By Violet • May 20, 2020
Anyone can tell you: I live for the darker things in life. I love a good literary walk in the shoes of a serial killer or playing a creepy video game. But nothing titillates me quite like humanity's most horrific accomplishment: the creation and use of nuclear weapons. I even have a full sleeve tattoo of a nuclear bomb exploding over Gotham City (with a Little Sister from the Bioshock Games watching over the scene).
Somehow this strange love led me down the twisted road that dead-ended at my most secret guilty pleasure: Young Adult Dystopian novels.
This is my confession. I'm now ready to share my story and set myself free of guilt. Journey with me down that twisted road, and explore some of my favorite titles I found along the way.
We thought of the legend of Prometheus, of that deep sense of guilt in man's new powers that reflects his recognition of evil, and his long knowledge of it. – J. Robert Oppenheimer
What greater horror is there than the creation and use of nuclear weapons? How did we think creating the atomic bomb, and later the thermonuclear bomb, was a good idea? Did we understand the power that would be unleashed? Some of the most memorable and meaningful works I've read to try to answer those questions include:
After exploring history of nuclear technology, I had to explore the true scale of its potential. I started imagining the future. And it was grim. So I turned to apocalyptic fiction, a slippery slope from nuclear war to EMPs, natural disasters, plagues, etc. Books and films explore this subject matter extensively, including the well-known The Road and On the Beach, but some of my other favorites include:
Having explored the potential apocalypses, my mind started imagining more fun ways society could collapse, not from external events, but from our own twisted ideas of our role in the world. We all know about 1984 and Brave New World, but it turns out the human mind is capable of all sorts of creative ways to make life a living h---.
My hands-down favorite of the "adult" dystopias is Wool Omnibus/Silo series. Explore what happens when humanity is forced to live in an underground silo. This series is being adapted into a TV show for AMC, and the author blessed numerous fan fiction books that explore never-ending scenarios that could play out in a closed silo. I still haven't tracked down every Silo story, but I am determined to.
The lines between hard core dystopian and Young Adult dystopian began to blur. Adding teen angst and romance to the collapse of society adds a certain flair, an extra creepy (and FUN!) way to up the stakes. Here's a short list of some of my favorites - all Book 1 of a larger series.
For a longer list of our recommendations in the YA dystopian genre, check out Women at the End of the World.