Dystopian Tales in Time for Halloween
The falling leaves, shorter days, and longer shadows of autumn bring to mind some of the darker tales in literature. Speculative fiction and tales of the apocalypse are not my usual genres; nevertheless, in the spirit of Halloween, I’m going to recommend a few intriguing titles that are dark, yet ultimately hopeful.
Hollow Kingdom, a debut novel by Kira Jane Buxton, introduces readers to one of the wisest and funniest characters to hit the printed page this fall. A foul-mouthed, cowardly crow named S.T. narrates this apocalyptic tale where the humans are dying and the animals are taking over. S.T. and his sidekick, a dim-witted dog named Dennis, set out to find a cure for the mysterious illness that is attacking humankind. This is a genre-defying tale that will leave you laughing and cringing as you follow this unlikely duo through the streets of Seattle. It’s a dark, brilliant, and outrageously funny tale for our times.
One of my all-time favorite authors, Ian McEwan, adds his own twist on futuristic tales with the release of Machines Like Me. Set in an alternative London of the 1980s, the book tells the story of a drifter and his doctoral student neighbor who set out to create a nearly perfect human in the form of one of the world’s first androids. As with most speculative fiction, Machines Like Me is a disquieting tale of moral ambiguity, asking whether a machine can understand emotions … or is it humans who lack emotional intelligence.
Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments is one of the most highly anticipated books of the season. This dramatic sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale picks up 15 years after the closing pages of its predecessor with the theocratic regime of Gilead still in power, but their authoritarian grip may be weakening as women begin to question the “truths” they’ve been told.
If Handmaid’s Tale was disturbing in its prescience, Atwood now delivers a sense of hope where sisterhood could triumph over environmental destruction and misogyny. And, as proof of Atwood’s of-the-moment star power, a stunning graphic novel adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (art and adaptation by Renee Nault) has just been released.
Dystopian and speculative fiction are enjoying a resurgence, with the best of the genre holding strong literary merit, as well. With Halloween just around the corner, why not get in the spirit with one of these newly released titles that offer a frightening look at a future that may not be so far away.