It's kinda remarkable how much of that there is for kids. (Add that to the Holocaust-lit I read, and it's a wonder I didn't grow up more strange than I am!)
I read straight-out dystopias, like "The Last Book in the Universe". I read fake-out utopias, like The Giver. I read post-apocalyptic fiction, like "The Girl Who Owned a City". (That was supposed to introduce Ayn Rand to kids. It fails miserably, which is probably why it's so readable.) I read the sort of post-apocalyptic fiction that's all hopeful and all, like Outside (which has the distinction of being pretty close to the first chapter book I ever read). And, of course, I read The Transall Saga, which is so far from the apocalypse that I'm not sure it qualifies as "post-apocalyptic". (And at the end of the book the main character is returned to his own time and makes it his life's work to avoid the future he was in, which is weird to me. It wasn't a bad
future, several thousand years removed from our own time, and he does it in memory of the wife he had there... but if he succeeds in stopping that future she'll never exist, though I suppose it makes sense to avoid suffering now
at the cost of people whose grandparents' grandparents haven't even been conceived yet.)
It's the fake-out utopias that tend to interest me the most. They can be subdivided in two categories, which probably vary a lot according to reader: The ones that are more like real life, and the ones that are less like real life.( Disconnected rambling that has nothing to do with my point, but that I insist on getting out )
But no, what interests me is the end of these books. The fake-out utopias (especially those written for kids) always seem to end on a high note - the main character gets away, or they free everybody from their gentle chains, hallelujah.
But I always wonder. IS it a happy note? The people in these bland, perfect worlds aren't very free, but they don't know it. They may not be very happy, but neither are they sad or scared or angry. And when the machine is broken and the drugs are gone and the elaborate social order is destroyed - do they like it? They know nothing else, they're usually generations in by this point. How do they live? What happens the first time they go hungry? The first time they get cold? The first time they feel truly, deeply angry, or lustful? Maybe just sad, or lazy, or bored? How do they cope?
We're made to think that this is a happy ending, and sure, it reinforces what we already believe, but is it happy? Maybe in several generations, but right now? Maybe the rebels like it, the idealists, the children who never could
quite fit into their conformist world (there's always that emphasis on sameness. I'd love to see an equally dystopic one with an emphasis on a certain controlled amount of diversity), but what about the ones that fit perfectly and never wondered or cared to? There's a lot about freedom of choice, but only if they choose not to go back to that? Not that they could.
I always imagine that the END of the end is a bunch of hitherto repressed people turning on each other and showing to their children why, exactly, their ancestors chose to live in this dull and stable way in the first place. Which isn't inspiring or uplifting at all, and probably why we're not shown those scenes.
I wish we were, though. I wish authors thought through
the consequences of their protagonists' actions. I'm not saying I want to live in any of those worlds (ye gods), but if I already did I would be careful before I smashed it. (Or so I think. Maybe I wouldn't if that were *really* the case.)( Spoiler )