On Display: Explore Dystopian Fiction

OED Online: Dystopia, noun: “An imaginary place or condition in which everything is as bad as possible”
(i.e. the opposite to Utopia)

Dystopian societies are one of the most popular settings in fiction literature. Stories set in dystopias often deal with themes like totalitarian governments, environmental devastation, corporatism, dehumanization, and the negative consequences of technological innovation. Dystopias are by definition pessimistic. These societies are often built upon utopian ideals that become corrupted over time. However, focusing on the worst possible outcomes for humanity can provide new contexts for viewing the problems we have in our current world, as well as offer interesting thought experiments for how we might build towards a collective utopia.

Below are a few examples of dystopian fiction that you can check out from the HPU Libraries right now. Dystopian novels often serve as inspiration for feature films and television adaptations, so be sure to browse our DVD collection for dystopias as well.


Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

This book is set in California, in the year 2025. Some select citizens live in gated communities to protect themselves from roaming bands of drug-addicted scavengers. When her small community is overrun by these scavengers, 18 year old Lauren Olamina sets off on a journey that will eventually propel her, and the rest of society, to a new level of existence.


Location: Smith Library – On Display

Call number: 813.54 B97pa 2016

Click here to read the eBook.


The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

In this alternate reality tale, The Axis Powers won World War II. What we know as the United States is under the divided rule of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Slavery is once again legal, and what is left of the Jewish population are now hiding under assumed names. The book was adapted into a series of the same name on Amazon.


Location: Smith Library – On Display

Call number: 813.54 D549ma 2011

Click the title to check availability.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Set in the near future, The United States (now called The Republic of Gilead) is run as a theonomy under strict puritanical control. The book explores themes of female subjugation, identity and power through the dry narration of the antagonist, Offred. Hulu has also adopted The Handmaid’s Tale into a critically acclaimed TV series.


Location: Smith Library – On Display

Call number: 813.54 At9ha 2006

Click here for the Hulu series adaptation.


Urinetown by Greg Kotis & Mark Hollmann

Urinetown is a satirical musical that takes place in a city plagued by a devastating drought. Water conservation is at an all-time high, leading to a ban on private toilets. A single private corporation charges money for the use of public toilets. Anyone caught using anything other than the public toilets, are dragged off by the police, never to be heard from again.


Location: Smith Library – On Display

Call number: 782.140268 H72ur 2003

Click here to listen to the musical.


New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

In this future version of New York, the sea levels have risen 50 feet above current sea level. Now completely flooded, all the streets are canals, and all the skyscrapers function as their own islands. The city is irreparably changed, but the people of the city find new ways to adapt, survive, and thrive.


Location: Smith Library – On Display

Call number: 813.54 R563ne 2017

Click the title to check availability.



HPU Libraries are currently showcasing multiple displays of dystopian fiction in literature and film (on the 1st and 2nd floors of Smith library). Stop by and check one out any time.

As always, ask a librarian if you would like more recommendations.

-Blog post by Trae Middlebrooks, Late Night Library Supervisor