Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dystopian Literature, Introduction

The utopia and its offshoot, the dystopia, are genres of literature that explore social and political structures. Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal society, or utopia, and the setting for a novel. Dystopian fiction is the opposite: creation of an utterly horrible or degraded society, or dystopia. many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of two possible futures. Both utopias and dystopias are commonly found in science fiction and other speculative fiction genres, and arguable are by definition a type of speculative fiction.
One thing I've observed over the years of raising a daughter to college age, is that dystopian literature is very much alive and a distinctly strong choice of reading for many young adults. The first one we read together was Lois Lowry's book The Giver. My daughter was perhaps in fourth or fifth grade. We read it together, went to a gathering with Lois Lowry, and later saw the world premier of the play.

The Giver is the beginning of a trilogy of a very different sort. Usually in trilogies, the timeline is nearly, if not perfectly, continuous from one volume to the next; but in Lowry's books, time passes between each of the volumes: The Giver, Gathering Blue and Messenger. In each of them, someone important gets injured or dies. That's one of the features of dystopian young adult literature. The young people who are the focal points of the novels go through tremendous losses ~ and still find reasons and the means to hope.
Have you read these novels? What do you think of them?

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