Some consider dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction to be interchangeable. Of course, talented authors can find ways to blend these two genres together, but most of the time there is a clear distinction. Here are two examples of dystopian fiction and two examples of post-apocalyptic fiction:
Dystopia: a society where everything appears to be utopian, but is controlling and oppressive under the facade of perfection
The Giver – Lois Lowry
Everything is eerily perfect in this world. Each child’s life is mapped out from birth to death. There is no war. No pain. Not even love. Colors, seasons, and complex feelings have been wiped out. Jonas, 12 years old, becomes heir to the hidden, collective memories of what once was and discovers that the world he grew up in isn’t so perfect after all.
Candor – Pam Bachorz
The city of Candor, tucked away in Florida, is supposedly the perfect place for families to go when they need a break from normal life. In Candor, every citizen is constantly bombarded with “messages,” a form of brainwashing that keeps crime and disorder from happening in the community. Citizens become addicted to these subliminal messages, and when they attempt to leave, go through severe withdrawal symptoms. The teenage main character, Oscar, is the son of the man who founded Candor. Oscar knows how to smuggle people out of the perfect world, and because of his forbidden knowledge, he is forced to face his father by the end of the book.
Post-apocalyptic: the world has ended and survivors are attempting to reconstruct society
The Fire-Us Trilogy – Jennifer Armstrong and Nancy Butcher
A virus has wiped out almost all life on planet Earth. All that’s left are seven children who live as a makeshift family and struggle to survive. One day, another kid shows up and leads our heroes on a quest to find the last living adult: the President. One of the hallmarks of the book is the accurate portrayal of children coping with disaster and life without adults.
The Gone series – Michael Grant
On one ordinary day, everyone over the age of 15 disappears, leaving a group of young kids with a ton of questions. It’s “the end of the world as they know it.” Fourteen-year-old Sam and his love interest Astrid lead their group on a journey to figure out why everyone is disappearing and suddenly developing strange powers. (Sam has the ability to shoot green light from his hands.) Eventually Sam’s group is pitted against another group of children, in a fight-to-the-death scenario similar to Golding’s Lord of the Flies. The book is over 500 pages, but a series of intriguing plot twists keep it moving at a fast pace.
Which do you prefer reading about? A world that’s seemingly perfect or a world that’s gone and must be reconstructed?