Tuesday, January 15, 2013

On Dystopian Books

I've been reading a lot of good books, mostly biographies, memoirs, and reflections of the Church Fathers. But I want to write about a dystopian book. I don’t read much in this genre, but some are too beautiful to ignore. Isn't the cover gorgeous? Light and airy with silky threads. I was so intrigued by the idea of weaving time and realities that I picked up Crewel by Jennifer Albin. I thought it could be like the Matrix, reality upon reality, or Ember, and it does have elements of both. I have not been disappointed. Albin has woven an interesting tale and world. I especially loved the idea of weaving a moment, a bubble of time.
Crewel (Crewel World)
I think the first dystopian I ever read was The Giver. And of course, in all these books, it is presented first as a utopia. People don’t get sick. There is no suffering. Everything is carefully controlled, etc. Then the layers are peeled back to show what a façade all of it is. I suppose as humans we have always struggled between security and risk, and most of these stories show what happens when we love our comforts a bit too much, when we’d rather be taken care of, than take risks. Young people need to read these books to make them think. We are getting dangerously close to socialist Europe, where the government takes care of everything. Personal charity has gone out the window, because after all, the state redistributes wealth. I am not against a central government but the proper use of it. For infrastructure, for protection of the most vulnerable, but unfortunately, our government is not looking out for the welfare of its most vulnerable -- children, unborn, and old and infirm.

The common thread in all these dystopian novels is an absence of God, even if words like “blessings” are used. Blessed by whom? In a society devoid of God, humans play at being gods, and it’s been shown over and over again, that we are not good at it. It's the hubris of man to think he can be like God. We should all try abandoning ourselves to God's will. Thy kingdom come!


Mirka Breen said...

The first dystopian novel I read was w-a-a-ay back, "1984" before it was 1984... (Dates me.) But I have read these only reluctantly since. They can be powerful and thoughtful, but something about this sort of futurizing rubs me wrong.
Your comments here are thoughtful, as always. But I think I'll stay with the reviews/posts on this, rather than read it. Just me, I guess.

dbp said...

Hi Vijaya,

Not sure if you know this but Paul Brians, now retired, of WSU was a specialist in the field of dystopian science fiction. I only know about him from taking a course by him, which was easily in the top two or three of any courses I took there or anywhere.

When it comes to finding science fiction that is dystopian, it is rather hard to find much that isn't.

In addition to the above mentioned 1984, there is Brave New World, The Handmaiden's Tale, Bladerunner, The Diamond Age etc. Even the post-nuclear dystopia genre is so broad that Prof Brians has a whole book dedicated to the topic.

Faith E. Hough said...

That cover IS beautiful...so different from all the dark ones that seem to be pervading the YA shelves.
I've read a few dystopian books, and I like them for their thought-provoking nature...but they have to be really good to win me over. Have you read "Safekeeping" by Karen Hesse? I really liked it...very different from the average dystopian tale, and set in the closer future, which made it more relatable to me.
The only one I've read which mentions God is Divergent (well, and its sequel) by Veronica Roth. The author is a Christian and it shows...you even get bits of scripture thrown in from time to time--along with a story that very much deals with changing the world by developing virtue in oneself.

Vijaya said...

Mirka, how could I forget 1984? I must've been thinking only of children's because David has mentioned several others, some that I read as a teenager.

Like you, it has always rubbed me the wrong way, and perhaps that is why I've not been enamoured with the genre. I simply do not want to spend a week or two in that world. For instance, I skimmed Book 2 and 3 of the Hunger Games because I lost interest in the characters.

And what's with all these trilogies? Drives me crazy. I never was a fan of newspaper serials either. I want it all now! I'm not sure I will pick up the rest of this series ... maybe if the cover is pretty :)

David, how cool that you got to take a class like this, and no, I didn't know of Paul Brians. I don't think I took a literature course in college -- stuck to science, history and philosophy.

Faith, I'll have to check out Safekeeping. Karen Hesse is one of my favorites. And I did enjoy Roth's books. They were unusual because of the Christian worldview.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I agree dystopian is important for kids to read, to understand what's at stake. And I love your conclusion -- that it's a world without God that is the most terrifying.

Marcia said...

I know -- it's like there "have" to be trilogies now. If I know ahead of time that something's going to be a trilogy, I usually don't pick up the first book.

Few other people must be like that, or trilogies wouldn't sell.

If it's a trilogy, it had better be a big enough story for it. If all you're doing is stringing me along for three books, I want it all now. Or nothing.

I suppose that sounds sort of crabby.

Vijaya said...

Marcia, I too, can be a crankypants when it comes to trilogies or serials ... it had better be good!