Monday, March 29, 2010

The Silver Lining

I woke up this morning and it was thundering, raining, and there was a tornado warning in place.  So of course, my mood went to a dark place.  I'm not a morning person, so small things tend to become catastrophic.  A barking dog feels like a jackhammer, a dripping coffee cup is Niagara Falls on my floor.  But despite my morning grumpiness, I always try to hold onto the hope that the rest of the day will be better.

Dystopia's are huge right now.  Everyone wants to see the end of the world.  Publishers are throwing six-figure deals out like the world really is ending and they've got the cash to burn.  I'm not sure why, but people are interested in seeing the end of life as we know it.  But my fear is that without enough hope, people are going to burn out on this fast.

I really enjoyed Susan Beth Pfeffer's LIFE AS WE KNEW IT.  I read the follow up as well.  However a friend of mine refused to read the second because the first was so depressing.  The relentlessness and the desperation got to her and, even after I told her that book three might feature a little romance she'd dig, she wanted nothing to do with the series.  Her loss, I say, but it still illustrates the point.

THE HUNGER GAMES managed to deal with a dystopia and give us hope, but even I was a little worn down by the constant brutality of the world.  But nowhere did this idea crystalize more than while I watched THE ROAD.

Let me first tell you that THE ROAD is a beautiful movie.  Beautiful.  There's something so moving between the father and son.  However, it's a movie without hope.  It shows us a world without plants or animals.  A world where people resort to cannibalism.  Where rape is not only common, but expected.  And as I watched this story unfold--the man and the boy traveled to the coast--I waited for some sign that things might eventually get better.  They never did.  The movie is brutally hopeless.  Despite the boy surviving, we aren't shown a world in which surviving is a good option.  There is no silver lining here.  Everyone in the world that I was shown will eventually starve to death and die.

I hope, as the wave of dystopian novels washes over us, that writers and publishers remember that dark and gritty makes for an intriguing premise, but it's hope that keeps us hanging on.


  1. I'm so with you on this. I love hope--and that's a big piece of dystopia that keeps me reading. I'll throw-out a movie: Resident Evil. Yes, lots of killing and mashing and all that, but then there's that ending in Apocolypse...yeah, we're gonna save the world with Alice's blood. Awesome.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. It's very scary to read Scientific American and see how far we're pushing the planet. According to the latest issue, there are three areas (one was the nitrogen/phosphate cycle; I'm not sure of the other two) where we've already exceeded the limits for sustainability. I really wonder what kind of world my son will live in; I don't want it to be a real dystopia. Even if we all make changes now (and of course human nature being what it is, we won't), will it be enough? I don't know, yet I must act as if there's hope. Giving up is a guarantee for failure.

  3. Chantal: You know, I've never seen Resident Evil. I may have to pick it up.

    Sandra: I found this infographic once. Here's the link. It's scary that we may already be past the point of no return. And there are people actually denying global warming. But we have to have hope. You're absolutely right, if we don't try, we'll only fail.

  4. Great observation about hope, Shaun. I'm a huge fan of dystopian fiction.

  5. Dystopian fiction is something I've only recently started reading, but I was a huge fan of Hunger Games. I also liked the movie I Am Legend...despite the fact that I can't watch it at night or I'll have nightmares and the fact that it moves me to tears because it's so flippin depressing (oh man, when he had to kill his dog, I lost it!) But it does end on a note of hope...they find the other survivors and deliver the cure. Good stuff :)

  6. Great post. It depends on my mood whether I want a dystopian story to have a positive (or somewhat positive) ending. If I'm feeling a bit grim, I might need some hope at the end. But sometimes keeping it gritty and bitter at the end is just what the doctor ordered. I can't say why, but sometimes it just feels right to have it that way.

    Oh, and thanks a ton for the bookmarks. My boys love em. Now they can't wait for the book :)


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.