Our Most Nail-Biting and Thought-Provoking Dystopian Novels

The future is... well... anything but bright in our list of the best dystopian novels. From corrupt governments to vicious wars to visions of a world where technology has completely changed the world as we know it, dystopian fiction can really make you think about the consequences of the way we live and the potential reality we may be living in in the future. This makes dystopian books some of the most thought-provoking reads out there and why so many titles in the varied range of dystopian literature are considered classics. Take a look at our top picks for the best dystopian literature (in no particular order!) to find the books you need to read as an introduction to this dark genre, including George Orwell's classic 1984, and some newer lesser-known dystopian novels that are sure to capture your imagination just as much. 


1. 1984 

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George Orwell

Written in the late 1940s, George Orwell's eerily accurate descriptions of the future of surveillance and the idea of the omnipresent Big Brother have made this novel an incredibly thought-provoking read. In the year 1984, Winston Smith, an employee of the Ministry of Truth decides his life doesn't have to be a rigid and confirmative pattern laid out for him by the government when he meets and falls in love with Julia. But, as Winston and Julia begin to turn towards rebellion so the punishment that awaits those who do follow Big Brother's orders is revealed.


2. The Room 

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Jonas Karlsson

The Room is an unusual novella from Swedish actor Jonas Karlsson. The story focuses on Bjorn, an unpopular office worker whose life changes when he discovers a secret Room in his workplace. When he enters the Room everything changes for Bjorn but not for his colleagues - they can't even see the Room at all... This is a bizarre but entertaining tale that turns the dystopian genre on its head. 

3. Ready Player One

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Ernest Cline

In the not-so-distant future, Wade Watts plugs into OASIS, a game that distracts its players from the mess of the real world where climate change has caused mass poverty, famines and disease. When the founder of OASIS dies, the one to inherit his fortune will be the person who finds the Easter egg hidden in the game. A huge treasure hunt begins with Wade desperate to take the prize for himself. 

4. The Hunger Games 

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Suzanne Collins

If you're one of the few readers on the planet who hasn't read The Hunger Games then we think you really should... right now! The story will be familiar for many but for those who don't know, The Hunger Games is about sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a resident of District 12 in a futuristic version of North America, and her time in a particularly brutal gameshow. The Hunger Games has 24 participants and one rule: kill or be killed. To win is to survive in this dark imagining of the future. 

5. The Handmaid's Tale

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Margaret Atwood

Between the TV series and the announcement of an upcoming sequel, The Testaments, later this year, The Handmaid's Tale is a book on everyone's reading list at the moment. If you've yet to pick up a copy, there really is no better time. The story centres on Offred, a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She has been sent to live with Commander Fred Waterford where she must breed or face execution. Offred refuses to let this horrific world order trap her forever though as she starts plotting a fight for her freedom. 

6. Brave New World

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Aldous Huxley

This dystopian masterpiece was originally published in 1932 and is set in a future obsessed with consumerism and a population totally controlled by the ruling class. Bernard Marx wants to break free from this way of living and is determined to find anything that links him back to the way life used to be.

7. Fahrenheit 451

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Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is both a sci-fi classic and a revered dystopian novel set in the future where TV is the reigning source of entertainment and books are burned. Guy Montag is a fireman who spends his time starting fires rather than putting them out. For a long time, Montag never sees a problem with his job or his mundane life until he meets Clarisse, a neighbour who sees the world around them very differently. 

8. 1Q84

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Haruki Muakami

Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 is set in an alternate version of Tokyo where there are two moons in the sky to oversee the strange events that lead two individuals' paths to cross over. Aomame is finding herself more intrigued by the abnormalities in the world around her whilst Tengo takes on an unusual ghost-writing job. This is love story with a sinister dystopic twist. 

9. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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Philip K. Dick

Serving as the basis for Blade Runner, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is set in a world where war has led to mass death and destruction, even driving full species to extinction. With most animals replaced by android replicas, to own a live animal has become the ultimate status symbol and bounty hunter Rick Deckard is determined to get one. When he is tasked with destroying multiple androids he sees his way to a big pay-out but when the androids are so close to human, Deckard begins to realise he may be the one in danger after all...

10. I am Legend

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Richard Matheson

Robert Neville is the last human left on Earth but his isn't completely alone. The world is overrun by vampires who crave his blood. He must hunt every single one down and kill them or he won't be alive for much longer. But, with no other living soul left alive, how much longer does he want to go on? 

These dystopian reads are sure to have pride of place on any sci-fi fan's shelf and though they may have you stocking up on tins and creating your own bunker, they'll also make you think about the ways society works currently and where our future is heading. For more dystopian fiction recommendations, search our website and check out our Ultimate List of Science Fiction Books and Novels for more futuristic reads.