Continuing our theme, this month KCWToday are taking a look at the best fiction about the darker paths that the future could take. Each one a palpable warning to be vigilant against the worst impulses of ourselves as a species.
1984: George Orwell (1949)
It’s impossible to discuss fiction of this sort without mentioning what amounts to the keystone novel of the entire genre. Grim and depressing, Orwell’s tale of the grinding misery of life in a world where the all-powerful state is always watching and ready to punish the slightest deviation with instant unpersoning will never not feel unnervingly plausible.
Brave New World: Aldous Huxley (1932)
At first glimpse the dystopia presented in Brave New World seems almost idyllic, every aspect of social life has been engineered to maximise general happiness with a focus on free love and a state-proffered happiness drug that would have Winston Smith from 1984 thinking he’d died and gone to heaven. However whilst superficially a hedonistic environment, it soon becomes clear that this is no place to live: if you cannot feel pain, can you ever truly feel joy?
Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury (1953)
The ultimate dystopia for this era of fake new and anti-intellectualism, Bradbury described an American society where all books are burned and intellectual thought is illegal. Even more alarming a read now then it was sixty years ago, it’s a dark mirror to a potential endpoint for the current war on truth. Brilliantly, in a triumph of irony, when it was first released, the book itself was banned for ‘questionable themes’.
The Handmaid’s Tale: Margaret Atwood (1985)
Perhaps more fitting to a potential President Pence rather than Trump, Atwood’s vision of a totalitarian Christian theocracy that has usurped the US government and instituted a forced breeding system that sees fertile American women enslaved retains its power to chill in a portrait of the Patriarchy triumphant.
The Road: Cormac McCarthy (2006)
Potential one of bleakest in its genre (which is certainly saying something), McCarthy offers a harrowing vision of a post-apocalyptic world beset with cannibal gangs where anything resembling hope has died. However the beautiful and tender relationship between father and son that makes up the core of the narrative is proof that however grim and hopeless the surroundings, some faint glimmer of humanity will always survive.