I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but somewhere down the line humanity has become obsessed with the end of the world. Sure, you can say that it has to do with religious scripture, but I’m talking more of what people expect the end of the world (and after) to be like. For quite some time, this topic has found its way into pop culture, both past and present. Mel Gibson is memorable as Mad Max. That franchise is getting a revival with
Tom Hardy with an expected 2015 release date. The Simpsons Movie poked fun at the concept as the town of Springfield was forced to fend for themselves under the prison of a glass dome. ThenArmageddon and Deep Impactbrought to light the impending doom one would feel knowing that the earth could be destroyed and there would be very little human kind could do to change that. It could be a very scary concept to think about.
Then we come to what we read. The genre of dystopia has greatly presented itself in Young Adult literature since the new millennium began. With the popularity of books like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Divergent by Veronica Roth, readers going through adolescence can be gaining a very bleak outlook on society as a whole nowadays. Some can argue, however, that this is just a good dose of reality for a growing child. True. In the last fifteen years the world has had to deal with Hurricane Katrina, the Indonesian tsunami, earthquakes in Japan, the Ebola outbreak in Africa, and lest any American forget the attacks on 9/11. As they were such huge world events, it’s hard to hide that knowledge from children. Then there’s dealing with school, homework, and growing up wondering whom of your friends you can trust. Thanks for that Mean Girls. With so much on their shoulders, why would a young adult reach for a book with such dramatic issues such as the end of the world?
Because for a lot of them at this stage, reading is about escape! It’s about adventure! It’s about being someone that isn’t you! Think back to who you were as a child. Now try to tell someone with a straight face that you never played “dress up” and pretended to be a princess or a super hero, or that the playground equipment wasn’t your fort while your friends tried to climb on during a game of tag.
With dystopia working its way into the general reading repertoire, Lore was my way of adding to the concept. I decided to be someplace and someone I wasn’t! I have a big difference in view from the typical genre, however. While many view dystopia as being ruled by technology and government, I took it in the complete opposite direction. WithLore, I took the human race on a path leading back to simplicity, nature, and spiritualism. Now for the record, when I say spiritualism, I do not mean any specific religion or set of beliefs. Anything I put in the book I made up from my imagination and do not expect anyone to follow as creed. Just as Dan Brown said of his work The DaVinci Code, this is purely a work of fiction.
That being said, there are some similarities I have come to realize when it comes to the dystopian genre and Lore: the Legend of River. For the sake of argument, I am going to use The Hunger Games as my counter example as many people have become familiar with the novels and films.
FAIR WARNING FOR NEW FANS OF BOTH THE HUNGER GAMES AND LORE:
- Issues with trust: In a dystopian world, it seems that loyalties can be questioned daily and no one knows who is on their side or who can keep their secrets. One sees this from the start with Katniss Everdeen even before she enters the arena in The Hunger Games. She questions who is there for their own amusement, who is trying to save her life in the arena, and who wants to kill her themselves. InLore, Cattaran must deal with the fact that the sprite, Dervish, does not trust him simply because he is a human being. She contemplates the murder of his character.
- Abuses of power: Often with this genre, there are leaders with too much power who do not know how to use it properly. As a result, it is abused. Collins creates a tyrant out of President Snow that is worthy of Adolf Hitler. He reaps children from their parents, placing them in battle to the death against each other, only to call it “keeping the peace.” Then there is LaXiva, who disconnects himself from the commune of gods, only to use humans as a weapon in order to attempt to gain ultimate power over the earth.
- Standing up to terror results in suffering: There are those in the genre who question the authority of those in power. However, when that happens, there are consequences. Katniss’ friend Gale is whipped in the town square as he tries to
protect innocent bystanders from rebel soldiers. When Cattaran tells LaXiva he will not betray River, LaXiva swears he will die and attempts to torture and murder him on more than one occasion.
- Madness as a result of the social situations: With the stress and anguish associated with a dystopia, it is only natural that some psychological abuse will result. Wiress, who is seen as a genius in the nation of Panem, is reduced to muddled, raved answers when placed in the arena multiple times. Ickus, a god who had spent a century in the center of the earth, waiting for the other gods to find him, used music to calm his nerves. Even centuries after his release, the music is used as a therapy and earns him the moniker “The Mad and Wild Piper.”
- Death is inevitable: With lack of trust, abuse of power, the use of force, and psychological warfare all being part of the dystopian genre, it is only natural that death is a natural consequence. This is a result for multiple characters in both The Hunger Games and Lore: the Legend of River.
To speak of dystopia and the genre it presents in writing is a bleak subject. However, a lot can be learned from it if it is examined in the correct way. Some scoff at it for being too violent, while others, many of which are children, take away lessons that they use as they grow older, besides being a form of escape and entertainment. By reading such stories and associating them with real life events, yes, kids can learn that the world can be a very cruel place. But by making associations with characters such as Katniss and Cattaran, they can also learn that there is good in the world and they can lead by example. Fred Rogers had a wonderful quote from his show long ago. It went, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” If there’s anything that can be taken away from the dystopian genre, let us hope it is sentiments like this.