With all the dystopian booklists popping up during the Covid-19 epidemic, I’m astounded not to see The Giver on more lists. Isn’t it the ultimate dystopia?
Authors, read this book if you want an example of an exquisitely developed alternate universe. Anytime I read a dystopian novel, it gets compared to this story. I ask, “How fully did I feel the world actually existed? How strong are my reactions to this new reality?” I first heard this story when I was about eleven years old. To this day, I can still picture Jonas’ world exactly the same as I did the first time. I see black and white. I see bicycles. I see the Nurturing Center, the Elders, the Ceremony. If you’re building a universe based on our reality, I suggest starting here.
Readers, read this book if you want to escape from our world for a little while, but not into an anxiety-ridden experience. During this pandemic, many people are saying they can’t focus, can’t read. This is a short, simple, easy book that will pull you away from our reality into another.
What I want to tell people about this book is if you like dystopian novels but don’t want the savageness of Lord of the Flies or the harshness of 1984 or the bizarreness of Brave New World, this is a perfect fit, a gentle book.
This book in a word? Bleak.
Yet, also highly relevant and reflective of our world at this precise moment of the pandemic.
Authors, read this if you want to see an example of an example of too much telling instead of showing. The opening chapters are devoted to world building and a how-did-we-get-here? explanation. When I began reading, I felt I was being schooled in economics, not diving into an established world. Once the rules are established, however, Shriver weaves threads of a family saga that reflect a very possible and dire future for the US, maybe even the world.
When I first began telling people about the book, I said, "Imagine if the economic and social collapse in Venezuela between 2010 and 2020 happened in the US. That’s the start of The Mandibles."
Readers, read this if you want to imagine how life in the US could look if we carry on living the way we do. I love dystopian novels, but often the worlds are unrecognizable. In The Mandibles, I could imagine the suffering my friends and family would experience if what Shriver predicts should come to pass. She actually foresaw the madness that would surround toilet paper if the end of the world were near.
Also, despite the title, it isn’t a future dystopia; it’s about the US's current society failing—and let's be honest, it's pretty dystopian already, even if its citizens won't admit it—it's about regular people relying on those in charge and trusting them to know what’s going on, counting on them to set out reliable, fair systems to govern our daily lives, and hoping those people are working for everyone’s benefit.
Anyone reading the political news in 2020 knows that theory is not the case.
What I want to tell readers about this book is that economics matters. Don’t let the government get away with trying to do sneaky things. Invest in the knowledge because it’s in your own interest to do so.
I read a lot and I hope to help authors with the craft of writing. I share good examples of difficult aspects of writing: point of view, narration, world building and more.