Belief Not Suspended. Do Not Pass Go, etc.

I am currently reading DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver, and it’s so good.  I relate easily to Lena, the romantic plotline is compelling, and it’s gorgeously-crafted, but the premise is still needling at me all the way through.  I am finding it hard to suspend my disbelief. I’m really enjoying the story, but Oliver is charged with making her readers believe that this Brave New World is possible, and that’s proving a hefty task.

I think what’s bugging me is that a great dystopian story should feel just a hair too close to home. Like, what if we ran out of oil—a depleted natural resource? What if the world’s nuclear bombs were released and we ended up living through the fallout? What if the reality TV shows that bombards our networks became even crazier or more violent in order to grab our collective attention? These scenarios, to me, are not so far-fetched. With a little less regulation and a little more groupthink, our real world could easily slip into a similarly perilous situation.

Hell, I’m even open to scenarios that have little hold in reality but serve a higher symbolic purpose—like that recent Justin Timberlake movie where everyone has to pay for things with time. Minutes and seconds being as precious as gold. Though heavy-handed, I can still get behind it.

But a society that has banned love? That brands love as a disease? I WANT to believe. I want to fall into your story like a warm blanket and snuggle with it until its satisfying conclusion. To eagerly await the sequels and snatch up pre-orders with the enthusiasm of a starved stray dog. But every time I step into this new world, I can’t keep one word from circling my brain: Really???

I’m only half-way through, so maybe it gets more believable as time goes on, but I am just having a hard time believing that a scientist could somehow cut out the parts of our brains that love–let alone encourage an entire society to ascribe to his methods like a religion. 

Does anyone else take issue with some of the dystopian scenarios out there or is it just me?

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6 comments

  1. Rebecca B says:

    I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and it is one of the best dystopians I’ve read. It’s close enough to contemporary life that the story is chilling. I 100% believe in the society she’s created, and now I’m scared.
    If you haven’t read it, I recommend it!

    • Crystal says:

      I actually have read that, and I loved it! I thought it was a pretty disturbing story in a lot of ways, and I could totally see that world coming to fruition in our society. We already have a pretty theocratic party leading almost half of the country…

      My sister recently got me interested in reading Oryx & Crake, also by Atwood, in which the dystopian society is based on genetic engineering gone wrong. I haven’t started it yet, but I think Atwood is so good at creating believable worlds that I’m a little scared to start it, lol.

  2. Jennifer Hoffine says:

    Our culture already does prize rationality above sensitivity…women are criticized for letting their emotions “rule” them, men are belittled for showing their feelings, and little credence/respect is given to those who are intuitive of others’ feelings. I can see that if we went along this line, esp. if governments wanted to limit the population then we could go this way.

    Nevertheless, I think many Dystopians are a cool “what if” proposition, even if it’s not totally believable how the society got there.

    • Crystal says:

      You make a really good point here. You’re right that our society does seem to prize ‘logic’ above emotion, but I also would argue that emotional reaction is so integral to people and their personalities that it would be near impossible to just cut that portion of the brain right out and retain a functioning society.

      Plus, with corporations being such huge influences on what gets done in our country, I have a hard time believing that they’d allow a procedure that takes away the thing that they count on the most–fickle human emotion. Appealing to those emotional tendencies is how they sell things to us. Although I guess I could see how an extremist government could take the opposite stance and decide that we should not be influenced by marketing, and The Cure would be a way to make that possible.

      But I agree–Dystopians are fun to think of as what-if’s. I’m probably over-analyzing 🙂 I just think it’s more fun when I can see the scenario potentially playing out IRL.

  3. Kris Atkins says:

    I can buy the DELERIUM premise. I just reread THE GIVER, in which no one uses the word love and everyone talks pills that are basically chemical castration. And the way Lowry writes it is SO compelling and believable. I haven’t read DELERIUM, so I don’t know if Oliver does a good job creating her world, but just from what I’ve heard, I can buy it.
    I’ve really come to love Dystopians lately (and to an extent, syfy) for the questions they raise about humanity. Such a great avenue for exploring society!

    • Crystal says:

      I do think that Lowry does great justice to this premise in THE GIVER. You’re right! And I do really enjoy Dystopians, too–including DELIRIUM. On a fiction level, I really loved it. But I still just don’t believe the premise would be plausible. Maybe I’m being narrow-minded about it, or maybe Oliver didn’t do a good enough job of convincing me. Obviously she has convinced loads of other readers, but for some reason it just doesn’t click with me… I don’t read a ton of Sci-Fi so maybe I just haven’t honed by suspension-of-disbelief skills yet 😉

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