The best books whose dystopian visions were eerily prescient

Who am I?

I have long been obsessed with man vs. machine stories -- Westworld being one of my favorite movies (not so much the TV series) -- as well as good sci-fi like The Twilight Zone, which are really morality plays dressed up in cool stories. I have also produced several science documentaries for TV, being lucky enough to meet brilliant scientists and engineers who, frankly, make me feel totally intellectually inadequate but inspire me nonetheless.


I wrote...

Aramid

By Paul Haddad,

Book cover of Aramid

What is my book about?

Five Advanced Robotics high school students build a female humanistic robot named Aramid for a cut-throat competition to find the nation’s most lifelike android. But when the students illegally extract Aramid’s “morality chip,” she begins to unravel, exhibiting many of the same “sinful” problems as her teenage creators, which threatens to turn her into a killing machine. Two students – Sam and Beth – emerge as guardians for Aramid. Against all odds, she begins to improve, developing feelings of love, consciousness, and a longing to sleep like real people. But in her desire to become human, Aramid discovers her life’s purpose – an explosive secret that sets up a shocking ending in this riveting sci-fi thriller whose characters face a web of moral dilemmas with no easy answers.

The central question of Aramid is one that I think we all grapple with: If you were granted everything you ever wanted, is that a good thing? How long before we corrupt and manipulate the gifts we are bestowed for our own selfish good?

The books I picked & why

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1984

By George Orwell,

Book cover of 1984

Why this book?

Donald Trump and his minions (who can forget Kellyanne Conway’s “alternate facts”?) brought this 1949 book back in vogue, but even before Trump was elected, Orwell’s oracle of the future had only risen in relevancy. We can attribute much of that to social media, which has allowed for alternate realities, lies, conspiracies, and misinformation to be spread like wildfire. The book will only continue to be a cautionary tale for all of us as autocratic regimes in Russia, China, and, disturbingly, factions within our own country learn to perfect the art of propaganda on an unwitting populace.

1984

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

25 authors picked 1984 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU . . .

1984 is the year in which it happens. The world is divided into three superstates. In Oceania, the Party's power is absolute. Every action, word, gesture and thought is monitored under the watchful eye of Big Brother and the Thought Police. In the Ministry of Truth, the Party's department for propaganda, Winston Smith's job is to edit the past. Over time, the impulse to escape the machine and live independently takes hold of him and he embarks on a secret and forbidden love affair. As he writes the words 'DOWN WITH BIG…


The Handmaid's Tale

By Margaret Atwood,

Book cover of The Handmaid's Tale

Why this book?

The Handmaid’s Tale shares a lot in common with 1984, in which information is controlled by a select few under a rigid government. Though an acclaimed book when it came out in 1985, its story of enslaved or diminished women in a patriarchal society took on a whole new meaning with the rise of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements (and continues with restrictive anti-abortion rulings that further control women’s bodies). I also like the fact that Atwood is not a sci-fi writer, per se. The success of her book – and the subsequent TV series – are a testament to her keen understanding of human nature, making the fantastical, dystopian elements that much more believable and horrifying.

The Handmaid's Tale

By Margaret Atwood,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked The Handmaid's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

** THE SUNDAY TIMES NO. 1 BESTSELLER **
**A BBC BETWEEN COVERS BIG JUBILEE READ**

Go back to where it all began with the dystopian novel behind the award-winning TV series.

'As relevant today as it was when Atwood wrote it' Guardian

I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.

Offred is a Handmaid in The Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state in what was formerly known as the United States. She is placed in the household of The Commander, Fred Waterford -…


Lord of the Flies

By William Golding,

Book cover of Lord of the Flies

Why this book?

I recently reread this 1954 book about a group of boys stranded on an island, trying to govern themselves, for the first time since middle school. It was chilling in the context of the times we live in. Left unchecked, human behavior tends toward self-interest, greed, and power, often with fatal ramifications. It all resonates in today’s world with those in positions of authority who spread falsehoods to divide others in order to gain more power, to say nothing of Covid-19 deniers, anti-vaxxers, and others who see self-sacrifice for the greater good as weakness…and bullying as strength.

Lord of the Flies

By William Golding,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Lord of the Flies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A plane crashes on a desert island and the only survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. By day they inhabit a land of bright fantastic birds and dark blue seas, but at night their dreams are haunted by the image of a terrifying beast. As the boys' delicate sense of order fades, so their childish dreams are transformed into something more primitive, and their behaviour starts to take on a murderous, savage significance.

First published in 1954, Lord of the Flies is one of the most celebrated and widely read of modern…


A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess,

Book cover of A Clockwork Orange

Why this book?

Published in 1962 but set in the near future, A Clockwork Orange was a satirical response to society’s fears of British hooliganism by nihilistic juveniles. But beneath the satire were serious themes that take on a new wrinkle today. Movements are afoot to completely rethink how we handle criminals and repeat offenders, calling for measures that are less punitive and more rehabilitative. Ah, but therein lies the catch: In attempting to remake protagonist Alex’s “Droogs” as functioning members of society, is the government simply stifling self-will by enslaving its subjects with society’s rules, whose inequitable policies often lead to people seeking a way out (i.e., crime) to begin with? A morality tale with no easy answers.

A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked A Clockwork Orange as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Anthony Burgess's influential nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, a teen who talks in a fantastically inventive slang that evocatively renders his and his friends' intense reaction against their society. Dazzling and transgressive, A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil and the meaning of human freedom. This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition, and Burgess's introduction, "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

By Philip K. Dick,

Book cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Why this book?

With the success of Ridley Scott’s 1982 movie, Blade Runner, the original 1968 book tacked on that main title to reissues. Both are populated by a futuristic metropolis in which automation has led to alienation. Is there a more defining strain sweeping our country than that of displaced workers who have lost their purpose in life? What do we lose when we try to perfect society through genetic engineering and globalized efficiency? In some ways, it doesn’t even matter if Rick Deckard is a human being or a replicant. Either way, he’s dead inside.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the eagerly-anticipated new film Blade Runner 2049 finally comes to the screen, rediscover the world of Blade Runner . . .

World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't 'retiring' them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal - the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life.

Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things were…


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