The Writer's Den

UCLA's creative writing student group

Great Novels About a Not-So-Great America

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In honor of the 4th of July (and my dystopian-fiction-writing obsession which has lasted the past three years), here are some great books about a not-so-great future vision of America.

Um yeah….Happy 4th of July…

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is one of my FAVORITE authors of all time. And this is one of her best books. Her prose is absolutely stunning and visual and heart-clenchingly emotional. If you feel like you’re lacking on your descriptive side, pay close attention to how she uses imagery and try to incorporate a similar style into your own writing (that’s what I –tried- to do). Tackles touchy issues (infertility, women’s rights) really well. Oh, and don’t bother with the movie.

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood

Ok, another one by Atwood, but I couldn’t help myself. If you’re into animal rights and the dangers of genetic engineering, this one should interest you. Again, written absolutely beautifully. Atwood has really influenced my style.

The Postman, David Brin

A man traversing across the wasteland of post-apocalyptic America stumbles across an old postman’s uniform and wears it to keep warm. When people mistake him for a real postman and offer him money to send letters to their family and friends, he crafts a lie to try to give them hope: he is working for the Restored United States of America and they are coming to help. Really touching story. A lot more on the science fiction side than the other novels on this list. In particular, take note of Brin’s characterization-it’s excellent.

The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins

Goodness gracious me, if you have not read these books, drop whatever you’re doing and go and read them right now. (Apart from Book 3—you can skip that one). Then watch the movie. And fall in love with Peeta. Yeah. Do that. Seriously, though, I feel as if anyone can take a page from Collins’ book in regards to style. She’s a very visual writer and always keeps you on your toes. I hardly found any points that dragged. Really inspired me to use more of the cliffhanger/hook technique with my chapters.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

Yeah, yeah, this one’s not really about the good ol’ US of A, but I couldn’t compile a list of dystopian novels without including this one. I don’t feel as if Orwell’s use of style is particularly outstanding, but his world-building is. The setting of Nineteen Eighty-Four really goes to show how a well-thought out world makes all the difference in a story. Including rich details about your world really immerses the reader into your story.

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