9 Dystopian Novels That Just Might Be The Next 'Handmaid's Tale'

by Kerri Jarema

It's no secret that The Handmaid's Tale has become a cultural phenomenon for our modern times. Though the book was first published in 1985, the dystopian tale of women's rights (or, frighteningly, lack thereof) has only become more relevant today. And with the popularity of the award-winning Hulu series based on Margaret Atwood's story only continuing to grow, it seems like people everywhere are fascinated by the lives of Offred and the other Handmaids. But, of course, we know that this terrifying take on what the future of women's rights could look like is all too realistic and that its popularity is important because it has provided women and others fighting for womens rights to their own autonomy with a literary reference by which they can be inspired.

But The Handmaid's Tale is not the only book that has tackled this particular theme of dystopia. There are many other authors who have looked to the current implications of women's fight for sexual, reproductive and social rights and imagined what the world might look like if we allow ourselves to continue going down this path. It's difficult, but crucial reading for anyone wanting to learn more about this issue, and figure out what they can do to help us avoid it. Keep reading below for nine picks that were published after The Handmaid's Tale, and continue to keep the conversation going.

'Red Clocks' by Leni Zumas (January 16, 2018)

In Red Clocks, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

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'The Power' by Naomi Alderman

In The Power the world is a recognizable place: there's a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power—they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

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'When She Woke' by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke is the imagined story of a woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed—their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crime—and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder.

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'Unwind' by Neal Shusterman

In Unwind, the Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age 13. Between the ages of 13 and 18, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state, is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

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'Only Ever Yours' by Louise O'Neill

In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful. For the girls left behind, the future—as a concubine or a teacher—is grim.

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'The Jewel' by Amy Ewing

The Jewel means wealth, beauty, royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring. Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

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'Daughters Of The North' by Sarah Hall

In Daughters of the North, England is in a state of environmental crisis and economic collapse. There has been a census, and all citizens have been herded into urban centers. Reproduction has become a lottery, with contraceptive coils fitted to every female of childbearing age. A girl who will become known only as "Sister" escapes the confines of her repressive marriage to find an isolated group of women living as "un-officials" in Carhullan, a remote northern farm, where she must find out whether she has it in herself to become a rebel fighter.

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'The Core Of The Sun' by Johanna Sinisalo

In The Core of the Sun, The Eusistocratic Republic of Finland has bred a new human sub-species of receptive, submissive women, called eloi, for sex and procreation, while intelligent, independent women are relegated to menial labor and sterilized so that they do not carry on their "defective" line. Vanna, raised as an eloi but secretly intelligent, needs money to help her doll-like sister, who has disappeared. Vanna forms a friendship with a man named Jare, and they become involved in buying and selling a stimulant known to the Health Authority to be extremely dangerous: chili peppers.

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'The Stepford Wives' by Ira Levin

For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town's idyllic facade lies a terrible secret—a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.

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