The word dystopia has been thrown around a lot lately. It's a useful term to refer to novels that take place in a world where there's been a big change in the way society runs things. I've used it myself to refer to, say, The Hunger Games. But a discussion of how exactly to define dystopia has made the Internet rounds lately, and this flowchart in particular got me thinking. (Click to embiggen, as they say.)
Dystopia is the opposite of utopia, and in the novels that I think perfectly fit the designation, those in power have tried to create one. In The Giver, the community has eliminated pain and suffering by eliminating emotion. Ditto, basically, for Delirium. In Divergent, the "solution" to humanity's problems is to isolate and strengthen each of five dominant human characteristics, and in Uglies, it's to make everyone look and think the same way. There's some overlap, certainly, among the solutions in many of the above and others like them (to mention both The Giver and Delirium is to think of Matched). Most of them involve some degree of removing difference and emotion in an effort to remove the problems that surround them, and I think we keep exploring that idea because it seems tempting. But then, of course, the dys comes in; the "solution" turns out not to be worthwhile.
I'm loathe to, ahem, let go of my beloved Knife of Never Letting Go as a dystopia, and one might argue that the decision to start a society on New World counts as an attempt at a utopia, though it's much clearer from the outset how wrong things have gone. But there's little if any pretense that the Capitol in The Hunger Games is making its decisions for the good of the community.
In any case, we've had a spate of novels lately that show ways our society could change dramatically, complete with characters who deal with it in interesting and often inspiring ways. Not bad for a follow-up to the vampire trend.