So far my summer has consisted of a lot of work and a lot of reading. Since getting out of school I have read INSURGENT, the second book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent Series, I finished MATCHED, the first book in Ally Condie’s Matched Trilogy, and finished the first two books in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium Series, DELIRIUM and PANDEMONIUM.
The Divergent Series is about an isolated society (spoiler: set up by the government as a test) in the United States. The society is broken up into five factions: Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, and Candor. Each person is born into a certain subgroup, but when a citizen turns sixteen they are tested and have the opportunity to choose to stay in their original faction or switch, depending on whether they had an affinity for another faction. Eventually, of course, the society finds weaknesses in their factions and a rebellion begins. In the Matched Trilogy, in an attempt to keep society controlled and moderated, the government matches you with the person you are to be married with, matches you to your job, and even controls your food intake. Then, in the Delirium Series, much like Matched, the government tests you and matches you with a job and a mate. However, the government in this society took it one step farther than matched. In order to control the emotions and behavior of individuals, at the age of eighteen each citizen has invasive brain surgery that removes the emotion of love.
After thinking about what I’ve read this summer I realized that they all had something in common: they were Dystopian YA Bestsellers. Over the past few months I’ve realized that the large success of The Hunger Game has triggered a new trend in YA literature, and in pop culture in general. It’s not that dystopian novels haven’t been there before, but they are gaining popularity in the mainstream media nowadays. Take for example two of the books I mentioned before, Divergent and Delirium, both of those books are currently in the process of being adapted into films and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more dystopian novels currently in line to become a movie. People just can’t seem to get enough of this literature right now, but what about it is so appealing to the general public? What is it that’s so appealing to me? Apparently I’m just as sucked into as the rest of the world. Give me a book where the world was in turmoil and an oppressive government has to take over, only to eventually be overthrown by a group of renegades. Then toss in a little violence and a little romance, which they always do, and you’ve got me hooked.
My initial reaction was that this was just another trend in literature, and pop culture. We had the time of the wizards, we are just about vampired out (except I won’t deny that I’m thoroughly sucked into the new season of True Blood), and the people just needed something new to be obsessed with. With the first Hunger Games film being so wildly successful it seems the people really have found their new form of entertainment. This is how the entertainment business generally works. They squeeze the life out of a fad until there is nothing left but the skeleton of what used to be their best seller. Then we as fans try and shake off our shame for helping society ruin yet another idea that used to be so fresh and new, and wait until they bring us something new to feast on.
However, there is something more to the dystopian novels than just a form of entertainment. I believe its popularity partially stems from the fact that these stories don’t seem like they could be far off from the reality of our future. Maybe people cling so hard to these novels to try and reassure themselves that the world will never get this bad, or maybe even to try and convince themselves that the present isn’t so bad. I mean, hey, at least we aren’t sending our kids into an arena to fight to the death (people willingly sign up for the army so that doesn’t count, right?), and we aren’t performing outrageous brain surgeries on eighteen year olds that remove the ability to love. Clearly we’re all good, right? But the fact is that even though aspects of these novels seem completely outrageous and so far beyond us that they seem to be science fiction, there are main themes that run in them that can be seen in present day. For example, in the novels the governments have almost infinite control over the lives of their citizens, and that is a real fear for some people today. So, while the government isn’t implementing a bill for mandatory brain surgery, the government of New York does plan to ban the purchase of large soft drinks—so if you want to ever have your supersized Coke at McDonalds in NY again, I suggest you go get one soon. In addition, each book has a rebel group that has been working underground to overthrow the oppressive governments. If you have been watching the news at all you will know that is not far off from what has been going on in present day, especially in countries in Africa.
I believe what makes these novels so popular are their ability to be relatable while still maintaining a comfortable distance from reality. This trend in pop culture is just starting to pick-up and doubt it will slow down any time soon. What are your thoughts on dystopian societies, just another trend or do its roots go deeper than that?
This is a guest post by Sci-Fi Bloggers. Sci-Fi Bloggers is an online magazine covering all things science fiction and fantasy: movies, TV, books, video games, comics and more.