When Stephen Colbert drew a comparison between the Republican National Convention and The Hunger Games, he tapped into a common feeling among American voters who, say, don’t want to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, or ban all Muslims from the country. We are living through the most dystopian presidential election in U.S. history. While my grandmother might insist the 1964 race between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater was just as terrifying, most of us weren’t around then to learn how to cope with our fears. Instead, we’ll just have to try to get lost in these dystopian novels until it’s finally time to cast our ballots on November 8th.
1) The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games takes place in an unspecified future date in Panem, the ruins of North America, where children from poor districts are forced to fight to the death and the rich citizens of the Capital live lavishly. In light of recent political events, that unspecified future date seems like it could be alarmingly close to present day. Try to muster up Katniss Everdeen’s courage to fight against unchecked capitalism and hyper-militarization, and don’t think too much about whether or not there’s a Trump hotel in the Capitol.
2) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
There’s nothing like the threat of a totalitarian Christian theocracy to send shivers up your spine. While The Handmaid’s Tale may have felt slightly more relevant during the primaries, the status of women and the control over their reproductive rights in Atwood’s dystopian society is still alarmingly relevant. The Handmaid’s Tale was written in response to the political trends of the 1980’s in the United States, but unfortunately the novel still resonates with readers today.
3) The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
In the world of The House of the Scorpion, the United States has been reduced to Third World status, and what was once known as Mexico is now known as Aztlán—a country that U.S. immigrants try to enter illegally. A strip of land between the U.S. and Aztlán is now a separate country, Opium, ruled by the drug lord El Patrón, who enslaves humans who are caught trying to cross the border. The protagonist of the book, Matt, is a clone of El Patrón, but later leads a rebellion against him. With all of Trump’s racist talk of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, The House of the Scorpion is a jarring glimpse into the potential consequences.
4) The Iron Heel by Jack London
The Iron Heel is often considered to be one of the earliest modern dystopian novels. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Iron Heel uses a fictional uncovered first person account to explore the society. The story is told through Avis Everhard’s perspective as an underground resistance fighter. London’s novel takes place in San Francisco in 1912 to 1932 when the Oligarchy (or Iron Heel) takes over the United States. The Oligarchy are a large monopoly of trusts who bankrupt smaller businesses and reduce the farmers to serfdom. The Oligarchs employ the Mercenaries, who are still, officially the United States army. While a lot of this may sound a little too familiar, London published The Iron Heel in 1908.
What’s your favorite dystopian novel? How are you coping with the political chaos? Let us know in the comments below.
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