Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week’s topic is: Top Ten All Time Favourite Utopian and Dystopian Books. I love both Utopian and Dystopian books so I’ve sort of shoved them into one genre. I’ve got 4 utopian books to share and 6 dystopian books.
All images and book titles take you to Goodreads.
1) Utopia by Thomas More
This book is more of a political discussion (or criticism) of society and More seems to indicate what the ideal society should be like by portraying a fictional island society with specific religious and social customs. It’s a wonderful introduction to the idea of the utopia as some idealised but unreachable society. The word utopia is derived from the Greek meaning ‘nowhere’ or ‘no place’ and More addressed this by claiming that the book should be called Eutopia rather than Utopia because eutopia means ‘good place’. I have not read the original Latin version because I can’t read Latin but there are some wonderful translations available.
2) Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Herland is a utopian novel by feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman that depicts an all-female society which is secluded from the rest of the world and therefore protected from patriarchal views and influences. It’s eventually invaded by three men who do not understand their ways and bring danger to their peaceful society. These men fall in love with some of the women from Herland and some of them even plan to stay in the utopian society. Gilman focuses on the idea that a society of only women would be just and peaceful whereas patriarchal society (and men in general) causes wars.
3) Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
Woman on the Edge of Time is an example of both utopian and dystopian fiction as it explores two different possible futures, one utopian and one dystopian. The main character, a Hispanic woman named Connie, lives in an important time in history and she is in a pivotal position; her actions and decisions will determine the course of history. The utopian future is the agrarian, communal community of Mattapoisett where men breast feed and everyone is androgynous. However, the death penalty still exists in Mattapoisett so it’s not entirely utopian. It’s an odd book but a wonderful book and I really recommend it. Especially if you’re into feminist fiction.
4) The Man in the Moone by Francis Godwin
I came across this text during a work placement that I undertook as part of my Masters degree. It’s perhaps an odd one to include but I really love it even though I know that a lot of people don’t get it or think that it’s odd. I enjoyed it because it’s from the 17th century and I love the early modern era. The book is described as a ‘journey of utopian discovery’ as the main character travels to the moon (on a flock of geese) and discovers what seems to be a utopian paradise inhabited by Christians. Christians on the Moon. What more can you ask for from a 17th century text? Godwin was a bishop for the Church of England and he used the book to criticise his own society for being ‘ungodly’ etc.
5) 1984 by George Orwell
This has been one of my favourite books since I was about 14. It’s just such an iconic dystopian novel best known for the idea of Big Brother, a concept that haunts our lives today. Nineteen Eighty-Four (often stylised as 1984) is set in a superstate known as Oceania where the government constantly watches the citizens and history is manipulated to suit the needs of the government. People who speak out again, or even think against, the Party are tortured and put into Room 101 until they agree with the Party and accept everything that the Party tells them, even if they claim that 2 + 2 = 5. This book is iconic and has predicted our reliance upon CCTV and the censorship of the media.
6) Animal Farm by George Orwell
I only read this a few weeks ago but it instantly became one of my favourite books ever. It even knocked The Hunger Games off this list because that used to be one of my all time favourite dystopian books. Animal Farm is a criticism of Stalin’s Soviet Union while it advocates democratic socialism. The animals of Manor Farm overthrow their human ‘owners’ and create a Republic called Animal Farm where they work hard but reap the benefits of the labour. The pigs Snowball, Napoleon, and Squealer create Animalism (aka Communism) and this includes seven commandments about what animals should and shouldn’t do. Eventually, the pigs give themselves more and more power and they change the commandments to suit their own needs and they.
7) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I didn’t used to like this book but I re-read it earlier in the year and I really enjoyed it. The book anticipated things like developments in reproductive technology and the ideas of sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning. Moods are controlled by drugs and foetuses are artificially altered to determine intelligence and physical appearance. The title comes from Miranda’s speech in Shakespeare’s The Tempest: ‘O wonder!/How many goodly creatures are there here!/How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,/That has such people in’t.’ This title is incredibly ironic as Miranda is encountering the worst of humanity during this scene as she lived an isolated life, just like the main character of Brave New World.
8) The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
A Time Traveller is taken to the year 802,701 A.D. where he meets two groups of people. He first meets the Eloi, a society of small, elegant, childlike adults who live in small communities. They do no work but live in huge buildings and they live on a diet of fruit. These creatures are scared of the dark. Later, the Time Traveller meets another race of people, the Morlocks, who live underground and only return to the surface at night. They work for the Eloi and they allow the Eloi to live in their paradise. Well’s dystopian universe examines the societal split between the Haves and the Have-Nots and he imgained a world where the upper classes and working classes evolved into different species.
9) High-Rise by JG Ballard
Ballard created a dystopian universe in the form of a tower block which only houses affluent people. It includes a supermarket, a bank, a salon, swimming pools, a gym, and even its own school. The amenities, such as the high-speed lifts, begin to malfunction and breakdown and the lower, middle, and upper floors of the building gradually stratify into distinct groups. Eventually, the tenants become distanced from the outside world and abandon societal expectations and restraints as they become violent and destructive. They abandon their jobs and families and stay indoors permanently, forgetting about their former lives completely.
10) The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Maze Runner is a post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction young adult novel first published in 2009. Wow, James Dashner really knows how to cross multiple genres in his books. The premise of the novel is that a group of young boys are sent into the ‘Maze’ which they are forced to solve to escape. Thomas is the last boy to join the Glade before a girl is introduced to the group. Together, they have to solve the Maze and avoid the Grievers which hunt any children that get trapped in the Maze during the night. There are two sequels and two prequels to this novel.