Fireman Guy Montag loves to rush to a fire and watch books burn up. Then he met a seventeen-year old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid, and a professor who told him of a future where people could think. And Guy Montag knew what he had to do…

11. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
First Published: 1969
Wikipedia Link: The Left Hand of Darkness
Summary: When the human ambassador Genly Ai is sent to Gethen, the planet known as Winter by those outsiders who have experienced its arctic climate, he thinks that his mission will be a standard one of making peace between warring factions. Instead the ambassador finds himself wildly unprepared. For Gethen is inhabited by a society with a rich, ancient culture full of strange beauty and deadly intrigue – a society of people who are both male and female in one, and neither. This lack of fixed gender, and the resulting lack of gender-based discrimination, is the very cornerstone of Gethen life. But Genly is all too human. Unless he can overcome his ingrained prejudices about the significance of “male” and “female,” he may destroy both his mission and himself.

12. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
First Published: 1895
Wikipedia Link: The Time Machine
Summary: “The Time Machine” was written at the beginning of a period of great technological advancement and it is evident that this was of serious concern to Wells. The author poses the question within the framework of the novel; will technology ever go to far? The future world of the Eloi depicted within the novel warns of the dangerous consequences of unchecked technological advancements.

13. The Giver by Lois Lowry
First Published: 1993
Sequels: Gathering Blue, Messenger, Son
Wikipedia Link: The Giver
Summary: Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

14. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
First Published: 2005
List of Books: Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras
Wikipedia Link: Uglies
Summary: Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.
But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world — and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

15. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
First Published: 1955
Wikipedia Link: The Chrysalids
Summary: Set in the future after a devastating global nuclear war, David, the young hero of the novel, lives in a tight-knit community of religious and genetic fundamentalists, always on the alert for any deviation from the norm of God’s creation. Abnormal plants are publicly burned, with much singing of hymns. Abnormal humans (who are not really human) are also condemned to destruction—unless they succeed in fleeing to the Fringes, that Wild Country where, as the authorities say, nothing is reliable and the devil does his work. David grows up ringed by admonitions: KEEP PURE THE STOCK OF THE LORD; WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT.
At first he does not question. Then, however, he realizes that the he too is out of the ordinary, in possession of a power that could doom him to death or introduce him to a new, hitherto unimagined world of freedom.

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