Sales of dystopian fiction have skyrocketed since President Trump’s inauguration. This may be in response to his extreme Executive Orders or as backlash against ‘alternative facts’. The Handmaid’s Tale
have been flying off the shelves, but there are some less obvious novels which can also offer some commentary on or insight into the current political situation.
Here are the best for you to check out:
The Plot Against America
The rise of the authoritarian President in this book could almost be based on Trump’s success, and nigh on predicted it almost a decade beforehand. It is also a good example of how Trump’s policies could begin to spiral out of control and end up being much more than supposed ‘security measures’. The way this book shows potential for institutionalised racism and racial segregation to become the new norm makes it seem less like dystopian fiction than a possible historical narrative. On that note it will also make you question all the history you know – talk about alternative facts.
The Parable of the Talents
Not unlike Roth, Octavia Butler pretty much predicted Trump through her violent autocrat Senator Andrew Steele Jarret. Jarret has a lot of parallels with our current president, as do his supporters, for example through religious intolerance and mob-like behaviour. He is described as “
a demagogue, a rabble-rouser, and a hypocrite,” and it becomes obvious that his right-wing politics is pushing his party and supporters towards fascism. The part that will really send shivers down your spine will be his rallying call to “make America great again.” You can’t make this up.
Pynchon’s penchant for real estate moguls is fascinating in his critique of American capitalism and Mickey Wolfmann from Inherent Vice
is the most relevant – as well as being the face of American capitalism, his dubious business ties indicate illegal dealings, and his actual property includes a strip mall who’s only business is a brothel, not to mention the ‘gentrification’ which verges on ethnic cleansing in order to drive property prices up. Oh and his body guard is a neo-nazi. It would be incredibly easy to see this as a telling satire of a Trump-like figure, but the novel does more than this – despite being rooted in the 70s it is rooted in the issues that concern us today – suggesting we haven’t moved all that far.
The apocalyptic event that has resulted in the world of McCarthy’s The Road
is unspecified, however it isn’t hard to imagine it being the result on the environmental destruction caused by the current administration. Equally it could very well have been due to a nuclear blast, courtesy of a trigger happy president thanks to a twitter war gone wrong. In all seriousness though, this novel shows us what we could be in for and there are now a myriad of ways we could get there.
Catch-22 is rooted in a very specific historical period, however the sheer ridiculousness of bureaucracy and incompetence in it is perfect. Moreover the business rhetoric of Milo Minderbinder is reminiscent of another American businessman, and despite Milo’s failings in his syndicate, and lack of any leadership experience, he finds himself thrust into positions of power in towns and countries across Africa and Asia. Sounding familiar? The novel also encompasses and reflects a big problem for those of use who would love to see Trump impeached but are terrified of Pence in power, giving us a second reason to look at where the phrase Catch-22 came from.
Bonus – one for younger readers:
Yertle the Turtle
If you didn’t already know Dr Suess is the pinnacle of political commentary then don’t knock it because there is so much more than just a children’s book here. This book was actually an allegory of Hilter’s rule and a warning against authoritarian leadership. A warning we clearly didn’t listen to, because you will definitely recognise something in Yertle’s behaviour. Trump’s need to prove he is the best, regardless of things like truth and fact can be seen in Yertle’s desperate need to be higher than anyone else.