I remember the first “dystopian” novel that I ever read. It was called Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix. It was different than the girly books I was used to reading about American Girls (the books that went along with the dolls) or princesses. I’d read it because I was such a fan of Sabriel, and wanted to read more of his work. This book actually really reminds me of The Hunger Games, mostly in that age is a huge factor in what happens, and that when the kids are no longer necessary, there are dog or machine-like entities that resemble them.
A year or so later, I had to read Z For Zachariah, by Robert C. O’Brien, as a school assignment. This one also stayed with me, and was incredibly haunting. The title is supposed to be a reference to the end of man, because Adam was the first man on earth, and Zachariah will be the last. The next year, we read 1984 by George Orwell. I’m sure almost everyone has read that one, so I won’t go into detail. I remember hating it at first – absolutely abhorring it. Then we read about The Panopticon and The Lottery, which made it infinitely more interesting. It was after I’d read The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, Ender’s Game, 1984, The Giver and Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, Shade’s Children, Z for Zachariah, Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth, and Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie, along with MANY other dystopian novels that I realized they ALL revolve around the concept of the Panopticon, and many also include elements of The Lottery (hello Hunger Games reaping…). In essence, they’re all sort of the same. (Side note: sometimes I wonder if my knowledge of revolutions, both fictional and real will ever come in handy… all of the books I’ve read recently involve individuals rising up against society to rebel, and/or my unusual knowledge of Russian history, among other historical revolutions…)
Right now, dystopian books are what vampire books were when Twilight was at the height of popularity. That’s probably a result of The Hunger Games, so it makes me wonder what’s next. It seems like the trends all circle back around and pretend like they’re new. With the vampire novels, Anne Rice published Interview with the Vampire (yes, the one that the Brad Pitt/Tom Cruise movie is based off of) in 1976, yet our generation seemed to think that Twilight was the first big vampire craze.
The same holds true with dystopian novels. Half of the titles I listed above were published before I was even born, and many of them (along with many others) came from around the same time period. However, it also seems that when people think they can make money off of a certain type of book, the quality can also decline along with the trend. For instance, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Matched by Ally Condie, were, in my opinion, excellent takes on dystopian fiction. They weren’t Hunger Games great to me, but they were well written, good concepts, given the fact that it’s very difficult to be even somewhat original when it comes to jumping onto trends. However, the second books in both of those series, Insurgent and Crossed respectively, failed to impress me.
I think that when wild success hits with the first book (for example, it might be that an author has an idea for a dystopian novel, but no one wants to even take a look at it until it’s a hot topic at the moment) then the second book is written so fast that it lacks in quality and doesn’t carry on what we all liked so much in the first book. Therefore, it makes me not want to read the third book whenever it comes out, because I’ve lost interest. Usually I do want to know what happens to the characters, but I’m not the fan that I was after the first book. It’s in those cases that I really WISH I’d decided to only read the first book.
I notoriously hate second books, though. Recently I wrote about how I found Underworld by Meg Cabot to be somewhat of a let down, and my dislike for New Moon as well. The only second books that I’ve actually loved more than the originals are Lirael by Garth Nix, and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I LOVE Catching FIre, and I love it far more than The Hunger Games or Mockingjay. (If they’re going to split one of the films in half, they should probably split that one, not Mockingjay….)
Anyway, my point about trends is that I wonder what will come back around the block next. Greek Mythology? Ghosts? Dragons? (I could go on and on about the Magic trend too, but I digress)
Greek Mythology concerns me a little bit, because I can’t decide whether I want to include it in my novel or not. It’s just so overdone – but then again, so is everything. It’s difficult to be original, but if you do it right and pull a Suzanne Collins, things will go really, really well for you. That’s what I can’t decide about. I think that the way I’m doing it is fresh and as original as it can be, but who knows? It’s not like I’ve read every book with a Greek Mythology theme out there. My biggest fear is that it will ruin the flow I have going now and that it will simply be too much or that it’ll be like every other book out there and it will fail to stand out.
I guess I have no choice but to write it and find out if I like it once it’s more complete!