What is “Dystopian”?

Raise your hand if you can define the word “dystopian.”

Anyone? Anyone? (Bueller? Bueller?) It’s hard for me to raise my hand and I’m writing it! I figured since I’m promoting my dystopian book, A Time to Die (which releases in 5 weeks! Ahh!) I might as well educate everyone on the term dystopian because, honestly, I didn’t even know what it meant when I was pitching my book.

Let’s start with the big picture: speculative fiction.

Speculative fiction is just a giant door leading to a hundred tiny doors called subgenres.Blog - Spec Fic Subgenres

There are three agreed-upon main genres to speculative fiction: Fantasy, Science-Fiction, and Horror. All the subgenres — including dystopian — fall under one of these.

I’ve seen these listed under both Fantasy and Science Fiction genres, but mostly under science fiction because of the futuristic societies. Advanced technology, time travel, and space flight are especially common in dystopians.

What is the Dystopian Genre?

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins really kick-started the fame of dystopian literature, although dystopian lit existed long before that. A dystopian society is an undesirable place to live, under the power of a single oppressive force — often times, this is a totalitarian or authoritarian government that takes liberties away from the inhabitants.

When you break down the Greek roots of the word dystopia, it literally means, “Bad place to live.”

Dystopian novels are set in a fictional universe, commonly an evolved future of our current world. Sometimes the dystopian world will carry the pretense of being perfect, well-balanced, and protective. The antagonist in dystopian fiction is usually the society, the culture, and the political problems. For example, Katniss Everdeen’s greatest enemy is The Hunger Games, what it causes, and what it represents. She fights against it and, in fighting it, she must then stand up to the political leaders and the cultural norm.

Dystopian fiction tends to build off of present day trends. Classic authors frequently wrote them as warnings of what might happen if trends continued as they were, which makes me wonder — what has happened in our lifetime or history that was accurately predicted in a classic dystopian novel? Can you think of anything?

9780982104989-SmallerExamples of classic dystopian lit are:

  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Modern examples of dystopian literature:

  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  • Divergent, by Veronica Roth
  • The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Dystopian literature in the Christian market:

(The majority of this post was originally posted on March 14, 2014 at
 Enclave Publishing.)


So, now that you know what dystopian means, do you want to win an advanced copy of my dystopian book, A Time to Die? I mean, really, who doesn’t? It’s free! It’s early! And (hopefully) it’s a good read.

If you haven’t kept up with the past posts, let me give you a quick run-down.

  • This is the LAST advanced copy of A Time to Die that I’m giving out.
  • What does an advanced copy mean? Well, it means you get a copy of my book earlier than the rest of the world, in exchange for an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or (preferably and) your personal blog if you have one.
  • If you don’t win one of the paperback ARCs you only have to wait five weeks until it’s released! Hurray!
  • What is A Time to Die about? Here you go:

You can read an excerpt from chapter one here. Or join my newsletter and read the entirety chapter one!

How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?
Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system.
But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.
This is book one in the “Out of Time” trilogy (subsequent volumes coming in 2015 and 2016).


The WINNER from last week’s Rafflecopter ARC giveaway is: Allison Heinrichs. Congratulations! Please check your e-mail inbox (if it’s empty, shoot me an e-mail through the contact page.)

Everyone else, don’t forget to enter for this week’s ARC of A Time to Die. This is the LAST ONE up for grabs! If you’re not interested (or have already won) please share with a friend, family member, old college roommate, centaur, or giant squid you think would enjoy it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you purchase a copy of A Time to Die when it releases, are you going for ebook or paperback? 

Do you feel like you have a good grasp on what “dystopian” means?




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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. I’m looking forward to reading it, Nadine! I’ll get the eBook when it is released.

  2. Well Nadine, I read the first chapter of A Time to Die, and now I’m officially hooked. That means if I don’t win this final ARC (which I hope I do!), then I simply have to buy it when it’s released.

    And now my question for you: When did you come up with the intriguing idea that is the basis of the story–everyone knowing exactly when they will die–and what brought about such inspiration?

  3. Looking forward to reading the rest of your book. When I buy it paper back is what I will be getting.

  4. It’s so fun to follow along on your progress Nadine! I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to read it!

  5. I am old school too and love to hold the pages of the book in my hands. I remember (when I wanted to be a librarian as a little kid) how much I loved the smell of new books, walking through the hall at school when the book fair was going on and using my birthday money to order the .99 special books that Scholastics had. Good memories.

  6. I am excited to read your book. I definitely hop I win.

  7. It sounds really good! I will probably opt for e- book!

  8. Can’t wait for the book to come out!! I love all things dystopian, so I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy this story. To answer the last question, I definitely prefer paper back books to ebooks. 🙂

  9. Jennifer Evans

    Hmm… If I knew when I would die? Interesting. In some respect, I already live as though I know when I’ll die. After all, the Bible warns us to that our days are numbered and to live with expectation of eternity. Whether I have fifty more years or fifty more seconds, what’s the difference in light of eternity? On the other hand, there’s a lot a girl can do for the glory of God in fifty years! So, I would continue to grow my relationship with Christ and listen to His calling for my life, although I might do this with more urgency if I had a definite deadline (pun not intended).

  10. Pingback: Dystopian Review: The Choosing, by Rachelle Dekker - Nadine Brandes

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