Category Archives: Fiction

Learning from Utopia

What is the function of alternative political and economic systems, whether actually existing or imaginary? Is it to offer hope that change is possible, or at least to provide some perspective on our own way of life?
Draws on ‘The Dispossessed’ by Ursula Le Guin. Continue reading

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‘Bewilderment’ by Richard Powers

Bewilderment is an entirely rational response to what we are collectively doing to our planet. Confronted by the injustices, dysfunction and unsustainability of the world we’ve created, how can we not react with bewilderment? This wonderful novel is both an … Continue reading

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“You either bend the arc or it bends you”

‘Attack Surface’ by Cory Doctorow. ‘Attack Surface‘ (2020) is a gripping action-packed story of oppression and resistance with plenty of insights into the potential of new technologies and big data. It is also a powerful manifesto for the necessity of … Continue reading

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‘Light Perpetual’ by Francis Spufford

‘Light Perpetual’ is a wonderful celebration of life and love. It opens with some extraordinary time-stretching to describe the impact of a split-second destructive event in wartime. Then time is shrunk and stretched repeatedly in order to follow the ‘lost’ … Continue reading

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Zola’s ‘La Curée’ and the corruption of desire.

Rougon-Macquart #2 Emile Zola’s ‘La Curée’ (1872), translated as ‘The Kill’, is an extraordinary novel of unbridled appetites, material and sexual, and of the moral decay and rottenness of unfettered capitalism. It shares a setting and many common themes with … Continue reading

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‘The Ministry for the Future’ by Kim Stanley Robinson

Fiction can change the world and the didactic approach or the ‘novel of ideas’ can be compatible with good storytelling. Like any work of art, a work of fiction can change us as individuals and, through us, help to make … Continue reading

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Tsitsi Dangarembga’s ‘Nervous Conditions’.

The personal is political, and this wonderful book is both entirely personal and deeply political. Nervous Conditions (1988) is the story of Tambudzai, a young woman growing up in rural Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia) in the late 1960’s, told … Continue reading

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‘Unsheltered’ by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver’s novels are always fascinating and rewarding and her latest, Unsheltered (2019) is no exception. We follow two stories over a hundred years apart and set in the same location; Vineland, New Jersey, a town originally established as a … Continue reading

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‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers.

Richard Powers is an extraordinary writer. If you’ve not yet discovered his novels, I strongly recommend them. He tackles big ideas which concern all of us while at the same time telling compelling stories about complex and conflicted characters who … Continue reading

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‘What if?’ – dystopias in fiction.

Fictional dystopias use the power of ‘what if?’ to change something or extrapolate particular social or technological trends and imagine the impact on people’s lives. The best ones are also good stories, well told, about people; their hopes, fears, feelings … Continue reading

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The last Corsican.

“I’ve decided to keep this diary because I’m going to die in the next few days…I am condemned because, having refused to be evacuated with the others, I will be annihilated by the incendiary bombs which are systematically ravaging the … Continue reading

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More fictional dystopias

Reading Dystopias offered an introduction to the genre of dystopian fiction through 4 classic dystopian novels. Here are four more which are also well worth reading. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) [211 pages] Fahrenheit 451: The temperature at which … Continue reading

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‘Carthage’ by Joyce Carol Oates.

Joyce Carol Oates’ brilliant novel ‘Carthage’ carries the reader along on a compelling looping, zig-zag narrative which starts and finishes in the heart of a sympathetic comfortably-off family in the small upstate New York town of Carthage. Along the way, … Continue reading

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Hadrian, the enlightened pre-enlightenment leader?

Marguerite Yourcenar’s wonderful novel Memoirs of Hadrian takes the form of a personal memoir written for the future Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius by the emperor Hadrian (76-138 CE) as he faces death. The book is a brilliant portrayal of a leader who … Continue reading

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Reading dystopias

Reading dystopias Utopia: an imagined society or state of things in which everything is perfect or close to perfect. Dystopia: an imagined society or state of things in which things are very far from perfect to a frightening extent. An … Continue reading

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