A Survival Guide To Your Favorite Dystopian Futures

While fans of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia often dream of going to Hogwarts or Narnia, fans of dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner often wonder how long they would survive under such oppressive regimes, and how exactly they would die. This is all played for laughs, since we’d all die in about 10 seconds by tripping over our own two feet onto some sharp object. But if dystopian novels have taught us anything, it’s that if the apocalypse doesn’t kill us, Big Brother will come for us all. This is no laughing matter. To make sure the odds are ever in your favor, we’ve matched our favorite dystopian novels with a fitting survival guide that will prepare you for these possible futures.

If your name gets pulled in the reaping in The Hunger Games, be sure to brush up on your Outdoor Survival Skills.

Katniss doesn’t survive the 74th annual Hunger Games, a televised death match between 12 to 18 year old children in the middle of a booby-trap enhanced, closed-off wilderness, by being the strongest or smartest or even the most well-trained. Sure, she’s deadly with a bow and arrow, but fellow competitor Thresh can kill you with just a rock, so it’s hard to be impressed.

What really helps Katniss survive in the arena is her knowledge of animals, knowing which berries are delicious and which are poisonous, when and how to build a fire, and how to find shelter. These are all lessons that you, too, can learn from Larry Dean Olsen’s Outdoor Survival Skills. Before we all get too cushy with our fancy gadgets like the Capitol citizens, let’s take some time to get back to the basics. Even Katniss could’ve used Olsen’s lessons on how to make weapons from things in the wild, including her coveted bow and arrows.

It’s hard being one of the Uglies, but it’s vital to see beyond The Beauty Myth if you want to find true happiness.

In a world where everyone past puberty gets mandatory plastic surgery so they all look pretty, what could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, almost everything. Scott Westerfeld’s world of pretty people is just a biological wasteland full of fake happiness (among other things). But it’s hard to see the destruction this practice causes when everyone is just so beautiful.

Uglies’ protagonist Tally struggles to see through the harmfulness of these beauty standards, but luckily for us, Naomi Wolf identified all the trappings of physical perfection in her classic, The Beauty Myth. No, this isn’t a standard survival guide, but we all need some help to see past the allure of glitz and glamour. You’re definitely still going to need the outdoor skills you learned to survive the Hunger Games in order to fight against the government regime in this one.

Never let go of The Tactical Knife in The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Spoilers: Being able to wield a knife effectively will significantly increase your odds of surviving in the world of The Knife of Never Letting Go. Humanity has colonized an alien planet, but the men get infected by a virus where they can hear all the thoughts of other men and animals (but not women). Even so, Todd, the youngest resident of Prentisstown, discovers that there are many frightening secrets being kept from him in the leadup to his thirteenth birthday. Todd flees his tiny village, armed with only a knife and pursued relentlessly by the other men from Prentisstown as they ride to other towns to take over this planet for themselves.

Could you survive on your own with just a knife and several people trying to capture you? If the answer is no (you know the answer is no), then James Ayres’ The Tactical Knife is a must-read. It will not only help you select the best knife to choose before you flee town, but also basic techniques on how to actually use this deadly blade beyond blindly aiming with the pointy end.

Study for The Testing with SAT Total Prep and 100 Deadly Skills.

This test in Joelle Charbonneau’s novel is a two-parter—the standard written test, the one you’ve been studying for your whole life that will help determine whether you get into college or not, and one that’s more a pop quiz survival puzzle deathmatch. Listen, the world became a wasteland after a devastating war, so there are limited resources and we only need the smartest, toughest minds to rebuild it. So either you pass or you fail miserably and forfeit your life.

Prepare for the initial portions of The Testing with Kaplan’s SAT Total Prep. There are plenty of practice quizzes, questions, and strategy tips here to make sure you get the score you want on all sections. Since you don’t know what’s going to happen on the last portion of the test (the only hint you have is that it’s more likely to kill you than the first part), we recommend former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson’s 100 Deadly Skills, which will prepare you for several different extreme situations.

Console Wars and The Book of Five Rings are necessary to Ready Player One.

Resources are scarce, the effects of climate change are really being felt, and reality just generally sucks for those like Wade Watts, the protagonist of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Luckily, there’s virtual reality—a space known as OASIS—to provide a bit of a reprieve. Legendary game designer James Halliday had fun coding a massive Easter egg into OASIS, awarding billions of dollars and complete control of OASIS to the first person to solve a series of difficult puzzles. Of course, an evil multinational megacorporation wants to win the prize, and hires a bunch of desperate puppet players to do it. But Wade is hell-bent on thwarting any corporate plans.

The key to solving the puzzles in Ready Player One is a deep love for and encyclopedic knowledge of ’80s and ’90s pop culture, particularly video games. Oh, you thought video games were a waste of time? Think again. In this possible dystopian future, you’ll need to know how to navigate digital spaces. Before you start button mashing, read Blake Harris’ Console Wars to get an overview of two of the biggest companies in gaming, Nintendo and Sega. Got it memorized? Good. 

Also, brush up on your martial art skills with the classic The Book of Five Rings, because you never know when megacorp lackeys will come kill you in meatspace. (Some of Wade’s best friends have samurai avatars in OASIS.)


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