This Month In Literary Dystopian Visions

Three big writers are gazing at their crystal balls — and not liking what they see

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1 | The Sexy One: Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

We’re not sure how women are going to feel about Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk’s new novel, Beautiful You, but the girls in this book are sure having a great time. That’s because they’re getting to know a new sex toy that sends them to such giddy heights of pleasure they’re locking themselves into their rooms.

Of course, it’s all the dastardly plan of one genius entrepreneur, C Linus Maxwell, known to his public unsurprisingly as Climax-Well, essentially a cross between Steve Jobs and Christian Grey, who has co-opted an ordinary Plain Jane called Penny to be the test subject of his new inventions. But Penny has a shelf life – Climax-Well never dates a woman for more than 136 days — and when her time is up she sets out to undo his damage. Palahniuk’s satire is uproariously unpleasant and explicit – let’s hope 50 Shades fans can spot the difference.

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Out now (Jonathan Cape)


2 | The Real One: Amnesia by Peter Carey

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A female hacker, Gaby, has unleashed a computer virus called Angel Worm that unlocks the doors of all of Australia’s prisons – and America’s, too. The US wants her extradited, where a death sentence for cyber terrorism could await her, but will an account of her motives, ghost-written by journalist-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown Felix, be enough to save her?

The nods to Wikileaks’ Julian Assange (whose own autobiography was painfully ghost-written by Esquire’s editor-at-large Andrew O’Hagan and remains unpublished) and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden may be obvious, but older and more worldly readers may also get the subtle references to the downfall of the Whitlam Government in Australia in 1975. Slander? Scandal? Scarily familiar? It’s a dystopian vision, certainly, but one that Carey would argue keeps happening again and again.

Out now (Faber & Faber)


3 | The Scary One: The Peripheral by William Gibson

When it comes to speculative fiction that reveals how we live by creating a not too unimaginable alternative reality, William Gibson is the don. Neuromancer, which came out, rather fittingly, in 1984, predicted a hellish version of the world wide web, and now he’s going back to the future. The Peripheral is set in two future worlds and again looks at the terrifying potential implications of our online existences and everything that goes with them.

The two versions are set either side of an apocalyptic happening called “the jackpot”, an environmental and economic collapse that creates even greater and grosser wealth disparity: the two protagonists from each future, a young mercenary gamer called Flynne in the first, and a struggling septuagenarian publicist in the second, set 100 years later, find their lives intertwining in a time-travelling mystery. Like we said, the don.

Out on 27 November (Viking)

Which will you read?


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