Three Undesirable Worlds in '00s Fiction

It might be that you are tired of hearing this: in the time of social distancing, you can immerse yourself in activities you can do at home – like reading the books you haven’t had the time for. However, reading is a wonderful way to spend time as it can take you to completely different realms. The words on the pages of a book describe a fictional world, but you, the reader, bring that world to life in your imagination.

As Her Campus at Helsinki has recently posted articles about what to do at home and how to incorporate more literature in our lives, I wanted to remain faithful to the reading theme. I list three works of fiction from the 2000s that take you to very different places than our current reality – to places far worse. Maybe reading fiction with dystopian elements brings some comfort to us during these troubled times. By imagining worse, unreal circumstances, one might feel grateful for our reality in which we can protect ourselves and others by staying at home even in an exceptional situation. Of course, these novels are also very well-written and captivating, and they awake many more feelings than just dread and sadness.

If reading is not your cup of tea, here’s a treat for you: two of these novels have been adapted into movies and one into a Netflix series. So, buckle up, everyone! Time to get your hands on those (e-)books or grab your remote controls.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (2002)

Altered Carbon is a cyberpunk novel in which human existence has become a commodity. Most people store their consciousness in a cortical stack. If a person dies, their consciousness can be saved and they can be re-sleeved, which means that they get a new body. Technology is advanced, but divisions based on e.g. race and class still exist and opportunities to be re-sleeved are not equal.

The consciousness of Takeshi Kovacs is downloaded into the body of a policeman. Kovacs used to be an Envoy: a super soldier created to deal with interstellar warfare. Laurens Bancroft hires Kovacs to investigate his own murder, which looks like a suicide to others. The investigation familiarises Kovacs with a vile conspiracy in an already harsh world. Altered Carbon has been adapted into a Netflix series in 2018 and the second season came out recently.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004)

Cloud Atlas takes the reader through six different interconnected stories. The reader is introduced to many different periods, e.g. the 19th century and a post-apocalyptic future. Especially the two stories placed in the future demonstrate worlds that make the reader shiver, but the wrongs done in the past are no joke either. The novel investigates how the actions of different individuals impact one another through time. Nothing comes without a consequence. The overall story is not solely a depressing one, as it also presents sparks of hope. Cloud Atlas was adapted into a movie in 2012.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006)

In The Road, a man and his son, both unnamed, wander in post-apocalyptic America. The world of the book is devoid of life and bleak due to some horrific catastrophe that has occurred. As the man and the boy journey through the ruined landscape, they see only devastation. The bond between the duo is moving as they have almost nothing but each other and fight through unimaginable hardships. Is their love for each other enough to keep them alive? The Road was adapted into a movie in 2009.