Best Dystopian Audiobooks
The best dystopian audiobooks to plug and play.
The best dystopian audiobooks reveal worlds replete with hardship and injustice. Some are seeming utopias or look much like our own society, their rotten core revealed as the story progresses. Others are in ruins, under the thrall of dictatorship or unrecognisably futuristic.
Hold on, I hear you cry. You’re just describing the genre. What makes some dystopian audiobooks rise above the rest?
Building an authentic reality is vital. It could be based in space, in Siberia or in the author’s bedroom, but it has to feel real. As do the characters, whose plight or journey must grab readers faster than Orwell’s Thought Police. Finally, there is the performance, which must fit the tone of the book as well as the characters.
Best Dystopian Audiobooks 2020
In reality, 2020 was more apocalyptic than dystopian, but people still wanted their fill of bleak fiction, to escape to any worlds different from their own. Perhaps that’s why dystopian sci fi audiobooks hit so big in lockdown.
I could wax dystopian all day, but it’s time to get to the good stuff. The top ten. Hallowed be the fruit, may the odds be ever in your favour and have your Soma at the ready. We're going in.
Best Dystopian Audiobooks 2021
Feminism took centre stage in 2021, with top dystopian audio books such as The End of Men and The Grace Year capturing imaginations and best seller rankings. Who run dystopian worlds? Girls.
Best Dystopian Audiobooks 2022
Dystopias are ruling the roost in 2022. Leading the charge is The School for Mothers.
Top 10 Dystopian Audiobooks
Margaret Atwood takes us to Gilead, a theocracy where Offred is a handmaid, enslaved to breed children for her master.
Atwood doesn’t do things by halves. She builds her creepy world down to the tiniest details, making it easy to see how this has become a modern classic. I originally listened to Joanna David narrate this. Nowadays, it’s read by an entire cast led by the TV show’s star, Elisabeth Moss.
Kafka explores authoritarian rule from a satirical angle in The Trial. In the story, Joseph K is an upstanding member of society. Why then has he been arrested? They won’t tell him. But everything he says or does only further confirms his guilt. Funny, dark and chilling, this is dystopia distilled into one of its most sinister facets.
Panem rose out of the ruins of North America. Depending on where you’re born, life can be harsh and unforgiving or glittering and opulent. And in this polarised society ruled by the most brutal of regimes, children are forced to fight for their lives in The Hunger Games. The original narrator, Carolyn McCormick, gives a sinister performance I quite enjoyed, since replaced by Tatiana Maslany, who is excellent as the voice of Katniss.
Sci-Fi royalty Wil Wheaton reads this upbeat, entertaining take on the dystopian genre. And, while Ready Player One is very much set in a miserable authoritarian regime, it is one where virtual reality offers an exciting escape. Chock full of 80s pop culture references, this action packed tale is just plain fun.
It’s the 1960s. We’re in Berlin. And Hitler has won the War. Initially, this chilling setting seems almost incidental. Robert Harris begins in what’s seemingly a detective mystery, but which develops into an action thriller, uncovering a mass conspiracy. It’s the allusions to small details that make this such a potent picture of this terrifying alternate history, whether it is casually referring to The Fuhrer or SS ranks.
Best of the Rest Dystopian Books
Phew. That was difficult. Selecting just ten best dystopian audio novels was a wrench. So here are yet more brilliant examples of this dark genre, listed A-Z.
Jason Culp, Stephanie Komure, Micky Shiloah, Joe Knezevich, Brianna Ishibashi, Kotaro Watanabe, Matthew Bridges, Kurt Kanazawa, Greg Watanabe, Jeanne Sakata, MacLeod Andrews, Keisuke Hoashi, Brian Nishii, Julia Whelan
High Praise for this Darkest of Tales
A Melancholy Swan Song Worth A Listen