Top 10 best dystopian books

On the heels of my discussion on the allure of dystopia in fiction, here is my list of top ten all time best dystopian novels.

George Orwell, 1949
Orwell’s depictions of totalitarianism have elements that remain in society’s vocabulary decades later. From Big Brother to doublespeak and a host of other concepts, Orwell’s dystopian view of political corruption remains a significant work even today.

Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury, 1953
Another early vision of dystopia, one in which books are outlawed and “firemen” burn them up when they’re found. Winner of one of only four Retro Hugo awards.

Brave New World
Aldous Huxley, 1931
The granddaddy of dystopian novels, Huxley wrote the book in response to utopian novels by H.G. Wells amidst social upheaval from war, industry, economic crises, and the perceived excesses of the Roaring Twenties.

Logan’s Run
William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, 1967
Logan’s Run follows the eponymous hero who tracks down those in a society with no old people. Logan 3 is a “Sandman” chasing after those who reach the age of death trying to escape to Sanctuary. He decides to run himself as his time approaches.

Make Room! Make Room (Soylent Green)
Harry Harrison, 1966
The movie was more popular than the book, but Soylent Green explored the overuse of materials and overpopulation, with some ideas on how to control both. The movie changed much more besides the title.

The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins, 2008
In the future nation of Panem, teens from the twelve districts annually battle to the death for a television audience. The trilogy has been adapted into a highly successful movie series.

Veronica Roth, 2011
In Chicago in the future, society is divided based on aptitude scores. Those who don’t fit neatly in a faction are more difficult to control, and are considered divergent. The first movie in the series has been highly successful.

The Maze Runner
James Dashner, 2009
Waking up with his memory wiped, the protagonist finds himself with a group of other boys in the middle of a gigantic labyrinth that changes every night and offers a host of dangers. He helps them solve the riddle of the maze before the first girl shows up.

Parable of the Sower
Octavia E. Butler, 1993
In an society leaning toward anarch , a young woman with hyperempathy develops a religion called “Earthseed.” Winner of the 1994 Nebula Award. A planned trilogy, Butler died before completing the third book in the series.

The Giver
Lois Lowry, 1993
In a faux utopian society of the future, pain and turmoil are eliminated through Sameness. Somebody has to keep all the memories of the past, though, including both the good memories and the bad. All the pleasant aspects of humanities as well as all the ugliness. Winner of the 1994 Newberry Award.


Read for free the first five chapters of my book Redwood: Agent of the State, a science fiction adventure thriller, on Goodreads or get the complete Kindle ebook on Amazon for only 99 cents

The allure of dystopia in fiction

Many young adult novels these days seem to be set in dystopian near future worlds. Hunger Games, Maze Runner and Divergent spring to mind. So, what is the allure of dystopia, and why do so many speculative fiction authors set their works in such worlds?

Dystopia is the opposite of Utopia. Wikipedia has a nice entry:

… a community or society that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is literally translated as “not-good place” … Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. Dystopian societies appear in many sub-genres of fiction and are often used to draw attention to real-world issues regarding society, environment, politics, economics, religion, psychology, ethics, science, and/or technology, which if unaddressed could potentially lead to such a dystopia-like condition.

I think, for a writer, dystopian settings allow them to explore worlds that are familiar, yet different enough to engage the plot in compelling ways. Since the world is messed up, and the powers that be are making a mess of things, the protagonists can figure out ways to excel in the fractured environment while hopefully changing it for the better.

Check out my list of the top 10 best dystopian novels here.


Read for free the first five chapters of my book Redwood: Agent of the State, a science fiction adventure thriller, on Goodreads or get the complete Kindle ebook on Amazon for only 99 cents

Lasers vs. lead in science fiction: pew pew or pow pow?

I recall watching Alien the first time. The late 70s were a grand time for science fiction movies. Star Wars took the world by storm, with light sabers and laser guns. Alien was different, though. Instead of zipping through space at warp speed, Ripley and friends stayed in animated suspension until arriving at their destination. Also in the movie and its sequels, traditional bullet-firing guns took out the aliens rather than futuristic laser guns.

Does a science fiction book or movie have to always use laser guns? Certainly Ripley’s guns, especially in Aliens, the 1986 sequel, were more traditional lead and gunpowder based, although they looked futuristic.

Sometimes traditional guns may appear in a futuristic plot as an anachronism, like in the Star Trek episode “Spectre of the Gun.” Other times, they may prove integral to the plot as in Star Trek’s “Shore Leave.”

There’s actually a lot to be said about lower level technology playing a role in a futuristic setting. Robert Heinlein’s classic science fiction novel Time Enough for Love was set in part on a “pioneer planet” where low tech was used for initial human settlement. Most famously, mules were used in place of modern engines. M.U.L.E. became an early educational videogame based on the idea.

So, sometimes a science fiction writer doesn’t have to incorporate high tech futuristic items. I think technology should fit well in the story. If that means less “pew pew” and more “pow pow” to make the plot go forward, all the better.


Read for free the first five chapters of my book Redwood: Agent of the State, a science fiction adventure thriller, on Goodreads or get the complete Kindle ebook on Amazon for only 99 cents

Three ways for handling interstellar travel in speculative fiction

When preparing to write a science fiction novel, I had to choose between ways for my characters to travel between worlds. This is, I believe, critical to deciding even before writing. So as food for thought, here are some of the ways speculative fiction writers can handle interstellar travel in their works.

1. Warp drive – Perhaps most famous thanks to the Star Trek and Star Wars series, in this method space ships able to travel faster than light can flit between the planets in a matter of hours. While convenient for moving the plot, Einstein had some things to say about speeds faster than light. But hey, it’s fiction.

2. Cryogenic sleep – In the Alien movies starring Sigourney Weaver, the characters remain in a deep sleep as their ships travel at realistic speeds. Sometimes hundreds of years pass before the ships’ computer awakens them and the action commences.

3. Star gates – In fiction such as the Stargate movies and television series, a wormhole or portal of some kind allows instantaneous travel across vast distances of space. In my own Redwood novels, manmade gates orbit around planets allowing relatively easy travel between worlds, although it still takes a couple weeks to get a spaceship out to the gates. A recent Tech Times article discussing the movie Interstellar notes this mode of travel may be possible.

There are other methods of moving characters around, teleportation between planets for instance. But, these three seem to me to be the most common.


For a selection of how I’ve tackled the issue, please check out my Amazon page at

Nat Russo on how to sell 1000 books

Nat Russo has a nice blog entry about his journey as an indie author. Most interestingly, sales for his book Necromancer Awakening: Book One of The Mukhtaar Chronicles didn’t really take off until after he stopped a massive ad campaign. Once focused on the fundamentals of writing and mentoring, sales grew organically. Check out his blog, and his book.


Check out Pirates & Wizards!

The Rave Reviews Book Club and Michael Eging

I’ve joined Nonnie Jules’ Rave Reviews Book Club. This group of indie authors and readers is comprised of individuals committed to promoting books and supporting one another.

One facet of the club is “#pushtuesday,” where one author is promoted on Twitter and other social media by the club members. Today’s author is Michael Egging (@MichaelEging), author of Annwyn’s Blood (The Paladin of Shadow Chronicles Book 1), available on Amazon. Here’s the blurb:

When Marianna was spirited away by unknown raiders, everyone expected a ransom demand to soon follow. Such was the peril of everyday royal life in the chaotic times following abandonment of the misty isles of Albion by indifferent Rome. But when weeks went by without word her father, High King Mattheus, dispatched teams of trusted warriors to find her and bring her assailants to account.

Young Erik, Scion of the House of Birkenshire, was one of these. Separated from his comrades and alone in hostile territories, he plunged headlong into forgotten vales and desolate coasts in pursuit, driven onward by precious memories of stolen tender moments. Then he stood before the grim fortress – wherein he found, not the innocent damsel of his youthful desires, but a terrifying beauty borne of an ancient evil that bound his soul to an even more primal force bent on regaining its place in the halls of human exaltation.

Now caught between two worlds, he must resist the temptations of his beloved-turned-succubus while protecting his family, his people and his world from the encroaching grasp of Arawn, Lord of Annwyn, Ruler of the Dead, Elder God of the Mabinogion. In this journey to regain his soul, the knight must find a way to strike the fatal blow against a resurgent primal darkness.

Be sure and check out Michael’s book. I’ve purchased a copy, and I’ve added it to my “to read” list on GoodReads.


Read for free the first five chapters of my book Redwood: Agent of the State, a science fiction adventure thriller, on Goodreads or get the complete Kindle ebook on Amazon for only 99 cents

Chapters 1-5 of Redwood: Servant of the State are Free!

I am about to embark on an ad campaign with On Dec. 2, we will sponsor a free Kindle Nation Shorts campaign, during which the first five chapters of Redwood: Servant of the State will be offered free to over 161,000 subscribers on Kindle Nation Daily and BookGorilla.

If you’re not a subscriber to KND, or if you miss the campaign, never fear! The first five chapters are available free on Goodreads. If you like it, please download the entire book for free via Kindle Unlimited, or get a copy for only 99 cents.

Redwood: Servant of the State is out!


“We are not revolutionaries, but our University has chosen to start a revolution. We are not soldiers, but our University has asked us to fight. We are not violent in nature, but now we will pursue whatever means are necessary to attain the freedoms we seek.

“Some day all people along the Janus String will hear about what we are doing today, and they will know that we understood some things are worth fighting for. Things like freedom, liberty, and democracy.

“May God bless us all. Mount up.”

Everybody mounted up. One by one the synthetic birds flapped their wings and left the platform, loaded with people and equipment.

Young Servant of the State Marcus Savitch lives on Redwood, a restricted outer planet in the Janus String where humans are confined to one isolated city. Extraordinarily bright, a computer hacker and spaceship pilot, Marcus holds a dark secret. Afflicted with hematophagia, a forbidden condition compelling him to feed on blood, he lives in constant fear of eradication by the State. When his secret is exposed, he escapes and heads toward the giant trees at Redwood’s center. There, despite restrictions, a team of specialists from New Texas have been conducting clandestine research for decades on the mysterious creatures living deep in the forest. When revolution erupts on the outer planets, Marcus finds himself going back to the city he escaped from, this time with a small army at his side.

On sale now for $0.99!

Also, check out the Goodreads page for the first five chapters, free.