Dystopian fiction is interested in imagining what would happen if everything went horribly wrong some time in the future (distant, or not-too distant). The word ‘dystopia’ was conceived to be the opposite of ‘utopia,’ which in turn comes from the Greek roots οὐ-τόπος  (the not-place) and εὖ-τόπος (the good place). So, while a utopia is a perfect society that cannot truly exist, a dystopia is a broken society that is normally based in some way on the real world.

Sometimes it has a bit of a sci-fi feel (like the spaceship setting in Across the Universe), but it’s nearly always a bit bleak (like the list below!). The horrible wrong-ness can be due to social, political (or socio-political) problems (see The Hunger Games, Divergent, 1984 for example). It can also be due to environmental problems (Ship Breaker, The Water Wars, Blood Red Road etc).

Here’s a selection of dystopian/futuristic titles for you to work your way through. Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list, but if you think there’s something worthy that we haven’t mentioned then email us about it!

Updated December 2023