Read This, Then That: Literary Dystopia

November 19, 2015

Dystopian fiction is nothing new at this point to anyone who’s picked up a book in the last five plus years. In all that noise, here we have two thought-provoking literary reads that have something to say about the state of the world but aren’t trying to shove it down your throat. Instead, the world – and in both cases it’s dire but not completely unrealistic – is shown through the eyes of very real characters who have the same worries and fears that you or I do.

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Read This: Corvus by Harold Johnson (Thistledown Press)

Then That: Swarm by Lauren Carter (Brindle & Glass)

Dystopian fiction is nothing new at this point to anyone who’s picked up a book in the last five plus years. In all that noise, here we have two thought-provoking literary reads that have something to say about the state of the world but aren’t trying to shove it down your throat. Instead, the world – and in both cases it’s dire but not completely unrealistic – is shown through the eyes of very real characters who have the same worries and fears that you or I do.

In Corvus we meet George and Lenore, who live in a city in Saskatchewan in the not too distant future. Both are veterans of recent wars and have become criminal lawyers. They live very comfortably within the new system of society, where everything runs through their digital Platforms. However, when the “Net” goes down for four days and they are both caught outside the city, cut off from their lives with dead platforms, they get a glimpse of what life is like outside the city: George at Two Bears Camp, a mountain-sheltered First Nations community that relies on nature to provide everything they need, and Lenore at an Ashram with Richard, who is also a veteran, but has very different views on the current state of the world. 

These experiences leave both George and Lenore changed and uncomfortable back in their old lives. Their pasts haunt them, the present view of their world has been forever changed, and the future looks grim.

While Corvus provides us a glimpse into what urban living could be like in a dark future, Swarm takes us to a small island where relying on nature is the only way to survive. Sandy has lived an urban lifestyle similar to George and Lenore – with its poverty and power outages – but after losing her job and getting caught up with Marvin, a violent protester, she is forced to flee. For years Sandy, Marvin, and father figure Thomson have lived and survived together in this rural setting. But when small footprints appear in Sandy’s garden it sets off feelings within that she has long suppressed, feelings that she’s had to shut off so that she could focus on survival.

Once that door has been opened, Sandy must deal with her past choices and present situation before she’ll be able to move forward.

While both novels are somewhat dire they do show hope through the characters’ connections with animals. Through the instincts of bees and ravens as portrayed in Swarm and Corvus, respectively, we see that there are basic desires and needs, like love and connection with others, that humans will yearn for no matter what the world looks like.

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