Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Thoughts on Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian Novels

Ashfall (Ashfall, #1)A dystopian society is the opposite of a perfect (utopian) society. Typically something terrifying has happened and the world is essentially in shambles. Maybe radiation killed most of Earth's life, leaving mutants to try to make their way in a destroyed world. Maybe tropical storms have destroyed most of the major cities or a plague is systematically destroying the human races as survivors struggle to find a cure. Maybe the rising ocean has finally covered most of the planet's land in water. Maybe the world has been overrun by aliens or zombies or angels or beings from another dimension. Scattered clumps of survivors fight to cling on, or people wander around in a haze, content to do whatever the totalitarian government says.
Dark Life (Dark Life, #1)
Dystopia is a way of presenting dire possibilities for our societies, and using it to reflect the how humans (both individual people, and an overall society) respond to the extreme pressures. The world in a good dystopia is vivid. The author has to paint a picture, like in the same way a fantasy or science fiction author would (dystopia is generally sci-fi or fantasy or a mix thereof). So good dystopian authors can produce a lot of beautifully terrifying worlds.

Enclave (Razorland, #1)I really like dystopia. In addition to the worlds that are created, and the story of how the world ended, but we get to see humanity as it struggles. We get to see how humans react to the desperation. It's a great analysis of humanity.

Legend (Legend, #1)In the post-apocalyptic novels I love, you see humanity at it's worst. People are desperate and doing horrible things to survive. You see the worst of us and that we can all be monsters. But you also see some of the best. You see people rising above everything, and some how managing to find something to hold onto in spite of it all. Somehow finding a reason to keep going, to keep being human. Whether its giving half of their meal to a starving animal or showing mercy to an enemy, or finding a way to forgive themselves. They find a way to be better, to do what is right, and fight against the overwhelming odds. Those are the stories that keep me coming back. That willingness to stand up when everyone else is bowing down. The willingness to hold onto the idea of living instead of just surviving. The way that the characters are resilient, and hold onto their beliefs and will to fight for those beliefs. That hope that, no matter how small and shaken, perseveres.

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)There are a lot of dystopian stories that don't have that element of hope and endurance. These are meant to be cautionary tales, but I find they don't make me want to change. I read Brave New World, and in that story nothing changed, and our characters gave up. And I just felt defeated. I didn't feel like I could do anything to avoid an eventuality like the one depicted in the story. It isn't because it is a horrible book, or that it is badly written. I just didn't like it. Endless despair doesn't work for me. I just shut it out, because if the characters don't have a will to carry on, why should I?
Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)
I guess I've got a soft spot of the hero type. The ones who keep fighting for what is right even when their faith is shaken and they are down on their knees. The ones that show, no matter how much horrible has happened, there is still love and compassion and hope. I suppose that, as pessimistic as I can be, I want to believe that humans are good. I have to believe that.

Am I a sap or what?

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