Utopian and Dystopian Reading Group discussion

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What got you hooked on Dystopian Novels?

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message 1: by Hanna (new)

Hanna (hanna2015) | 1 comments For me it was probably the old TV series "The Tribe" (all adults died of a virus, leaving only the kids and teens to fight for themselves). Or alternatively reading Ira Levin's "This Perfect Day" in my teens.

How about you?


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Reading Orwell's 1984, and Huxley's Brave New World in High School and then witnessing the real life explosion of similar technologies. (I just dated myself - LOL)


message 3: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 7 comments Well, I read 1984 and Brave New World, but appreciated them as critical literature more than part of a genre.

Later, I became interested in utopian literature - novels about ideal societies and their contrasts with our own.

I read Skinner's "Walden Two", which did spawn a few experimental utopian communities. While it was written as a utopia, it was seen by its anti-behaviorist detractors as a dystopia. The ambiguity over its reception intrigued me - it was obviously a well-reasoned attempt at outlining a society organized around human happiness (the book is littered with references to other utopian novels as well as critiques of them), but I'm not sure it's a perfect world that would appeal to everyone.

The tension between pursuit of happiness and its negation intrigues me. I'm still sympathetic toward utopias, but they have to be concrete and human.


message 4: by Frank (last edited Jun 24, 2012 03:50AM) (new)

Frank Roberts (JackCamel) | 1 comments Reading Ray Bradbury as a kid. All Summer in a Day was probably the linchpin in my taste for these things.


message 5: by Therese (new)

Therese | 7 comments Reading War Day by Whitley & Kunetka, James Strieber in the late 1980s. The thought of having to get on a waiting list for a package of Oreo Cookies (my one processed food weakness!) made a lasting memory.


message 6: by Chris (last edited Jun 23, 2012 08:18PM) (new)

Chris | 4 comments For me it was definitely 1984. Before that book I didn't really like reading, I only did it when I had to, but 1984 blew my mind, because I could see a real connection to the world we live in today. (I first read it 15 years ago in high school)

Since then I have read many amazing dystopias, all of them are fascinating to me. I am noticing a few excellent dystopias are missing from the reading list.

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The Running Man by Stephen King
Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, though this one is perhaps more of a disaster story than dystopia but it's still really good.


message 7: by Chris (new)

Chris | 4 comments Oops, I may have put these recommendations in the wrong spot.... sorry!


message 8: by Eve (new)

Eve | 28 comments Mod
Thanks for the recommendations Chris, I've added them to the to-read shelf for the group!

I think that it must have been The Handmaid's Tale that got me hooked. Although it wasn't until I started looking into the history of utopian and dystopian literature that I got really hooked and decided to go back to the start and read More's Utopia.

In reply to Matthew, I haven't read Walden Two but I found The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia to be very human and well thought out. Have you read it?


message 9: by Chris (new)

Chris | 4 comments How do you get the books to hyperlink like that?

The Handmaid's tale was an excellent one for sure. It's been so long I should probably re-read it. As for utopias I haven't really read any of those. I have a copy of More's Utopia I just haven't forced myself to read it yet.

I think I am more interested in Dystopias because I find they are commenting on our culture right now. They seem to pick up tiny flaws the author sees now, and projects and amplifies them into the future. They are a warning, and I like that.


message 10: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 7 comments I haven't read Walden Two but I found The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia to be very human and well thought out. Have you read it?

No, but it's definitely on my list. BTW, don't read Walden Two as literature (his writing isn't that great), but for his fleshing out of the concept of cultural engineering.


message 11: by TrueMyths (new)

TrueMyths | 3 comments For me the clincher was Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time.

Great book.


message 12: by Eve (new)

Eve | 28 comments Mod
Chris wrote: "How do you get the books to hyperlink like that?

The Handmaid's tale was an excellent one for sure. It's been so long I should probably re-read it. As for utopias I haven't really read any of tho..."


When you're typing a comment, click on the 'add book/author' button at the top right of the text box.


message 13: by Eve (new)

Eve | 28 comments Mod
Matthew wrote: "I haven't read Walden Two but I found The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia to be very human and well thought out. Have you read it?

No, but it's definitely on my list. BTW, don't read Walden Tw..."


Ah, that explains why I've heard mixed reviews about it. Looking Backward is another favourite Utopia of mine. There's not much plot and obviously the utopia is flawed, but Bellamy argues for it so well it's really interesting.


message 14: by Eve (new)

Eve | 28 comments Mod
the dystopian wrote: "For me the clincher was Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time.

Great book."


I'm about a third of the way through Woman on the Edge of Time at the moment. I thought it was great to start with but then I got a bit annoyed with the ideas in the utopia. I'm glad you're positive about it though, it makes me think I might change my mind before the end!


message 15: by Matthew (new)

Matthew | 7 comments Eve wrote: "Ah, that explains why I've heard mixed reviews about it"

Well, that and people typically don't like Skinner or his determinism. He rejects the notion of freewill and his utopia is highly critical of democracy; it's much more like the state of experts in Plato's Republic (without the coercion) or Bacon's technocracy The New Atlantis (in fact, some Waldenistas happily refer to cultural engineering as technocracy).


"Looking Backward is another favourite Utopia of mine"

Looking Backward is another book I read at least once a year. Walden Two owes a lot to Bellamy (labor credit system, etc). In fact, much of the stuff around the motivation to work in Looking Backward is kinda proto-behaviorist.

Also, back in the day, Bellamy Clubs were big in my region of the country - they had a national convention here in Cincinnati. Some theorists and activists within the participatory economics movement draw on Bellamy's thought, too. It's a flawed book, but an important one.

OH! And I LOVE William Morris - the poet, writer, architect, designer, political organizer and social critic. His News From Nowhere was written as a response to Bellamy's Looking Backward. He depicts a much less stratified and militaristic society, one in which work has become the chief want, rather than something to minimize out of existence. Technology has run its course and has done away with all unpleasant labor (and has become barely noticeable itself) and all pleasant labor is cultivated into craft. It is also set farther in the future than Bellamy (since, unlike Bellamy, he sees the creation of a utopia as taking centuries of trial and error and class struggle).

It makes the most sense when seen against Bellamy.


message 16: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (leftiststandard) | 1 comments It was probably when I read The Giver back in fifth grade, then I delved into books such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. These amazing books coupled with my love for politics got me addicted to dystopian novels.


message 17: by Byron 'Giggsy' (new)

Byron  'Giggsy' Paul (giggsy) Orwell's 1984 gave me my first love. Bruce Boston's The Guardener's Tale made me realize that there was much to be found by lesser known authors that hold their own to 1984, Brave New World, °F 451, We, Anthem, etc...


message 18: by John (new)

John Parr (johnkparr) | 1 comments Also 1984. I was in high school when 1984 rolled around, so it was required reading. It stuck with me at a very impressionable age, and I've been hooked on dystopias and utopias ever since. It's a very fascinating part of our collective psychology that we think that our society can be made perfect with the right amount of laws or control.


message 19: by Jeniece (new)

Jeniece (jenieceism) | 2 comments Brave New World + becoming a sociologist kicked it off for me...followed by A Handmaid's Tale.


message 20: by Sonia (new)

Sonia (stixaz) I've always enjoyed dystopian fiction but I think Oryx and Crake sealed the deal.


message 21: by Iain (new)

Iain Lindsay | 3 comments I'm reading Oryx and Crake at the moment! Can't believe I've put it off so long! Even better than The Handmaid's Tale. For me the primer was probably Brave New World, read it as a teenager and have been a dystopia geek ever since.


message 22: by Sonia (new)

Sonia (stixaz) Iain wrote: "I'm reading Oryx and Crake at the moment! Can't believe I've put it off so long! Even better than The Handmaid's Tale. For me the primer was probably Brave New World, read it as a teenager and have..."

Wait until The Year of the Flood the 2nd book in that series, it's awesome!


message 23: by Jeniece (new)

Jeniece (jenieceism) | 2 comments Iain wrote: "I'm reading Oryx and Crake at the moment! Can't believe I've put it off so long! Even better than The Handmaid's Tale. For me the primer was probably Brave New World, read it as a teenager and have..."

I'm started reading O&C, too! Is it really better than The Handmaid's Tale? I need to start digging into that book more!


message 24: by Nicz (new)

Nicz (nicoolettes) | 1 comments i started reading books as a hobby when i was in 2nd college and 'Hunger Games' made me read more dystopian books


message 25: by Karen (new)

Karen (Kazzakrisanna) Hi everyone! The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham got me started on dystopian novels back in the '70's. My favourite recent read though is Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon by Robert R McCammon, must read more of his books!


message 26: by Julie (new)

Julie (charliecrocker) | 2 comments I stumbled across margaret atwoods 'the handmaids tale' a couple of years ago and became seriously addicted to anything dystopian. I've always found other genres 'too nice'. My favourites are the 'older' titles, 1984, brave new world etc. My only problem is is that I think I have read every dystopian book available, any recommendations will be greatly apprieciated!


message 27: by Iain (new)

Iain Lindsay | 3 comments Jeniece wrote: "Iain wrote: "I'm reading Oryx and Crake at the moment! Can't believe I've put it off so long! Even better than The Handmaid's Tale. For me the primer was probably Brave New World, read it as a teen..."

I loved both: I just felt there was a lot of elements of the protagonist's (early) life in O&C that I could relate to and felt eerily familiar to me. Also, there was a really long gap between the last Atwood novel I had read and O&C and was really pleased to read a "genre" novel daring enough to employ the theme of systematic child abuse as a metaphor for man's exploitation of the the world's natural resources and handle it so maturely. Really cemented her place as the world's greatest living novelist for me.


message 28: by Iain (new)

Iain Lindsay | 3 comments Sonia wrote: "Iain wrote: "I'm reading Oryx and Crake at the moment! Can't believe I've put it off so long! Even better than The Handmaid's Tale. For me the primer was probably Brave New World, read it as a teen..."

Hey Sonia, I know I've put myself up as reading Yellow Blue Tibia and although I was really enjoying that I couldn't wait and started reading YotF last night and already 50% through! It is pretty damn good! Also: check out this edition of Arc, there's an extract from Atwood's current work in progress, looks a lot to me like it's from the last part of the trilogy(!):

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Arc-1-1-Futur...


message 29: by A.K. (last edited Mar 07, 2013 11:10PM) (new)

A.K. (akbutler) | 8 comments I read The Giver when it came out when I was 10 and fell in love with a genre I couldn't even name for another decade. Dystopians have been my favorite ever since. I loved 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 as a kid, now I've graduated to Oryx and Crake and The Road and the like.


message 30: by Tony (new)

Tony Moore | 2 comments Like many others in this group, it seems as though 1984 initially piqued my dystopian interest. However, that book alone, as good as it is, wasn't enough to send me hunting down the genre. That honor would have to go to Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Aldous Huxley. Without either of these authors' works I'm not sure that I would be in the same literary place that I am in now.

I love dystopian novels and stories for the critique on society that they endeavor to be. Like literary science fiction, dystopian stories allow the author to examine a facet of the current culture under a microscope. By hyperbolizing the issue and making it all-encompassing, the author can explore the fallacies and problems within our own status quo.


message 31: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Murphy (BMZMurphy) | 9 comments For me, it was the familiar pair of 1984 and Brave New World. Huxley's book also cut through the religious indoctrination I'd been subjected to. It made me think that if those people in good faith could teach and believe such things, maybe I should re-consider my belief in other strange things which different people in good faith had insisted I accept without question. A recent favourite is Will Self's The Book of Dave, which also is not kind to the socio-political uses of religion.


message 32: by Anne (new)

Anne Charnock (annecharnock) | 9 comments As a child I was mesmerized and frightened by the Animal Farm animated movie. I was too young to realize this was dystopian but it stuck with me. I'm pretty sure the Bladerunner movie switched me on to reading dystopian fiction: initially JG Ballard, and Brian Aldis' short stories. Other early reads included Brave New World, 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.


message 33: by This (new)

This Soul (ThisSoulFlutters) | 2 comments I always like to ask the question "what if?" and look to the future - as something bleak and see what it could turn out to be, and every time I open a dystopian novel it is something outstanding and outside the facets of today's world that I just get immersed in it. I also really love the moral-tugging that so many dystopian novels have... questioning what is right and wrong and trying to answer them myself from today's frame of mind compared to the character who is experiencing an entirely different world with an entirely different set of morals.


message 34: by Shannon (new)

Shannon Lewis | 1 comments I read Ecotopia in high school and I never could get it out of my mind. Since then, I have read "1984", "Fahrenheit 451", "The Hunger Games" Trilogy, "The Longest Walk", "The Giver", "Unwind", "Unsung", "Unwholly" and so many more. I am currently reading "The Road", which isn't really dystopian, but it's pretty good.


message 35: by Natalie (new)

Natalie (LittleNatalie) The Hunger Games, of course!


message 36: by Kaylan (new)

Kaylan Rose | 6 comments I reread Lois Lowry's "The Giver" for a lit class to use in comparison to Thomas Moore's "Utopia". Re reading the giver sent me right into something just shy of a dystopian obsession... Also, the discovery of "A Handmaid's Tale" has me craving Margaret Atwood whenever i try to to read other things. haha.


message 37: by Brittany (new)

Brittany Bryan | 2 comments Uglies by Scott westerfield


message 38: by Gina (new)

Gina (gmjackson) We read Brave New World in high school, and later that same year we had to do an independant research project that was somehow related to literature. I did mine on the topic of "behaviour control" and read 1984 and A Clockwork Orange and some stuff by B.F. Skinner and wrote a paper on all of it... by then I was hooked!


message 39: by A.K. (new)

A.K. (akbutler) | 8 comments Kaylan wrote: "I reread Lois Lowry's "The Giver" for a lit class to use in comparison to Thomas Moore's "Utopia". Re reading the giver sent me right into something just shy of a dystopian obsession... Also, the ..."

Atwood will that do that to you, lol.


message 40: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 1 comments Reading 1984 and The Giver was enough for me. But lately, I've been hooked and trying to get a hold of as many of possible. My recent reads are A Clockwork Orange, The Running Man, and Unwind.


message 41: by Elaina (new)

Elaina (eelaynuh) "Harrison Bergeron," found in -Welcome to the Monkey House- by Kurt Vonnegut, was the first dystopian story I read. I was in junior high or high school (can't remember). But it's been a favorite genre of mine and "Harrison Bergeron" remains one of my favorite stories.

Also, I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in my early twenties and it's my favorite book of all time and the theme was kind of dystopian for it's time.


message 42: by Sirin (new)

Sirin (sirintugbay) I've read Brave New World, 1984 and a few cyberpunk books in high school, and liked it, but only after reading a few more things (The Dispossessed, Fahrenheit 451, A Handmaiden's Tale) I am sensing a trend! Looking forward to following some recommendations from this group.


message 43: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Murphy (BMZMurphy) | 9 comments Carla wrote: "'1984' and 'The Handmaid's Tale' were the two books that really got me into dystopian fiction."

Two classics, Carla. 1984 frightened the life out of me when I read it as a boy. I didn't read 'The Handmaid's Tale' till quite recently, because I didn't realise it was dystopian. In a way, it is even more scary, don't you think?


message 44: by JenMarie (last edited May 05, 2013 01:44PM) (new)

JenMarie (jenmarie2000) | 1 comments My first dystopian book was 'Z for Zachariah'which I read in middle school and now more recently 'The Hunger Games'series and yesterday, I just finished 'Anthem' by Ayn Rand and loved it!

Thank you all for the great suggestions such as 'The Giver','Brave New World' and 'The Handmaid's Tale'. I'm going to start on these tomorrow!


message 45: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (SarahLML) The Host by Stephenie Meyer got me hooked. I've since read both in the Divergent Series. I've pre-ordered the third in that series and I'm currently waiting for the Maze Runner Series to arrive.


message 46: by Shari (new)

Shari (fruitloopgirl) | 1 comments While I read 1984 and Animal Farm in high school, but at that time, they were just books that I was forced to read. The book that really started my interest in dystopian novels was the Handmaid's Tale. And more recently, the Wool series.


message 47: by Kaylan (new)

Kaylan Rose | 6 comments Shari wrote: "While I read 1984 and Animal Farm in high school, but at that time, they were just books that I was forced to read. The book that really started my interest in dystopian novels was the Handmaid's ..."

Have you read anything else by Margaret Atwood? If not, I strong recommend that you do! Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood are amazing. I just started the final book in that trilogy, Maddaddam which was released today...


message 48: by Katey (new)

Katey | 1 comments Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and then A Handmaid's Tale, also by Atwood... It snowballed from there


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