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What to Read If You Love The Handmaid's Tale
If the season finale of The Handmaid's Tale has left you with a gaping void in your life, these fantastic novels will provide all the dystopian drama and social-order horror you're craving.
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The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale
Children are forced to defend their puritanical village from soul-eating monsters that devour adults — but one young girl feels a strange and magnetic kinship with the darkness outside the village, and the monsters that lurk there. Order it here.
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The Children of Men by P.D. James
In perhaps the closest parallel to The Handmaid's Tale, James' novel centers on civilization after humans have become totally infertile, leading to panic and widespread depression. But a young woman and her cadre of revolutionaries appear, and so does a bit of hope. Order it here.
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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Three children grow up together at an elite boarding school, where they’re constantly told how special and important they are. But as teenagers, they reunite and start to understand what exactly that school—and their “purpose”—actually is. Order it here.
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The Stand by Stephen King
It may not be pollution or STDs like in The Handmaid's Tale, but King's classic novel features a super flu (a.k.a. “Captain Trips”) that was modified for biological warfare. It's leak results in a pandemic that decimates most of the population, causing two separate factions of survivors to then face off against each other. Order it here.
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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This brilliant novel follows a group of actors and musicians who travel the ravaged earth, bringing art to the survivors of a global pandemic that wiped out 99.9% of the population. But soon, a cruel prophet and his followers threaten the lives they’ve worked so hard to rebuild. Order it here.
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The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
The Handmaid’s Tale allowed Margaret Atwood to explore what could happen to women in the distant future. The Left Hand of Darkness allowed Le Guin to do something similar as she delved into what a world not influenced by gender might be like through the more androgynous inhabitants of Gethen, one that her protagonist, Genly Ai — a male native of Terra who has been assigned to be an envoy to the planetary system — is confused by at first. Order it here.
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The Bees by Laline Paull
Readers will recognize elements of Offred in Flora 717, a lowly sanitation bee born with unusual abilities that allow her to see just what other bees must do to keep the hive running out of loyalty to their Queen. Her gifts lead her to challenge her Queen’s authority, but when the hive is threatened with destruction, Flora 717 might be the only one with the key to its survival. Order it here.
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Unwind by Neal Shusterman
After the events of the Second Civil War, the basis of which was abortion rights, parents have the option of having their kids “unwound” between the ages of 13 and 18. This results in their organs being transplanted into different donors — a fate awaiting the difficult-to-control Connor, ward of the state Risa, and Lev, a tithe (a baby conceived and raised simply to be unwound). Order it here.
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When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
The dystopian, future-set When She Woke retelling of A Scarlet Letter presents the story of Hannah, a woman living in a not-too-distant future where women’s rights have been stripped away, and the church and state have merged and begun to “chrome” criminals (genetically alter their skin to match the color-coded crime they might have committed) instead of imprisoning them. After Hannah is accused of murder, and her skin chromed red, she attempts to navigate life in America and sets off on a journey of self-discovery. Order it here.
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Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Imagine if every impure thought you ever had, from sexual longing to violent urges, caused visible plumes of smoke to waft out of your body. Then imagine this only happens to the “wicked” lower classes, and the aristocracy takes their lack of smoke as proof of their virtue. That’s the Dickensian world of Smoke. Order it here.
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Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
This 1976 classic of both speculative fiction and feminist literature (sound familiar?) centers on Mexican American Connie Ramos, homeless and bereft, who is unfairly sent to a mental institution. There, a messenger from the year 2137 contacts her and she sees a utopian society where men, women, and all races are treated as equal. But she also sees another vision for society, in which people have become commodities. It's up to Connie to determine which comes true. Order it here.
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Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
The second novel in Johansen’s dystopian-to-the-point-of-medieval Tearling trilogy sees Queen Kelsea Glynn flash back to life before the creation of her kingdom so she can learn how best to save it from a war with the advancing Red Queen. Only her repeated connection to Lily, a woman who was alive years ago, reveals a still dystopian past where women’s rights are strictly controlled by those in power. Order it here.