Top 5 dystopian novels according to Deputy Editor Emma Jacobs

Emma Jacobs, KettleMag, books
Written by Emma Jacobs

I do love a good dystopia. Preferably one so terrifying that it makes my blood crawl, yet realistic enough that I can relate to it. In light of the release of the third Hunger Games film, Mockingjay: Part 1, I’ve decided to share my favorite corrupt societies.

Kingdom Come by JG Ballard

By my brother’s recommendation, I decided to venture into the world of Richard Pearson. The novel starts in a shopping mall with a murder. I loved it because it reminded me of my local, Brent Cross. I could easily imagine a shooting taking place in the fury of Christmas sales. By being suburban and off the M25 I could envisage poor Richard finding out the sins of his father and cascading into grief. Just like any normal bloke that you would see in a Brent Cross sort of setting.

Richard is different, though. The ordinary acts as a backdrop for the bizarre, as it transpires that Richard is struck with inspiration and heads an advertising campaign. With the slogan “Mad is bad. Bad is good”, it is clear the novel is about more than just selling a product and surviving grief. Richard discovers that a neo-fascist world is rooted within the innocent seeming mall. It makes for an uncomfortable read at times with immigrant families being harassed, sports events morphing into political rallies and frequent riots. But, after all, it is meant to portray a disturbed society and it does just that.

Read if: You think your local Topshop could be a fascist hub  

1984 by George Orwell

1984 is a classic dystopian novel in the sense that it could be applicable to many totalitarian states today. Regularly compared to North Korea’s current state, Orwell hit the nail on the head in what I view to be his best work. There is even a bit of a love story, wedged between intrusive Big Brother and Room 101. It makes for an ‘edge of your seat’ read at times, but it’s worth it to recognize the blueprint it created for elements of our culture. 

Read if: You think the programme ‘Big Brother’ is creepy 

Divergent by Veronia Roth

While this novel follows a slightly different formula to others on the list, it is just as effective. Roth found fame through her trilogy of young adult dystopian literature. Divergent is the first of the three books in the series and follows Beatrice Prior, Tris, through her life and the choices she makes. The society is similar to that depicted in the Hunger Games in that it’s spilt into tribes, except in Divergent they’re not trying to kill each other.

As with most young adult dystopian literature, there’s a love story, revolution and, of course, an oppressive government. It’s worth a read just to hear how cool the Dauntless are (think the kids who hang around Camden). Don’t let the young adult stamp put you off, it was one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve ever had.

Read if: You are sick of being told what to do with your life/ want to drop out/ are having a quarter-life crisis  

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Are you into reading about groups of bored teens strutting round causing trouble? If so, you will like A Clockwork Orange. Burgess’s magnum opus is worthy of all its praise and a little of its criticism. With nadsat 

(slang) so complex it makes 1984 look like an easy read, one has to avoid getting lost in the words. See beyond them and you’ll love the teenage angst ingrained in this novel. 

Read if: You’re into violence and milk-bars 

Matched by Ally Condie

Condie’s novel (part one of the trilogy) follows a heavily prescribed society. Even the recreational activities are highly observed. I was thrilled to discover yet another fantastic YA novel. But what happens when the system that works so well has a fault? When you are not sure who your life partner is meant to be? Worth reading to remember the beauty of first learning to read and of finding love. 

Read if: You’re not over your ex 

Images: 1984 Ministry of Truth: Flickr/Patrick Hoesly

A Clockwork Orange: Flickr/Christopher Dombres