No matter which side of the political fence you fall on, you can’t deny that current events are unlike any we’ve seen before. Today’s polarized climate, both in the U.S. and worldwide, has many people asking, “What will this lead to?”
Book companies have seen a massive spike in sales of George Orwell’s 1984, indicating that citizens could very well be wondering how the Trump administration, Brexit, Russia’s boldness, the rise of far-right parties in Europe, etc., will shape our future, possibly post-apocalyptic, world.
Audiobooks.com has put together a list of eleven of the best dystopian books in its catalogue, offering readers an escape from reality… or a clue to our futures. Many are classics that should be instantly recognizable if you were paying attention in English class (or saw the movie), but a few were new to me and might be to you as well.
Check it out below – several of the narrators’ names should be familiar also, and let us know your picks for the best dystopian book, film, or whatever!
1984 by George Orwell
Narrated By: Simon Prebble
Blackstone Audio presents a new recording of this dramatically popular book.
George Orwell depicts a gray, totalitarian world dominated by Big Brother and its vast network of agents, including the Thought Police, a world in which news is manufactured according to the authorities’ will and people live tepid lives by rote.
Winston Smith, the hero with no heroic qualities, longs only for truth and decency. But living in a social system in which privacy does not exist and where those with unorthodox ideas are brainwashed or put to death, he knows there is no hope for him.
The year 1984 has come and gone; yet; George Orwell’s nightmare vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is still the great modern classic of negative Utopia.
Blade Runner by Philip K. Dick
Narrated By: Scott Brick
It was January 2021, and Rick Deckard had a license to kill.
Somewhere among the hordes of humans out there, lurked several rogue androids. Deckard’s assignment–find them and then…”retire” them. Trouble was, the androids all looked exactly like humans, and they didn’t want to be found!
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Narrated By: Stephen Hoye
The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.
Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs or the joy of watching pages consumed by flames, never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Narrated By: Ron Rifkin
Lois Lowry’s The Giver is the quintessential dystopian novel, followed by its remarkable companions: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.
Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Narrated By: Wil Wheaton
At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut–part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune–and remarkable power–to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved–that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt–among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life–and love–in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize. Are you ready?
Americana by Don DeLillo
Narrated By: George Newbern
At twenty-eight, David Bell is the American dream come true. He has fought his way to the top, surviving office purges and scandals to become a high-powered television executive. David’s world is made up of the images that flicker across America’s screens, the fantasies that enthrall America’s imagination. And then the dream–and the dream-making–become a nightmare.
At the height of his success, David sets out to rediscover reality. Camera in hand, he journeys across the country in a mad and moving attempt to capture a sense of his own and his country’s past, present, and future.
Station Eleven: A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel
Narrated By: Kirsten Potter
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded, and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Narrated By: Tom Stechschulte
New territory for McCarthy: a post-apocalyptic landscape where readers meet a man who recalls a better world and a boy who doesn’t. With all the trademarks of vintage McCarthy–a man and his young son, a blasted American landscape, sparse prose that is at once brutal and tender–The Road further cements McCarthy’s stature as one of America’s greatest living novelists.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Narrated By: Michael York
On the 75th anniversary of its publication, this outstanding work of literature is more crucial and relevant today than ever before. Cloning, feel-good drugs, anti-aging programs, and total social control through politics, programming, and media–has Aldous Huxley accurately predicted our future?
With a storyteller’s genius, he weaves these ethical controversies in a compelling narrative that dawns in the year 632 A.F. (After Ford, the deity). When Lenina and Bernard visit a savage reservation, we experience how Utopia can destroy humanity.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Narrated By: Ralph Cosham
George Orwell’s classic satire of the Russian Revolution has become an intimate part of our contemporary culture, with its treatment of democratic, fascist, and socialist ideals through an animal fable.
When the animals of Mr. Jones’ Manor Farm revolt against their human rulers, they establish the democratic Animal Farm under the credo “All Animals Are Created Equal.” Out of their cleverness, the pigs, Napoleon, Squealer, and Snowball, emerge as leaders of the new community. In a development of insidious familiarity, the pigs begin to assume ever greater amounts of power, while other animals, especially the faithful horse Boxer, assume more of the work.
The climax of the story is the brutal betrayal of Boxer, when totalitarian rule is reestablished with the bloodstained postscript to the founding slogan: “But Some Animals Are More Equal than Others.”
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Narrated By: Mark Deakins
Book One in the blockbuster Maze Runner series that spawned a movie franchise and ushered in a worldwide phenomenon! And don’t miss The Fever Code, the highly-anticipated series conclusion that finally reveals the story of how the maze was built!
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers, boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out, and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying: Remember. Survive. Run.
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