The best utopia-turned-dystopia novels

Who am I?

I’m a former international professional baseball player and current forensic scientist, endurance athlete, and Amazon bestselling author. As a reader, I’m drawn to books that tell a great story and ask important questions about our world. For that reason, I’ve long been a fan of dystopian fiction. Science fiction in general, and dystopian fiction in particular, allow authors to imagine how our current society might evolve in the future—how small issues today might become monstrous when scaled up and how potential dream solutions to contemporary problems might evoke nightmarish worlds with even greater challenges to our humanity.


I wrote...

Our Dried Voices

By Greg Hickey,

Book cover of Our Dried Voices

What is my book about?

He never wanted to be a hero. But when mechanical breakdowns threaten the last human colony, can one bold colonist save humanity from extinction?

Several hundred years in the future, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony on a distant planet, where every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle, or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence. With everyone’s lives at stake, a bright young man named Samuel must discover the cause of these breakdowns and rescue humanity.

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The books I picked & why

The Time Machine

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The Time Machine

Why this book?

Wells’s utopia-turned-dystopia is the novel that most directly inspired my Our Dried Voices. A scientist invents a time machine and travels thousands of years into Earth’s future, where he meets a group of blissfully ignorant humanoids called the Eloi. These Eloi lack for nothing and live a life of apparent ease and comfort—until night falls. I was fascinated by the idea of humans losing the intellectual curiosity and creativity that have defined our species when I first read The Time Machine. And while I have a different vision of humanity’s future than what plays out in Wells’s social commentary, it’s hard to ignore the influence of this early dystopian classic.

The Time Machine

By H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The Time Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant scientist constructs a machine, which, with the pull of a lever, propels him to the year AD 802,701.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition of The Time Machine features an introduction by Dr Mark Bould.

The Time Traveller finds himself in a verdant, seemingly idyllic landscape where he is greeted by the diminutive Eloi people. The Eloi are beautiful but weak and indolent, and the explorer is perplexed by…


Never Let Me Go

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Book cover of Never Let Me Go

Why this book?

The obvious metaphor for reading this book is peeling an onion, in that each of Ishiguro’s sentences unveils another hidden layer of the story. But reading his Twilight Zone-esque Never Let Me Go is more like unwrapping a mummy. The novel starts out with classmates reliving their days at an idyllic English boarding school and builds with masterful pacing to something quite different, with each new revelation adding to the disgust and horror at what lies beneath the seemingly innocuous surface. I read Never Let Me Go simultaneously in awe of Ishiguro’s prose and chilled by the content of the story.

Never Let Me Go

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Never Let Me Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most acclaimed novels of the 21st Century, from the Nobel Prize-winning author

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewed version of contemporary England. Narrated by Kathy, now thirty-one, Never Let Me Go dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense…


1984

By George Orwell,

Book cover of 1984

Why this book?

A utopia-turned-dystopia in the author’s mind, if not on the page. With its constant surveillance, altered histories, forceful crackdowns on dissenters, and even an invented language to nullify rebellious thoughts, the Big Brother-controlled totalitarian state of 1984 never looks close to a utopia. But in this novel, committed socialist Eric Blair (who wrote under the pen name George Orwell) takes an intellectually courageous look at his ideal political philosophy and imagines the nightmarish side of his socialist dream. The result is what I consider both the best dystopian novel and the most terrifying explication of state power ever put on paper.  

1984

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

27 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 Giver

By Lois Lowry,

Book cover of The Giver

Why this book?

Perhaps my favorite novel from my childhood, Lowry’s story of a twelve-year-old boy discovering the secrets of his apparently utopian society remains my standard for young adult dystopian fiction almost three decades after its publication. Though it lacks the technological wizardry and over-the-top thrills of many contemporary young adult dystopias, Lowry’s subtle prose and nuanced depiction of a supposedly ideal society make this novel a classic for child and adult readers alike.

The Giver

By Lois Lowry,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Giver as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE GIVER is soon to be a major motion picture starring Jeff Bridges, Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift.

Now available for the first time in the UK, THE GIVER QUARTET is the complete four-novel collection.

THE GIVER: It is the future. There is no war, no hunger, no pain. No one in the community wants for anything. Everything needed is provided. And at twelve years old, each member of the community has their profession carefully chosen for them by the Committee of Elders.

Jonas has never thought there was anything wrong with his world. But from the moment he is…


A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess,

Book cover of A Clockwork Orange

Why this book?

There are many impressive aspects to this novel about the brainwashing of a teenage gang leader, a book that in my opinion far exceeds the 1971 Oscar-nominated Stanley Kubrick film adaptation. Burgess’s invented slang, his artful world-building, the way he flips the narrative to inspire equal measures of disgust, anger, righteousness, pity, hope, and fear—all of these elements make A Clockwork Orange a truly unique novel that switches from dystopia to utopia and back again, albeit in a very different incarnation of dystopia than the one that opened the story.

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."


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