Next month, book lovers everywhere will be treated to The Scorpion Rules, by Erin Bow.
In Bow’s third novel, war and shifts in the planet’s climate have decimated the world’s resources, and society transforms to adapt. Under the bloody rule of the all-powerful artificial intelligence that keeps order under threat of death, new countries and ruling regions are formed, and it’s from these new powerful states that the “Children of Peace” come. In Bow’s world, the way these new countries maintain their tenuous peace is by keeping the children of the world’s leaders hostage at a Precepture, part work camp, part prison, part school. If their parents declare or accept a declaration of war, their children are executed.
It’s in the Precepture that protagonist Greta, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, learns about history, culture, politics…and the grit required to die with grace, knowing full well that if her superpower country declares war, the A.I. that maintains the weapons of the world will kill her. The goal is to save humanity from itself, as mankind teeters on the edge of chaos over the most important natural resource: water. With its fun blend of dystopia, sci-fi, and political intrigue, The Scorpion Rules is an exciting novel full of high stakes and big questions about war and humanity. I’m eagerly awaiting the companion novel.
Now, Bow’s no stranger to writing about the horrors of climate change, ecological shifts, and what it does to people and society. She explores these themes in her debut, Plain Kate, a fantasy novel that features both witches and magic, and plagues and crops that are withering away. (Oh, and a talking a cat!) How do the horrors of the environment affect people already panic stricken over the presence of witches?
Really, that’s what is at the heart of every good novel discussing climate change and environmental disasters: what is humanity’s response? Do we become better people, trying to save those around us…or do we turn into monsters, becoming selfish and violent?
Here are a few more novels that touch on different aspects of people under fire from natural disasters, from epic droughts or the sun expanding, to running out of gas or hiding from poisonous rain. When nature turns against us, you’ve gotta turn to each other—or things go south, very quickly.
Not a Drop to Drink, by Mindy McGinnis: You really can’t talk about YA novels where water is a resource to be fought over without discussing Mindy McGinnis’ debut and its companion. In Not a Drop to Drink and sequel In a Handful of Dust, the world has gone dry. It’s in this parched world that Lynn stands guard over the pond outside her home, struggling to stay alive despite the danger lurking everywhere. Stark and gripping, it’s one of my favorite YA reads ever, packed with drama and a brutal landscape where hope seems as dried up as the water.
Also Read: H20, by Virginia Bergin. What happens to the world when the water falling from the sky is actually poisonous? Absolute chaos.
Burn Out, by Kristi Helvig: I’ve talked about Burn Out before on B&N, because hey, I love it. This sci-fi thriller centers on a sun that’s expanded far sooner than anyone could have imagined, and features a heroine staying alive in a bunker…surrounded by some of the most powerful weapons on the planet. Designed by her father, these weapons of mass destruction are the last thing she wants to see in the hands of the government, but she might have no choice but to hand them over. Does she give up the guns her father wanted hidden and hitch a ride off our doomed planet…or take her chances as the Earth is slowly burned away?
Also Read: Solstice, by P.J. Hoover. The weather is getting hotter, and global warming is about to destroy the world—and another world is in trouble, too. Mythology finds a place in this very different dystopian novel.
Dark Life, by Kat Falls
What about too much water? In a world where the oceans have risen to catastrophic heights, settlers go below the sea to create a place they can start over. These undersea dwellers must defend their home, and irk out a difficult existence in exchange for the right to stay there. And the folks living topside have it rough, packed atop the diminishing soil in giant towers.
Breathe, by Sarah Crossan
No water? Scary. Too much sun? Also scary. But what about no more air? The idea of oxygen vanishing somehow feels even more terrifying than these other scenarios, and that’s the story of Crossan’s Breathe and sequel Resist. The oceans are dead, the trees are all gone, and all the air in Crossan’s dark world is owned by one corporation. Humanity lives in giant domes where they’re safe…but must pay to breathe. So what happens if you can’t afford air? It’s a dark dystopian story, in a world that is no longer sustainable.
Also Read: Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi
The world is ruined, with epic storms devastating the landscape. People either live in protected domes, or out in the wilds. This series, you guys. Prepare for swoons.
Empty, by Suzanne Weyn
What happens when we use up one of our natural resources? What kind of impact does that have on the planet and society? Empty explores what the world might look like without fossil fuels. No gas or oil. Set in a small town where things unravel quickly, Weyn’s is an exciting dystopian novel that takes place in a very near, very real-feeling future. It’s a tense read, with a setting that’s concentrated and frightening. What happens in a small town during a disaster like this, when supermarkets close up shop and electricity stops? Do neighbors band together, or turn against each other?