Recent Dystopian Literary Fiction

Georgetown LibraryStaff Picks

Recent Dystopian Literary Fiction

Darker futures in contemporary novels

With classic dystopian novels such as 1984 by George Orwell and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood experiencing new waves of popularity, the following more recently published Literary Fiction titles provide additional opportunities to consider darker imagined futures.  
The futures depicted in these novels differ in their specific settings, as well as in the circumstances that gave rise to them, the ways in which they are organized, and their senses of permanence, yet, along with their bleakness, they share a familiarity -- and thereby, arguably, an urgency -- as all possess some stated connection to the world as we know it now.

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029 - 2047 by Lionel Shriver
America’s actions in the face of cyberattack ultimately lead to total financial meltdown, which, for the Mandible family, means the disappearance of an inheritance relied upon by multiple generations. As the Mandibles turn to one another and reluctantly attempt to adjust to their new circumstances, they must reckon too with larger shifts that emerge in the wake of the nation’s economic desolation. 

On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee
In a class-based society split between labor settlements, charter villages, and the open counties that separate them, teenage laborer Fan leaves B-Mor -- once Baltimore -- after her boyfriend Reg mysteriously disappears. Her quest to find him brings her into contact with individuals attempting to live outside of the roles offered by society and those who embrace them, yet among all a sense of unease persists. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A severe pandemic decimates the world’s population, and among those who survive are individuals connected in various ways to actor Arthur Leander, whose death playing King Lear occurs just as the virus begins to take hold. These connections, as well as the effects -- both immediate and far-reaching -- of the global catastrophe on these individuals, emerge as they independently make their way in its aftermath. 

California by Edan Lepucki
After the fall of American civilization, and as a more rigid class-based society emerges in its place, married couple Cal and Frida flee Los Angeles to live alone in the wilderness, but they reassess their plans when they discover Frida is pregnant. They find an encampment that offers the possibility of community but become increasingly unsettled by its secrets and rules. 

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
After a large scale economic collapse and amid widespread unemployment, increasingly desperate married couple Stan and Charmaine turn to the Positron Project, in which participants spend alternating months apart in separate prisons and together in a home in which another couple lives during the months they are away. Along with material security, though, this new arrangement brings disruption as it de-stabilizes the pair’s marriage in unforeseen ways.