I have noticed a startling pattern in my reading habits lately. Many of my favorite books fit into the Dystopian Fiction genre. Who knew? For those who are unfamiliar with this genre (as I was), the action typically takes place in some future society that is responding to cultural or political conditions that have gone wrong in a major way–climate changes, earthquakes, totalitarian government take-overs, tyrannical leaders… you get the idea, times are tough. I find this genre particularly compelling because the characters’ responses to these kinds of conditions are complex and fascinating.
Take my lastet obsession, for example. In The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, the world has been devastated by sun flares, extreme climate changes, and the outbreak of the Flare, a hideous disease that turns people into insane killers as it slowly destroys their brains. But none of the characters know this because their memories have been erased by a world government organization called WICKED as part of an experiment designed to save humankind.
When the protagonist, Thomas, wakes up in a lightless, rising elevator, the only thing he knows is his name. All of his other memories have been completely wiped out, leaving him disoriented and confused. As the lift grinds to a halt, Thomas is met by a group of teen boys who welcome him to the Glade, an enormous courtyard surrounded by towering stone walls. None of the Gladers know why they are there or who they were before they arrived, but they do know that order is the key to their survival, and that if they can solve the maze that is beyond the walls, they can finally find their way home.
Soon after Thomas’ arrival, strange things start to happen. First, he survives a night locked in the deadly maze, and then the lift brings the unexpected arrival of the Glade’s first girl. Thomas can’t escape the feeling that these events are somehow linked and that he already has all of the answers he needs to solve the maze, if he can only find a way to unlock his memories.
The story’s intriguing premise and many unanswered questions kept me guessing and the pages turning. The Glade’s community of teen boys cooperate to form their own highly functioning society, without falling into a Lord of the Flies scenario. Despite dire circumstances imposed by the Glade’s creators, these boys generally remain united. You can’t help but root for Thomas and the other boys while being horrified by the creators of this outrageous experiment.
The second installment in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials, is just as compelling as its predecessor. Without giving away any of the details, suffice it to say that the Maze is just the beginning.
I am breathless with anticipation for the final installment in the trilogy, but I had better brace myself for a long wait as The Scorch Trials was just released last October. In the meantime, I’m sure I can keep myself busy with some other Dystopian gems.
Calling all Dystopian Fiction fans. What draws you to this genre? Which books are must-reads?