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What is the Difference Between Dystopian and Sci-fi?

In recent years dystopian novels have gained traction and have become one of the most popular genres. But how is it different to Sci-fi and what novels should you read?

Dystopian novels are typically a sub genre of Sci-fi. But they don’t necessarily need to be in the Sci-fi genre. Most are, such as George Orwell’s 1984 and the Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games. But there are some novels that do not fit into the cliche of Science Fiction. Such as Man in the High Castle (1962), by Philip K. Dick, It focuses on an alternate timeline but with no elements of science fiction.

Dystopian Theme

Dystopian Backdrop

Around the year 2007 came an influx of dystopian films, books and other media. The largest of which was I Am Legend starring Will Smith as the last human on earth. A few years prior we also received the first The Walking Dead comic (2003) and in 2010 a live action series adaptation.

A Dystopian novel is based around a place where the governments are very corrupt or non existent. Instead of their being any of the services we enjoy, such as health, each person has to learn to take of themselves. And in the majority of the novels violence is always on the horizon as people fight for supplies.

Most of the previously mentiond pieces of media focus around a man just trying to survive in a world after a humanity ending event. Or more precisely a civilization reset. So why has this theme been continuing now?

What if AI attacked?

One of the main reasons is that the characters themselves are not super human in any respect. In The Walking Dead, the main characters are just your average citizens. In I Am Legend, Robert Neville is a scientist with no special survival skills. It allows the consumer to relate to the struggles of the character and picture themselves in the protagonist’s shoes.

Another reason, one that I enjoy the most, is what if civilization stopped. What if your 9 to 5 no longer existed. What if the media was gone? People would care less what others think and more on primal needs. Everyone is then on a level playing field, which may or may not go back to the way things are.

Dystopians also tend to blame the collapse of utopia on technology. Ninteen-Eighty-Four focuses on what would happen if every minute of every day we were monitored. Yes there may be some benefits such as lower crime. But free will is always the goal.

As a Warning

Dystopian fiction also warns us of potential bad futures if hummanity gets all wrong. 1984 is a prime example of what could happen. People crushed under so much pressure that they rather risk the death penalty than live out their days as slaves.

From the cinema, the Terminator series focuses on what happens if we rely too much on AI. Once it learns about the way we tick will the AI kill us off or will it work to coexist. In Terrmintor they ultiamtely decide to put us down. Which is very similar to The Matrix Trilogy except the machines still need us.

The Hunger Games focuses on the class system, except it is taking to a complete extreme. The higher the district number the poorer you are and the harder you have to work. Once a year a Hunger Game is held so that the higher classes of the central city can watch the lower classes fight and kill each other over food. But the districts rebel. Serving as a message that you probably shouldn’t do that.

For You to Read

So below are a list of dystopian books that are very popular. For any I have read I have included a score.

Please note any links with an asterisk (*) is an affiliate link. Clicking and purchasing via this link will award me a small commission which helps to pay for the site.

Novel NameAuthorAmazon Link*Rating
The Hunger GamesSuzanne CollinsLink3.5/5
1984George OrwellLink4/5
Fahrenheit 451Ray BradburyLinkTBR
The Handmaid’s TaleMargaret AtwoodLinkTBR
The StandStephen KingLinkTBR

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