The best dystopian books and how they help us better understand our own nature

Tyler Edwards Author Of The Outlands: Don't Stand Up. Don't Stand Out
By Tyler Edwards

Who am I?

I have always loved stories. Writing them, reading them, stories are magical. I think stories have so much power in our lives, to inspire, encourage, even to change us. I’m always dreaming up worlds in my head and wondering how life would be different if this happened or that happened. I consider myself a student of the human condition. Dystopian stories play around so much with philosophical questions about the human condition. Growing up, I didn’t really fit in with other people, so I spent a lot of time trying to understand them and how they worked. I think that leads to some really interesting stories. 

I wrote...

The Outlands: Don't Stand Up. Don't Stand Out

By Tyler Edwards,

Book cover of The Outlands: Don't Stand Up. Don't Stand Out

What is my book about?

In the ruins of the world that was lies the city of Dios, a haven protected from the hostile environment known as The Outlands. Ruled by an oppressive Patriarch, the people of Dios are conditioned in fear. The smallest infraction could result in banishment to the Outlands, a fate worse than death. With his make-shift family of “Undesirables”, Jett Lasting struggles to find his place in a world where drawing attention to yourself can get you killed. His very existence is considered a crime. To survive, he must avoid guards, beggar gangs, and an ever-growing tension that could drag the whole city into chaos.

Jett unwittingly becomes entwined in a plot to overthrow the government where his choices could lead to freedom or the death of everyone he’s ever known or cared about.

The books I picked & why

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The Hunger Games

By Suzanne Collins,

Book cover of The Hunger Games

Why this book?

I remember hearing everyone go on and on about how great the book was. I was skeptical. My wife and I were driving home after visiting family for the holidays and we had the audiobook. We listened to it all the way home, then went inside, laid in bed, and finished it. The next day I ordered books 2 and 3 and finished them both in less than a week. 

Hunger Games was such a unique idea and so skillfully done that it created this tension that hung over me the whole time I read it. I couldn’t put it down. One of the things that is just so great for me is the world-building. Hunger Games does it masterfully.


By Veronica Roth, Nicolas Delort (photographer),

Book cover of Divergent

Why this book?

One of the things I love about dystopian stories is that they allow us to consider the human condition and our own nature without feeling attacked in the process. The concept of a society divided into five factions was intriguing. I am a non-conformist, which my wife calls my excuse to be obnoxious, which is completely fair. So having a character who was basically an unlikely hero because they didn’t fit into the factional boxes of a society was like the anthem of my heart. I think the world needs fewer boxes and more of an understanding that we are all wonderfully unique. Conforming into groups tends to corrupt the very nature of what makes us so special. 

Storm Front

By Jim Butcher,

Book cover of Storm Front

Why this book?

Harry Dresden is one of my favorite literary characters. He’s a modern-day wizard living in Chicago helping the police solve paranormal cases. He has principles that often get him into trouble and is a bit old fashion in some regards. What makes these books great, is that they are not just well-written, but they have fun little details, like magic messing with technology. What really makes me love his character is the sassy playfulness he has. He can’t stop himself from making playful remarks to people who are threatening to harm him. I just relate to that. The more intense the situation the more my brain turns into a stand-up comedian. Also, a serious plus for this book is that the vampires don’t sparkle in sunlight. 

Red Rising

By Pierce Brown,

Book cover of Red Rising

Why this book?

Red Rising hits some notes that I just love in stories. You have what seems like a typical dystopia but with a twist; this one is on Mars. The hero is a relatable, low-born guy in a caste society who believes he’s making a difference. When he discovers that he and people like him have been lied to by those born into wealth and power he sets out on a personal quest to bring them down. The themes here really spoke to me as they remind me that, while we want to believe everybody has the same opportunities in life, the truth is where we are born, our family, and so many other factors play a role in how our lives shape out. Despite all of that, there is this incredible power we have when we start believing in a cause that is greater than ourselves. 


By Marie Lu,

Book cover of Legend

Why this book?

In the future, this Republic rises to power. One main character is trained in the Republic’s military, excels, and is a believer in the Republic. Another, a rebel who is accused of killing her brother. You start with two characters who aren’t just oil and water, they are in opposition to each other. There’s deception, lies, and conflict that stems from it, all of which are overcome by virtue of communication. What I appreciated about this book is that it shows how meaningful it can be to spend time with and talk to people who don’t share your point of view. Sometimes, your point of view is wrong. You’d never know it unless you took the time to see the world from someone else’s. It’s a great story with some really great points and things to say.  

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