Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Three Dystopias

These are three related books by Lois Lowry that all deal with coming of age in dystopian societies. I'm a generalist when it comes to reading and don't usually go for a specific "type" of book (i.e., genre, certain setting, type of character, etc.), but now I realize that if I were to narrow down a kind of book that I really dig, it's dystopian societies or post-apocalyptic societies--usually the same thing. I really liked Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake when I read it a few years ago and now I want to read The Handmaid's Tale. My penchant for this type of reading has been slowly coming to my attention for a few years now after I noticed my fascination with movies like The Postman and even (I'm embarrassed to say) Waterworld. (I don't even like Kevin Costner!) I'm not saying I liked Waterworld, although I will admit to liking The Postman, it's just that the concept of it fascinated me. It's the mystery of it, the finding of clues to our society that are alien to the protagonists in these stories. They find things like Coke cans and CDs and have no idea what they were for. I like the idea of being excavated. I even love the ending of Planet of the Apes when he sees The Statue of Liberty. Is it so morbid to be fascinated by depictions of the end of the world as we know it? I, of course, never want this happen, and it's a very real and scary thought, especially in this era of terrorism and nuclear weapons. Yet, I'm still fascinated.

The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger tell the story of three different villages near each other, yet still isolated from each other. One is a sterile society where no one is unhappy and no choices need to be made by the citizens. There are no colors, no animals, and no love or pain. There are no memories here of the society that is now. Another village is a loving one that is closest to the better side of society today, caring, celebrations, bustling life, although this one begins to have issues in Messenger. The third society is harsh, rundown, and cruel. In the first and third societies, people with flaws--birthmarks, injuries, disabilities--are cast out or killed. Twins are not allowed in the sterile society. The second society welcomes all of the castaways that make it through the long, hard journey to safety.

You have to read all three books to learn about all three societies. There is some overlap of characters, espcially in Gathering Blue and Messenger. Yet, is this a trilogy? My husband asked me if it was and something made me say "no" at first. But why not? What makes a trilogy a trilogy? Also, any recommendations for more reading or movies along these lines? I'm even considering watching the Mad Max movies. And reading A Canticle for Leibowitz.

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Blogger Carl V. said...

My daughter read these for school and really enjoyed them. I understand they had some very good discussions during/afterwards.

I like these type of films as well. Also movies like Equilibrium and Gattaca which might fall slightly outside of your definition are films that I really enjoy.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Hmm...I still don't know how I feel about Oryx and Crake, a year after I read it. However, I have a recommendation along those same lines - have you read "He, She, and It" by Marge Piercy? And also, "Woman on the Edge of Time." I loved both of those books, and they have a similar theme to what you're talking about in this post.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Shana said...

Did you know The Postman was orginally a novel? I've read the book but haven't seen the movie.

I will definitely check out the Lowry books. I'm also a fan of dystopian fiction. For authors I'd recommend Sheri Tepper, specifically The Gate to Women's Country, and several other of her books fall within this genre. Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a trilogy of sorts imagining 3 different futures -- The Gold Coast, Pacific Edge, and The Wild Shore. He also wrote an alternate history The Years of Rice and Salt that is one of my favorite books ever.

When I started writing this comment I had another book in mind but I've forgotten already in the 30 minutes it's taken me to type this (I'm trying to tend to children while writing -- it's not working so well!). If I remember I'll come back. Thanks so much for the book suggestion!

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Camille said...

Jessica--You know, quite honestly I don't even remember my true gut reaction to Oryx and Crake when I first read it. I'm thinking I liked it, but who knows. I remember liking the beginning when you're figuring out where he living and what has gone on. I love those clues to the past. Thanks so much for the recommendation! I had never heard of Marge Piercy.

Shana--Thanks so much for all of your recommendations! I have them all written down and now I can't wait to get to the library. Hopefully I'll get a few in before baby time! :)

1:03 PM  
Blogger Shana said...

Yay, I remembered!

Octavia Butler. Parable of the Sower.

I found I always got a lot of reading done right after having a baby... I breastfed and it was easy to cradle the baby in one arm and hold a book with the other. Of course when the baby starts getting older he notices the book and tries to grab it while eating, but for the first few months you should be good.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous danielle said...

How weird that you just posted on this. I seem to be in the same sort of mood. I "like" these types of stories, too, as strange as that sounds. I think because it is something truly foreign! At the moment I am reading The Children of Men set in the UK 2021. People are infertile and the last generation to be born is about 25 now. It is sort of a bleak story, but it is also a page turner. I also have Cormac McCarthy's The Road which is a post apocalyptic tale that I have heard really good things about. Have you ever read the YA novel, Z for Zacharia? Can't think of the author, but it is another after the bomb scenario, which I have read several times. I really liked The Giver and The Handmaid's Tale (I have read this several times, too). I need to read Oryx and Crake, and think I may also finally read Brave New World and reread 1984. I don't think I have seen too many movies in this "genre" though. Thanks for the book ideas!

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Camille said...

Danielle--I know, doesn't it feel weird to like stories like this? It's like "God forbid" but it's still fascinating. Thanks for all the recommendations. I was thinking about rereading Brave New World since we had to read it around 6th grade (way too young) and I hated it.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Sara said...

I, too, have a morbid fascination with dystopias! I think my attraction is seeing what matters in the end. When our government is gone, and our religion, and even in some cases our earth, what still matters enough to the human race that we strive to protect and cherish it?

The Giver is just amazing, but I haven't read the other two, so thanks for the suggestion. As for other dystopias, I would suggest The Matrix, and the classics 1984 and Brave New World The book We, which supposedly inspired 1984 is on my to-be-read list, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I also want to try some Philip K. Dick novels, but I'm a little wary since too much sci-fi talk throws me off.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

I love dystopia stories too! I had mixed feelings about Oryx & Crake, but liked both The Giver and The Postman. I do remember Z is for Zachariah -- I believe the author's name is Robert C. O'Brien. Also, what about the White Mountains trilogy by John Christopher (the books about the Tripods)?

And I'm eager to hear your thoughts on the Earthsea Trilogy, which I've read so many times since middle school that I've lost all perspective on it. :)

10:03 PM  
Blogger 3M said...

I LOVE dystopians as well and just read these 3 books this year and loved them.

9:38 AM  

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