Dystopian Fiction

The Wall – Marlen Haushofer

Posted in Dystopian Fiction, Literary Fiction on September 10th, 2013 by admin – 4 Comments

The Wall_Cover

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Quartet Books; New edition (6 Jun 2013)
  • Source : Publisher
  • My Rating : 4 stars


Originally published in German (Die Wand) in 1968,  The Wall is experiencing a renaissance of interest in recent times with a new reissue from Quartet Books and a film adaptation released in the UK in July 2013.

One morning an unassuming, middle-aged woman wakes up in the Austrian Alps to find out that she is the last person alive on earth.  She was visiting a cousin at a hunting lodge but now she is completely alone with an invisible wall separating her from the rest of the world where every living thing has ceased to breathe and is now frozen in time.  I  immediately thought of Stephen King’s Under the Dome but this is no apocalyptic scene complete with pandemonium – all is quiet and “this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper”.

Some years later, our anonymous narrator decides to record her experiences on scraps of paper, perhaps as an act of self-confirmation to prove she still exists.  It’s not an exciting life by modern standards but her descriptions of daily life on the mountain provide an interesting interpretation of what it might be like to be totally isolated with no human contact.  Initially, it’s not so bad – rations are plentiful, Lynx the dog is a faithful companion, the unnamed cat, although scornful of open affection, provides some companionship.  A lost cow provides a much needed food source as well as another contact.  With the arrival of Winter, everything changes…

Deer have to be shot if there is to be meat on the table, potatoes and other vegetables must be planted on time, logs need cutting for fuel. Our lonesome woman fends for herself very well and doesn’t seem too bothered by loneliness – I wonder how comfortable any of us would be in a similar situation?

This is a slow-paced, contemplative read and I really enjoyed taking time out and sharing the narrator’s experiences as she gets closer to nature and sees the beauty in the detail of her surroundings.

  • Share/Bookmark

The Twelve – Justin Cronin

Posted in Dystopian Fiction on October 1st, 2012 by admin – 6 Comments

The Twelve


Orion (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )

New  Books Magazine http://www.newbooksmag.com/

The Twelve is the second of Justin Cronin’s epic post-apocalyptic trilogy which began in 2010 with The Passage.   I “devoured” the first book and have been anticipating the sequel with equal amounts of dread and delight.  Fear not, this is not a casualty of Second Novel Syndrome but is instead a glowing example of engaging dystopian fiction at its best.

Yes, it’s a story about vampires but as far removed from Twilight as is humanly/virally possible.  Comparisons with Stephen King’s The Stand are more apt.  As in The Passage, there are several converging storylines with different starting points.  At first this can be quite disconcerting as time frames zoom from the beginning of the apocalypse to events mentioned in The Passage to the present day where mankind seems on the verge of eventually destroying the bio-engineered vampires.  If you hang in there, for the first 100 pages or so, you will be rewarded bountifully with an almost 3D cinematic experience with motifs of good versus evil, love, loss and sacrifice. 

This is a book which deserves large chunks of your reading time, an addictive narrative which will take up most of your waking hours.  It is an excellent springboard for reading group discussion especially in an era where medical and scientific advances are juxtaposed with moral and ethical issues.  For those with weak wrists, the kindle version is a less cumbersome alternative!

  • Share/Bookmark

The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

Posted in American Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, Proofs, YA Fiction on June 1st, 2012 by admin – 3 Comments

The Age of Miracles


Simon & Schuster Ltd

My Rating – 3 Stars

With apologies to TS Eliot, is this how the world ends then, not with a bang but a whimper, with the slowing of the earth’s rotation?  Karen Thompson Walker’s novel certainly stands out from the glut of post-apocalyptic novels currently crowding bookshop shelves with its quiet, reflective style and gentle tone but does this debut have enough oomph to grab the reader and keep him transfixed until the bitter end?

I don’t require a lot of action in my reading, sometimes the quiet ones are the ones which draw me in the most.  I also don’t need everything tied up neatly at the end but for several reasons this novel didn’t quite work for me and left me feeling rather unsatisfied.  Firstly, I am not sure what type of story it’s trying  to be – Young Adult or perhaps crossover, coming of age tale, stark dystopian drama? 

Told from the perspective of 11 year old,  Julia, we hear a lot about her trials and tribulations as a young adolescent – falling out with friends, exploring first romantic feelings, lack of communication with parents BUT considering the earth has shifted on its axis and days are sometimes 48 hours long we have little in-depth analysis of a global catastrophe.  Divisions are caused when the “Real-Timers” go against government advice and decide to live their lives according  to whatever naturally occurs, sleeping during the dark time and remaining awake during daylight hours – I couldn’t quite fathom how they could do this during “48 hour” days!  Everyone else goes by the clock even if  it means trying to sleep in broad daylight and going to and from school in the dark. 

All in all, this is a promising debut but the intriguing premise was let down by a rather pedestrian story – one of those kitchen-sink books where everything gets thrown in but somehow it doesn’t quite blend to form a palatable whole.   Some beautiful writing but just not in this format…perhaps it would have worked better with an older narrator?

  • Share/Bookmark

The Killables – Gemma Malley

Posted in Children's Books, Dystopian Fiction, YA Fiction on April 2nd, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

The Killables (The Killables, #1)

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (29 Mar 2012)
  • Language English
  • My Rating – 4 stars

    One could be forgiven for thinking that a dystopian setting is compulsory for all YA novels being published at the moment and with the huge success of The Hunger Games both in print and on screen, this is one trend which is staying put.  Gemma Malley has already proven her worth in this genre with her excellent Declaration trilogy and she continues to demonstrate her impressive storytelling skills in this, the first of a new trilogy.

    I must admit that I was quite worried that this new series would seem too samey and fail to stand out amongst the plethora of other dystopian reads on the market but what makes it shine is its quiet, understated nature – thank goodness there are writers who realise it doesn’t have to be all singing, all dancing, all flailing limbs to attract the reader’s attention, sometimes less is more.

    Our “new world” is The City whose citizens are graded from A to D and (shock, horror!) sometimes K depending on their good citizenship and obedience of the rules established by the System.  The head honcho is the omniscient, omnipresent Brother who seems to have your best interests at heart – you really don’t want to end up outside the City gates at the mercy of the Evils, an allegedly subhuman species.

    There is an intriguing love triangle involving our three main protagonists, Evie, Raffy and his “much” older brother, Lucas.  I liked the fact that none of these characters are particularly likeable and you feel like shaking some sense into them most of the time – it’s a trilogy after all, they have time to evolve and change, hopefully for the better!  I also loved the semi-scientific slant on the new Society where all the good citizens have had their amygdala, the ”evil” part of their brain, removed – all done to deliver themselves from evil of course.

    Like all first books in a series, a large portion of the novel has to be devoted to world-building but the author has succeeded in also building characters and a plot which engage the reader and will make you want to read on.  If you’re aged over 13 and you like your dystopian fiction restrained, intelligent and thought-provoking then this is your next stop.

    • Share/Bookmark

    The Unit – Ninni Holmqvist

    Posted in Dystopian Fiction, Translated Fiction on February 13th, 2012 by admin – 8 Comments

    The Unit

    My Rating – 4 Stars

    One of my favourite dystopian novels is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Unit echoes some of the former’s darker themes.  However it differs in that there appears to be less smoke and mirrors in the Swedish setting and it is thus a very different creature and a very thought provoking one at that.

    The story begins with our narrator, Dorrit, a 50 year old single woman, going to the Second Reserve Bank Unit for Biological Material.  In the Unit, her new “home”, she leads a comfortable life, sheltered from the pressures of the outside world.  Residents can swim, relax in the sauna, go to the theatre, visit art exhibitions – quite a wide and varied lifestyle considering they are not allowed to ever leave the unit or contact friends or family.

    Yes, folks, this is Scandinavia but  not as we know it – not crime fiction and craggy investigators as this is all legal and above board.  Dorrit is one of the “dispensables”, those unfortunate childless/single/gay folk who haven’t made a meaningful contribution to society by the age of 50 for women, 60 for men (fertility rules!).  Dorrit is an author, a creative type like most of her fellow inmates, whose artistic legacy isn’t highly valued by the current regime.

    So, how can the dispensables give something back to society?  The solution is quite straightforward, for starters a kidney, then perhaps a cornea, followed by a liver section all leading up to the piece de resistance, the final donation.

    What is more disturbing than all the experiments and organ donations, is the meek acquiesence and acceptance of Dorrit and her fellow dispensables – don’t expect any fireworks in the form of revolution, the atmosphere is distinctly Stepford Wives.   Ironically, Dorrit finds love for the first time with another resident, Johannes but their happiness is all the more poignant as we know it is short-lived.

    Told in simple,unadorned prose this dystopian tale is a compelling read which I found extremely powerful and moving – a story which will remain with me and quite possibly “haunt” me for a long while…

    • Share/Bookmark