The best dystopian books with watery issues

Who am I?

As an author who, in my ‘other’ life, has studied psychology and social work, I love to write about the impact of change on individuals and communities – what do my characters grieve, what relationships become important to them, what are the roles or goals that motivate them now and what do they need to do to survive, both individually and in their new society. And I love to be able to write about a place – a location – that I know well, hence the Sunshine Coast Hinterland as a setting for The Rise. I hope you enjoy the books that I’ve recommended as much as I have!


I wrote...

The Rise

By Sue-Ellen Pashley,

Book cover of The Rise

What is my book about?

Katie James’ life is about to change . . . again. Having survived The Great Rise five years ago, which decimated the land, the former medical student has made a new life for herself under the leadership of the Authority. But her peaceful existence on the edge of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland is shattered when she discovers a body floating in the waves.

Unsure who she can trust, Katie embarks on a mission to discover the truth… even if it puts her on the same kill list. 

The books I picked & why

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The List

By Patricia Forde,

Book cover of The List

Why this book?

This is one of those books I thought about long after I’d finished reading. Through human greed and global warming, the resulting decimation of the planet means food and water are rationed for survival…but so are words. Noa, the leader of the community, believes that words and how they were used, led to the downfall of humanity so allows people to only use a list of specific words. Except for the wordsmiths, who are allowed to know them all. 

As an author whose life is all about words, this was a really interesting book to read – what does it do to a society when ideas, thoughts, creativity are stifled by lack of words? And when everything is rationed – water, food, words, enjoyment – what does that do to a community?


The Maze Runner

By James Dashner,

Book cover of The Maze Runner

Why this book?

Even though the first book doesn’t give much space to ecological disasters, it’s certainly a theme that runs throughout the series, including the resulting lack of drinkable water. And that’s why this is my second book pick. I loved the world of The Maze Runner (even if, at times, the slang drove me a little crazy!) – so cleverly written, so many twists that kept me turning the page to try and work out what the hell was happening, and a great baddy organisation that was easy to hate. 


Fire Over Troubled Water

By Nick Marone,

Book cover of Fire Over Troubled Water

Why this book?

Set in a world where there’s water everywhere from the rising sea levels, but fresh water is a much-needed commodity, I loved that this story was about family. There’s a lovely mix of characters who are still kind – still human – and those that are out for survival and control, which kept me wanting to read to see if the main character, Baz, would find his family again. And I loved that there were places I recognised – it’s always nice to have those ‘I’ve been there!’ moments. 


Red Rock

By Kate Kelly,

Book cover of Red Rock

Why this book?

I’m a sucker for a good opening and this book intrigued me from the beginning. Kelly does a great job in building the tension and setting her world up in the seemingly normal reactions of her characters and it was this that kept me reading. Even though the main character is only 14, and it’s targeted at young adults, I still enjoyed it as an adult. It does some great cli-fi storytelling without being preachy, which is great! 


Burning: Prequel, After the Thaw

By Heidi Catherine, Tamar Sloan,

Book cover of Burning: Prequel, After the Thaw

Why this book?

The cover drew me in but I loved the worldbuilding in this book, both in the premise of what happened to our world (toxic oceans, anyone?) but also how characters now need to live and survive. And with great rising tension and twists, this was a book that left me reading much later in the night than I should have! 

I was drawn in by the 4 main characters – even when I wanted to slap them, I still wanted to know what was going to happen to them. And the way the society was set up really tore at my sense of ethics – a great thing to have in a dystopian book, I think…how does the new society sit with you?


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dystopia, amnesia, and rock music?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dystopia, amnesia, and rock music.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Amnesia Experiment: A Young Adult Dystopian Novel, The City of Ember, and Wool if you like this list.