11 Creepy Dystopian Books that Will Make You Fear the Future

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Dystopian novels intrigue readers with their imagined futuristic worlds. If you love creepy dystopian books that feel a little too plausible for comfort, don’t miss the books on this list. 

Some days, just turning on the news or opening up a browser is enough to make your skin crawl. Politics, climate change, Kardashians everywhere… are we living in a dystopia?

Many people would have valid reasons to say we are–or at least that certain groups of people are, and have been for a long time.

Some of the best dystopian books, after all, are grounded in events that have really happened to people around the world.

Margaret Atwood famously based the oppression depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale on real events that have happened through history:

“There’s a precedent in real life for everything in the book,” she says. “I decided not to put anything in that somebody somewhere hadn’t already done. But you write these books so they won’t come true.”

Others veer into impossible or magical territory, but even they manage to make us as readers turn a critical eye on ourselves.

No matter how far-fetched or extreme the circumstances, the best authors of dystopian and speculative fiction can make almost any situation seem plausible–and leave us a little bit afraid of the future.

But when you’ve reached Kardashian burnout, a creepy, imagined dystopia sometimes just feels like a much better place to be (or at least a more interesting one, since you’re not actually living it).

Whether you’re looking for a scare or a reason to turn to activism, these dystopian books are sure to get your heart racing. 

11 Dystopian Books to Read After The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is, of course, one of the buzzier dystopian novels, made popular again because of the popular Hulu series. 

Definitely read it, and it’s not-as-strong-but-still-intruiging sequel, The Testaments. After you’ve read those, try one of these:

Author: Naomi Alderman

When women and girls around the world suddenly find themselves able to produce electricity, they quickly seize power and authority from men. What initially seems like a feminist role reversal–intriguing in itself–becomes more with its commentary on the corrupting influence of power, and the ways that physical dominance affects behaviors.

Author: Kimi Eisele

After the global economy and the electrical grid collapse, Carson is determined to make his way from the east coast to the west coast, where Beatrix is. Beatrix, meanwhile, joins with her neighborhood to pool resources and rebuild their lives. Hovering over all of them is the persistent voice of Jonathan Blue, promising salvation. But is it too good to be true? Not without its darkness, but this is a more hopeful dystopia than many.

Author: Karen Thompson Walker

A coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a shift in the earth’s rotation, bringing about strange global changes. Karen Thompson Walker manages to write speculative fiction that feels a little dreamy and whimsical, and her juxtaposition of the upheaval of adolescence with global apocalypse is masterful. 

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro

If you haven’t already heard about this book, it’s best to go in blind. What starts as a story about a group of boarding school friends who come back together later in life slowly reveals itself to be so much more. The students have always been told they were special, and in adulthood they now have to face just what that means. Bleak, but thought-provoking.

Author: Cormac McCarthy

If the previous book is bleak, this one is downright grim–but it’s also a modern classic for a reason. In an imagined future with almost nothing left but desperate violence, a man and his son walk across the ravaged landscape. Their destination is uncertain, but as long as they keep going and stay together, they hold onto shreds of hope. Painful, difficult, and strangely beautiful, I’ve read this several times.

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Twenty years after a pandemic has wiped out most of the population, a troupe of performers brings art and hope to the remaining survivors. An encounter with a violent prophet threatens their existence. Alternating between past and present, the connections between seemingly disparate characters are slowly revealed.

Author: Ernest Cline

In 2045, the real world is so dark that most people escape to the virtual one. Wade Watts is a master of the puzzles hidden in this world, and now he’s trying to solve one to win the ultimate prize. Unfortunately, so are others who might kill for the answer. Even if you’re not into video games or 80s pop culture, this wild ride through a virtual world will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Author: Peter Heller

After a flu pandemic kills most of the population, Hig survives in a small abandoned Colorado airport with only his dog and a volatile neighbor for company. When a transmission comes through pointing to signs that there may be a better life out there, he risks everything to try to find it. Peter Heller is must-read author if you love great stories backed by excellent nature writing.

Author: Suzanna Collins

This one is almost too obvious–you’ve almost certainly read this book about a future in which children are made to fight to the death. What gets it a place on this list is the coming prequel that is sure to be one of the biggest novels of 2020. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes–coming in May–will take us 64 years in the past, on the dawn of the reaping of the 10th Hunger Games. If you haven’t read the trilogy yet, read it now (or reread it) before the prequel comes out.

Author: Megan Angelo

Orla and Floss will stop at nothing for online fame. But the price of oversharing is high–and not just for themselves. Thirty-five years in the future, Marlow lives in front of the cameras as one of the government-chosen stars meant to get people back online after a disaster. As she tries to flee, the events from decades prior bring the three women back together. This book will make you rethink both your sharing and your screen habits–and just where these habits are taking us as a society.

Author: Kim Liggett

In their 16th year, the girls of Garner County are sent away for their grace year. Their only tasks in this year are to rid themselves of their destructive magic and to stay alive. The elements, poachers who want their very skin, and the violence of living among a group of girls could ruin them all. With elements of The Hunger Games, this is an original, gripping take on the feminist dystopia. Liggett takes down the stories women are told about ourselves and how these stories turn us against one another.

Still not sure what to read? Take the quiz and find just the right book.

What are your favorite dystopias?

February 2020 book reviews

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One Comment

  1. What a great list! I’ve read and loved so many of them, but you have given me others to read now. It seems a bit odd to want to read dark fiction right now when things do seem to toxic and chaotic, but lately that’s where I’m drawn- in both my reading and my television watching.

    I read The Road last week and was blown away by it. It may be my favorite book of the year.

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