I may not have a crystal ball to see the future, but dystopian authors have always been scarily accurate with their predictions for the future. So, if you’re anything like me, you probably prefer to be prepared for any and all variables, no matter how far-fetched they may seem, especially when it comes to reproductive rights.
Here are five dystopian novels other than “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood to help you prepare for (and survive) whatever reproductive horrors might come our way if women’s rights erode.
‘The Core of the Sun’ by Johanna Sinisalo (Grove Press/Black Cat)
We’re starting off strong with Finnish author Johanna Sinisalo’s “The Core of the Sun,” which is set in an alternative historical present, in what is called a “eusistocracy”— described as an extreme welfare state — where public health and social stability are regarded above all else. In the Eusistocratic Republic of Finland, a new human subspecies of receptive, submissive women has been bred, called eloi. The eloi are used for sex and procreation. Intelligent, independent women, however, are relegated to menial labor and are sterilized so that they do not carry on their “defective” line. It’s a rather weird read, but totally worth it if you enjoy witty and inventive tales.
‘Only Ever Yours’ by Louise O’Neill (Quercus)
Written by Irish author Louise O’Neill, “Only Ever Yours” imagines a world after a catastrophe that’s pretty much reset civilization into a patriarchy. Female babies are no longer born; Instead, they are bred, trained and conditioned to serve men from the age of the ripe old age of 17. For the girls who don’t become a “companion” … well, they get to either become a concubine or a teacher , and neither career is particularly nice.
‘Gather the Daughters’ by Jennie Melamed (Little, Brown and Company)
If you’re looking to read about a truly grim outlook for women — a kind of “worst-case scenario”— then “Gather the Daughters” by Jennie Melamed is that book. This novel plays off on an island, where girls are “wives-in-training.” After they’ve reached puberty, there’s a ritual that will see them get married and then their sole purpose is to have children, who then have children, before the women ultimately die by suicide because they’ve basically reached the end of their shelf life . It’s a haunting tale, but very memorable and somehow fitting to what’s happening in the world.
‘When She Woke’ by Hillary Jordan (Algonquin Books)
In “When she Woke” by Hillary Jordan, if someone commits a crime, their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crime. The protagonist in this book, Hannah, has become a Red; her crime is murder. According to the state of Texas, the victim was her unborn child. What’s more, Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she’s shared a fierce and forbidden love.
‘Red Clocks’ by Leni Zumas (Back Bay Books)
“Red Clocks” by Leni Zumas envisions a world where abortion is illegal in America, in vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty and property to every embryo. The book follows five very different women whose fates collide in what would ultimately become a modern-day witch hunt. This one is probably the most realistic dystopia on this list, in my opinion, so definitely give it a read if you want to know what’s in store.
‘The Wanting Seed’ by Anthony Burgess (WW Norton & Company)
Set in an unspecified future, “The Wanting Seed” by Anthony Burgess (famous for writing “A Clockwork Orange”) describes a world where governments are struggling to maintain order due to famine and overpopulation. In this dystopia, same-sex relationships are actually encouraged as a type of population control by a totalitarian government. It’s both funny and grim — and definitely worthy of a read.
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