“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.” – Barbara Tuchman
Since Mockingjay finally came out (even though I’ve already finished it, I’ll be posting my full review on Sunday), I’ve been on a kick for speculative fiction so that’s the focus of this month’s set of recommendations. Just where is the world headed? Will the political tensions of the world hold or is there another World War in our future? How will global warming affect the world balance? Though it’s usually classified as science fiction, there are so many aspects of these that should not be dismissed the way that often happens in the case of science fiction. Here are some of my favorite books that have some guesses that might change your way of looking at things.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood: A man who calls himself Snowman watches over a colony of a humanoid species dubbed the Crakers. Seen as a religious figure to this unusual species, he recounts a past in which he was known as Jimmy and he wasn’t the only real human around. Is Jimmy responsible for the destruction of mankind?
The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler: As global warming destroys food supplies across the country, cities and towns have to fortify themselves against outsiders in order to ensure their own survival. Lauren sees some of those around her turning to faith for comfort. But Lauren has ideas of her own that don’t fit with what her family and friends believe. As she and her friends fight for survival, Lauren creates her own faith system, Earthseed, and seeks a place where it can grow and flourish. Even when it seems Earthseed has found healthy soil, there are those who are determined to keep it from flowering.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: A classic for science fiction fans, Huxley’s image of a world where people are grown and harvested instead of being born, drugged into a stupor called happiness, and the people worship Henry Ford was leaps and bounds ahead of its time.
1984 by George Orwell: A reaction to the Totalitarianism that rode in in the wake of World War II, Orwell’s famous novel about Winston Smith and his fight against the Big Brother that tries to convince him 2 + 2 = 5 remains a haunting warning about what people and governments are capable of.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: Bradbury asserted that this novel about firefighter Guy Montag who burns books for a living wasn’t a comment on censorship, but rather on technology, human laziness, and is a portrait of what will happen if such attitudes and behaviors don’t change. Whatever his intention, censorship is what most people take away from it. And some intriguing guesses about the role television will play in everyday life (that are scary because they’re slowing proving true).
The Giver by Lois Lowry: Written for children, The Giver is a great way to introduce kids to the thinking these books inspire. In a seemingly reasonable and peaceful society, it is only after Jonas starts training as The Receiver that he learns the truth about his community’s history and what it cost to make it the way it is.
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut: So it’s only a short story but it’s a fantastic short story about the dangers of extremism, even when it comes to something that sounds like it can never be wrong. Something like the push for universal equality.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins: Since this is what put me on this kick for speculative fiction, I couldn’t pass up the chance to plug it (again). Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12 of Panem where the annual Hunger Games force children to fight to the death for the entertainment of the Capitol. As Katniss finds herself intimately acquainted with the Games, the history of how Panem came to institute them in the first place unfolds, along with the plans of those who are willing to die to see the Hunger Games come to a permanent end.