Last year we all had to face the crushing disappoint that it was 2015 and the scum who wrote Back to the Future II had massively over-estimated how far hoverboard technology was going to progress (we all still have to use non-hovering type transport like suckers and it leaves a bitter, bitter taste). But if you want to be glass half full, at least we’re not currently residing in one of these dystopian societies from 20th century literature (*the key-word is ‘currently’ there. If there’s full anarchy by next week I don’t want to look like an idiot).
I’ll try not to give spoilers here:
Handmaids Tale (Margaret Atwood, 1985)
For me out of all these books listed, the state of Gilead sounded like the worst future hypothetical, totalitarian society to live in – specifically if you’re a woman. It’s ruled by the idea of positive restriction, and the narrator known only as ‘Offred’ is of the first generation of women who is stripped of every freedom and valued solely on her ability to reproduce. What’s particularly frightening is how Offred has no way of knowing what is happening in the outside world as the media cannot be trusted and she is not permitted to watch the news.
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley, 1932)
(It was quite a few years ago that I read Brave New World so forgive me it isn’t as fresh in my head). In the World State, humans are mass produced in hatcheries and are conditioned to be the perfect consumer and to instinctively hate books and nature. Family, love and monogamy are now antiquated ideas and ‘everybody belongs to everyone else’ (a quote I’m sure Huxley sometimes bought out if he wanted to initiate a key party). There is also the Savage Reservation where people from the World State can visit to be reminded of how good progress is.
Cats Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut, 1963)
In Cats Cradle the three grown-up children of an eccentric scientist each have a piece of his final invention ‘Ice-Nine’ which has the power of freezing all the worlds water. Most of it is set on the island of San Lorenzo where everyone follows an odd religion called Bokononism, which is pretty much a glorified foot fetish club (there’s a lot about the importance of sole-to-sole contact, its a strange book)
A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess, 1962)
This is one of my favourite books, but I do have a bone to pick with it. At the start the main character, Alex Delarge, successfully cracks onto two girls using what it possibly the shittiest pick-up technique in history: the gist of the quote is ‘Come with uncle…you are invited’. What a load of false advertising, you couldn’t score your own hand with that line.
Anyway, A Clockwork Orange is set in a future where the youths are excessively out of control (a terrifying world where A Current Affair doesn’t need to exaggerate as much). When Alex finally ends up in prison he agrees to undergo a kind of aversion therapy which leaves him feeling ill at the thought of violence and incapable of committing any act of violence. Seemingly it sounds positive, but who wants to live in a society which can take away your ability to choose?
Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury, 1953)
In this future, books are prohibited but few people care, and firemen burn books. Televisions have become so big in this future that they’ve become rooms with four screens as walls and people refer to the television characters as their families. Plus if you’re one of the few people who decide to piss the firemen off they send a large mechanical dog after you.
1984 (George Orwell, 1949)
This is true – there was an incident where Amazon removed all copies of 1984 from its Kindles after realising their version was a pirated text; so readers rebooted their kindles to find that 1984 had disappeared. It was all a little interesting, and the kind of thing that possibly sparked some great conspiracy theories (it may be a sign of censorship to come, and I bet the lizard people who live underground were somehow behind it).
Anyway, 1984 is set in Oceania and told from Winston Smith’s perspective. Being a book of its time, aspects of Oceania are meant to mirror the Stalinist system. The Party controls everything: it rewrites history through censorship, monitors every action through telescreens, a new type of speech has been created to eliminate certain words, there is no way of knowing if you can trust anybody, and if you commit thoughtcrime you’re massively in the shit (I hear that sometimes they even force people to watch celebrity Big Brother in Room 101). Also if you’re still not convinced that Oceania isn’t pretty grim, sex is also forbidden.