The best totalitarian novels since George Orwell’s 1984

Richard Godwin Author Of One Lost Summer
By Richard Godwin

The Books I Picked & Why

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451

Why this book?

Classic Bradbury. Seminal work depicting a dystopian future in which books are outlawed and any that are found are burned by firemen. This novel is all about the suppression of information. It predicts all too realistically the controls on human liberties seen in modern totalitarian regimes.


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Naked Lunch: The Restored Text

By William S. Burroughs Jr., James Grauerholz, Barry Miles

Naked Lunch: The Restored Text

Why this book?

Classic work of cut-up exploring addictions at all societal levels. Burroughs depicts the totalitarian government of Annexia. In the novel Dr. Benway is "an expert on all phases of interrogation, brainwashing, and control," and he has been sent away from Annexia, because he claims to "abhor brutality." Annexia is portrayed as a totalitarian state in which citizens are subject to spontaneous searches and must keep track of ever-changing documents.


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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

By Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Why this book?

Perhaps the most apposite, the novel that became the movie Blade Runner, in which Dick predicts the totalitarian mechanisation of society, where humans risk becoming androids. In the novel, we follow the story of detective Rick Deckard in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco as he tracks down runaway androids, deals with his Virtual Reality-addicted wife, and keeps up the pretence that his electric sheep is in fact real. The point Dick makes is that if we succumb to the totalitarian mechanization of our world, we risk becoming androids ourselves, reduced to “humans of mere use—men made into machines” (187). To deny technology’s pervasive role in our existence means, then, to deny reality—the reality of a world in which we are advancingly imbricated in a mechanical presence. Only by recognizing how it has encroached upon our understanding of “life” can we come to full terms with the technologies we have produced.


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A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange

Why this book?

Ostensibly about crime and rehabilitation this is in fact Burgess’s dark look at free will and a totalitarian society that removes it for the sake of law and order. Alex is a charismatic anti-social delinquent who likes Beethoven. He and his gang, who speak in Nadsat, a form of bastardised Russian slang mixed with English, commit a series of crimes until Alex is sent to a rehabilitation centre. This is nothing more than a totalitarian system. A classic novel about the conflict between the individual and the state.


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Paranoia and the Destiny Programme

By Richard Godwin

Paranoia and the Destiny Programme

Why this book?

My take on a future society in which a shadowy group conducts mass surveillance and is experimenting on turning a musician into a serial killer. 'I see no butterfly wings in the Rorschach test, but a mountain of bones.' So says Dale Helix, who is convinced he is being abducted by a shadowy group of rulers called The Assembly. The novel is set in a dystopian city, and is an exploration of totalitarianism, paranoia, and social engineering in a society where it is impossible to gauge the truth. The aim of the programme is to study the link between serial killers and dictators in order to clone the ideal dictator. And the Assembly is engineering a new gender. Is Dale insane or is his paranoia a key to a hidden truth? This is a novel about surveillance totalitarianism.


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