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Dystopian novels are works of fiction set in a bleak future. The term dystopian is meant to be the opposite of “utopian,” which has come to mean a place of perfection. Popular dystopian novels include:
The term “dystopian” was first used by John Stuart Mill in 1868, creating the term to describe British policy in Ireland at the time.
There are some scholars who list the first dystopian novel as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, first published in 1726. Swift’s satire was set in several different foreign lands that revealed human beings to be petty or warlike. In the 19th century, H.G. Wells wrote several dystopian visions of the future, including The Time Machine (1895). William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand are also considered to be dystopian novels.
Dystopian novels are not necessarily set in a post-Apocalyptic future, but a future that is somehow repressive or frightening. Violence is generally a regular part of existence in a dystopian novel, such as the endless warfare presented in 1984 or the blood sport found in The Hunger Games or The Running Man by Stephen King. The ruling class of these repressive societies generally governs with an iron hand, with state-planned economies that reduce most of the population to marginal existences.