Category: Movies

A Highly Personal List Of Best Dystopian Novels

An abandoned car under a tarpaulin in the woods, an illustration for dystopian novels. Black and white photo by Mihaela Limberea.

It’s no secret I love a good dystopian novel, and if it’s science-fiction, even better. It seems that I’m not alone: almost all of these novels have been turned into movies or TV series. Although, after living through 2020, I’m not sure how popular dystopian books or movies would be. But who knows? Maybe we’ll still watch them and find solace in their misery; our world is still better. (Is it? Here you have some food for thought to last you a while).

Ranting done, here’s my highly personal list of best dystopian novels.

I’ve been a longtime fan of Stephen KIng’s novels (and his On Writing is my writing bible). I like all his books, but some I love a bit more, and The Stand remains my favorite; the best Sci-Fi/Horror and the ultimate Stephen King book. It’s huge (around 1.400 pages, and I love to lose myself in long books) and spellbinding, sucking you in and never letting go. If you haven’t read it, I envy you that first reading.

I’m looking forward to watching the new series, although the reviews have been lukewarm. It seems Stephen Kind doesn’t have any luck with the film adaptation of his novels. The Shining is the exception that proves the rule. Cell was…decent, but that’s about it; unfortunately, because King’s novels are made to be brought to the screen. Bonus: Stephen King ranks the best and the worst adaptations of his books.

Station Eleven is a deeply melancholy haunting book, a page-turner and a poem at once, set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse. Think Cormac McCarthy meets Joan Didion. 

Twenty years after a flu pandemic that wiped out most of humanity, a small group of actors and musicians – The Traveling Symphony – travel in a caravan to various communities to play music and perform Shakespeare plays in a post-apocalyptic world. “Because survival is insufficient.” says on the side of their caravan—storytelling as a means of spiritual survival, hope, and connection.

A mini-series based on the book is in production. In an eerie coincidence, it began filming in Chicago in mid-January, the same week the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the U.S.

  • Cormac McCarthy, The Road.  A deeply unsettling, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son’s fight to survive, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It’s a simple and short melancholic book, with a raw emotional pull that offers nothing to comfort.

A father and his son walk alone in a post-apocalyptic, devastated America, where nothing moves but the gray ashes of the snow and the unforgivingly cold wind. Sustained only by their unconditional love, they move slowly and cautiously towards the coast, a beacon of hope in a land that lost all hope.

Starring Viggo Mortensen in one of his best roles, the 2009 movie is an excellent adaptation; visually compelling, grim and desolate and terrible as you’d expect from the book. Depressing too, I won’t lie; The Road is not one of those end-of-the-world movies with lucky escapes, unlikely action scenes, and a happy end.

  • Marlen Haushofer, The Wall, written in a stream of conscious style that never becomes monotonous, is a haunting survival story, disturbing and beautiful, by the Austrian author Marlen Haushofer (1920 – 1970).

The book is a journal kept by a never-named narrator, a middle-aged woman, the only survivor of an unknown event that killed everyone and sealed her off by a transparent and impenetrable wall somewhere in the Austrian Alps.

It’s a reflective book, going very slowly, and if you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-filled end-of-the-world novel, this is not it. It’s more like The Road, terrible things happening in an unforgiving world, narrated in a slow and desolate way, to become unsettling and heart-breaking stories.

There’s an Austrian movie based on the book, Die Wand (2012), but it’s not largely available outside Austria and Germany. It’s on Amazon Prime in some locations; sadly, not in Sweden. Here’s the trailer. And an interview with the director, Julian Pölsler, talking about the book and challenges in making the movie.

The hero, Robert Neville, seems to be the only human left in the world, the rest being killed or turned into vampires. He spends his nights barricaded indoors, praying for dawn; and his days, killing as many vampires as he can while they’re sleeping.

Matheson combines science-fiction and horror (including vampires, decades before vampires became fashionable) into a fundamental piece about humanity; about loneliness, survival, and prejudice in a plague devastated world.

The movie is fine but has little to do with the book. It’s good to know if you’ve seen the movie and want to read the book.

I don’t want to spoil your discovery of this gem of a book. Suffice to say that there’s indeed a dog (in danger), a loving human desperate to save the said dog, all in the background of a post-apocalyptic world.

It’s a young-adult book, but don’t let that fool you. It’s a thrilling and heartwarming book, and I didn’t want it to end. And when it did, I hoped Fletcher would come back to this world and give us more.

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The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020

  1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020
  14. The Zone: No. 14 – Jan 21, 2020
  15. The Zone: No. 15 – Jan 28, 2020
  16. The Zone: No. 16 – Feb 4, 2020
  17. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!

The Map of Doom (say what?), Cal Newport on technology improving productivity, The Queen’s Gambit, and more in The Zone No. 9.

  • The Map of Doom: A 20 minutes summary of all the threats to mankind, ranked. All right, apparently still on annus horibilis. Let’s move on to less gloomy subjects, shall we?
Harry Potter inspired ASMR – Hogwarts Library
A picture of Hippocampal mouse neuron juxtaposed to a picture of a  Cosmic web to show similarities in structure.
One of these pictures is the brain, the other the universe. Which is which?
  • The Tom & Jerry movie is coming to theaters 2021. Yay! I grew up with Tom & Jerry cartoons, so I’m looking forward to it; the trailer looks promising.
A picture of the NK department store in Stockholm, Sweden with a huge Christmas tree hanging from the ceiling. The scene depicts a book signing by author Maria Varga Llosa in 2010, the year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
Mario Vargas Llosa signing books at NK in 2010.
  • First Nobel Peace Prizes were awarded to Red Cross founder Jean Henri Dunant and peace activist Frederic Passy on December 10th, 1901. I would look forward to the Nobel Prize ceremonies (literature only, to be honest) and the usual book signing by the Nobel literature laureate in the NK department store every year. Alas, not this year. Everything is digital. Fingers crossed for next year. Hope dies last as they say.

A Quote I’m Pondering

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. Every great idea I’ve ever had grew out of work itself. 

 Chuck Close

From My Photo Archives

Close up of white Christmas roses or Helleborus in full bloom. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
Helleborus in full bloom. I know it’s called a Christmas rose, but it usually blooms in March here. Normally we would have a lot of snow between November and February hence the March blooming. But not this year. It seems everything is different this year.

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To read more The Zone posts, click here.

The Diva Dance

The Diva Dance is an otherworldly song performed by an alien opera singer called Diva Plavalaguna in The Fifth Element, an iconic Science-Fiction movie and, incidentally, one of my favorite movies.

Plavalaguna’s song, written by Eric Serra, starts with Il dolce suono, an aria from the opera Lucia de Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti; then continues with the Diva Dance.

Eric Serra had written the song so that it wouldn’t be possible for a singer to hit some of the high notes so quickly after another. The original song was performed in the movie by the Albanian opera singer Inva Mula, and she had to sing those high notes individually; then they were arranged digitally.

Here’s the (digitally enhanced) original. Rumor has it that the wonder you see on Bruce Willis’ face when he listens to her is real. That was the first time he heard the song and seen the actress in full costume and makeup.

I remember seeing the movie and listening to the song for the first time. It still gives me goosebumps. The song and Mula’s performance are not of this world.

Bonus: Eric Serra talking about the scene.

Jane Zhang, a Chinese opera singer, took on the challenging song and hit all the notes without computer help. Listen to her amazing performance from 2015; it’ll give you goosebumps!

Bonus: Jane Zhang’s Italian fan site describing that 2015 evening (the text is in English).

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