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Dystopia v. Utopia

What do you think when you think of Utopia? Paradise? Peace? A world in which nothing is wrong? It is a pretty picture, but do you think such a place actually exists?  The word utopia, created by Sir Thomas Moore, is now used to describe the perfect society, but it actually comes from the Greek words “ou” meaning no and “topos” meaning place. Therefore, utopia literally means “no place” which hints that such a perfect society does not exist.

The concept of a utopia has spawned a genre of novels on attempted utopias that turn out to be the exact opposite, a dystopia. For me, the take away lesson is that we cannot achieve perfection, and we should not try to. However, that does not mean that we cannot try to make the world better than it is now.

Here is a short list of utopian/dystopian novels including the one that started it all.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota–and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life. . . . (from the Product Description)

Matched by Allyson Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it’s a glitch…but Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice… (from the Product Description)

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

Foundling Fever Crumb has been raised as an engineer although females in the future London, England, are not believed capable of rational thought, but at age fourteen she leaves her sheltered world and begins to learn startling truths about her past while facing danger in the present.

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Utopia by Thomas Moore

Thomas More’s Utopia has spurred debate, reflection, and critical thinking since its original publication in the 16th Century. More’s fictional island of Utopia provides an exploration of issues that shook him and his contemporaries and continue to be problematic in the modern day; the details of More’s utopian society, such as the permissibility of euthanasia and comments on chastity in the priesthood, combine with proposals of coexisting varied religions to put forth a work that incorporates the totality of More’s religious, sociological, and philosophical talents. (from the Product Description)

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