CC's Top Ten Dystopian Reads You've Probably Never Heard Of
Updated: Oct 13, 2022
Everyone knows the classics from school reading lists - The Giver (yes, it's Dystopian!), 1984, and Brave New World. Maybe you've seen the movies spawned from new dystopian classics like Hunger Games, Ready Player One, Divergent, or Maze Runner.
But have you ever read Station Eleven, Marie Lu's Legend or the YA heavy-on-the-romance Selection series by Kierra Cass? If not, start there!
Read those already? Then, you'll love these reads. Some are lesser known, others are gaining notoriety. Proceed with caution. Some are so horrifying they may keep you up at night or motivate you to stock up on canned goods and bottled water (eh-hmm End of the World Running Club?).
In no particular order, here are my ten favorites you've probably never read:
1. The Flow Series by Clare Littlemore
I've already mentioned this series on my blog, so I won't belabor this. The Flood meets Hunger Games meets Handmaiden's Tale. Go read it. All the books in the series are available to read for free if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.
2. Pacifica by Kristen Simmons
Ms. Simmons has gained some level of notoriety in the young adult reading community for her Article 5 series (which I devoured), but this standalone is worth the read. Again, this is climate fiction with a speculative twist plus action and characters that don't disappoint. Ms. Simmon's website has all her book series, plus links to order online.
3. Red Rising Series by Pierce Brown
Read these before some movie producers snatch up the rights and make a movie that we'll all be debating about. Think the caste system meets Hunger Games set on Mars. I stayed up all night finishing this first title! This series has massive appeal because of its crossover of speculative science fiction, with political thriller and dystopian themes. Plus @piercebrownofficial has one of the coolest Instagram profiles in the author business.
4. Survival Trilogy by Morgan Rice
Arena 1, the heart-pounding start to this trilogy, made me never want to visit NYC again. I swear I'll never see Madison Square Gardens the same. Dark, thrilling, with a twist you'll never see coming (and no, I won't tell you which book it's in!). One of the best dystopian trilogies you've never even heard of, let alone read. Once you dive into Morgan Rice, it may take you a few months to read her extended backlist, which ranges from space opera to dystopian to sci-fi / fantasy. Check out her author page on Amazon here and you'll see what I mean. Prolific, much?
5. The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones
Ms. Jones has combined a literary style of writing with dystopian themes in this stand-alone. For fans of Station Eleven or Keystone, though not so high-brow that the rest of us plebes won't enjoy it, too. I loved the characters and the premise. The setting, haunting and eye-opening, wasn't too shabby, either. Are you on Goodreads? I left a review for this book here.
6. Femlandia by Christina Dalcher
Brave New World meets Lord of the Flies female edition in this gender-dystopia (a whole new sub-specialty in dystopian!). You might think an all-female society is a good idea, but read this first. Horrifying. Ladies, we need men around to keep us from being utterly crazy! She gets mixed reviews on Goodreads, but go for it. Follow Christina @cv_dalcher on Instagram for her outstanding scuba diving photos and info on her appearances, like the one here.
7. The Fringe series by Tarah Benner
I checked this out from the library on a whim maybe 5-6 years ago and I still remember lines. The series had echoes of Dune or maybe Maze Runner's sequel Scorch Trials, with keep-you-up-at-night action that won't stop until you're dead on your feet. Not sure how this series did commercially, but I enjoyed it! Find Tarah's Author page on Amazon here and check out her other series if desert dystopian isn't your thing.
8. The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J. Waker
What is it about Great Britain as the setting for some of the most harrrowing dystopian novels??? Asteroid meets Earth and not-very-likeable main character meets all his worst nightmares in this study in humanity and one man's transformation at the end of the world.
Trigger warning - there were times I was so disturbed I had to take a break. But every time I was back for more. I had to see if they survived and if my suspicions about the so-called rescuers' motives were correct.
Mr. Walker calls his writing "speculative fiction" but I would say yes, with a heavy dose of post-apocalyptic horror. Check out his website for all the latest including his new release, The Human Son, which is on my Goodreads want-to-read list.
9. An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir
In a world inspired by the ancient Roman Empire, a decidedly not-privileged Laia becomes a spy within the CIA meets Army Rangers - equivalent school. Boy meets girl (this book is "clean" in the romance department). They battle and find out they have the same aim, and then their world turns upside down. I won't spoil it because you HAVE. TO. READ. THIS. BOOK. This is one series I'm itching for Hollywood to get ahold of. I'd love to see what they do with Books 2-3 (now I've done it, right?). This series is addicting. Good for you, it's all out now. I had to wait for the new book to drop every single time. Worse than waiting on the next episode in the Wheel of Time Amazon Prime series! Find out what Sabaa is up to on her website here.
10. The Roar Series by Emma Clayton
[Are you noticing a genre trope yet? We dystopian authors need 3-4 books to get it all done.]
Ms. Clayton's Roar grabs you by the throat, whirls you around and doesn't let go in this series set in some-distant-future London. Beasts, cyborgs, a sufficiently controlling government, a wall, and twins separated (not at birth, that would be too predictable) all combine to make this series un-put-down-able. This series, while aimed at young adult and maybe even middle grade, will please adult dystopian readers who like a clean / light-on-the-romance read. If I ever find myself behind The Wall, I'll know Clayton's world has come to pass. This series was her debut, and she's published nada since - such a shame! Find it on Goodreads here.
That's all for today! If you've read a dystopian, speculative fiction or sci-fi you loved, share about it in the comments below! And follow me on Instagram for real-time updates on life, reading, writing and my journey to publication.