I was catching up with a friend recently over dinner and our conversation turned to books (as it inevitably does with a book lover). When my friend asked what I’d been reading lately, I shared a bit about a book I was reading at the time that had me thoroughly intrigued and itching to discuss with someone.
That book was Vox, which posits a world in which women come to be allotted only 100 words per day. After sketching out the premise, I was ready to dive into conversation mode, but my friend blurted out, “That sounds horrifying! Who wrote this garbage, a man?!” And in that moment, I was stunned. Nothing I could say after that would persuade her to even think twice about the book.
This line of conversation started me thinking about the different reactions I’ve seen to dystopian fiction, so I wanted to take some time today to talk about them. To be clear, I’m specifically talking about reactions to the book’s concept and not necessarily its execution or whether the book was actually good or entertaining or even enjoyable. I’m sure there are plenty of other ways that readers respond to these types of stories, but these are the reactions I’ve come across most.
Who wrote this garbage? It must have been a *insert your descriptive here*
I’ve seen this particular reaction most when the book in question has a premise in which a particular people group is belittled, minimized, or shamed in some way. More often than not, the person I’ve seen react like this belongs to that people group, so I have to wonder if it just hit too close to home?
This isn’t realistic
I’ve come across this reaction most with readers that are new to the genre and didn’t quite know what to expect. Since dystopia is the opposite of a utopia and therefore inherently flawed and problematic, it’s understandable why someone might think this if they didn’t know to expect it going in.
It’s a cautionary tale
This is probably the reaction I see most. I expect because reading about a worst case scenario that feels nearly plausible in our current society can make someone sit up and take notice of the parallels.
So, I’m curious. What are your thoughts on dystopian fiction and how do you react to it as a genre? And does your response change depending on the premise of a particular book?