Under the Never Sky

All posts tagged Under the Never Sky

What interests me about dystopian novels is their tendency to create worlds in which people are controlled by technology intended to help them. It’s similar to the common science fiction trope of a robot revolution, but the fact that a small group of humans is behind the machines makes it more realistic and possibly more frightening. These technologies range from simple surveillance tools like cameras (and the software necessary to filter through all the information for anything relevant) to augmented realities in the most extreme cases which allow those with the authority to directly observe and change the worlds in which their users live. For my independent reading novel, Under the Never Sky, the latter is used to allow large amounts of people, known as the Dwellers, to live in a small space, while spending most of their attention and time in virtual realms created and monitored by the government.

The Matrix is another example of an augmented reality which is regulated by the Agents who have the ability to bend reality.

Even more interesting is the tendency of these novels to antagonize technology completely and have their protagonists revert to more primitive ways of life. In my experience, Marcus in Little Brother is the only protagonist I’ve seen try to use primarily technology to fight back against a dystopian government. Bows and blades are much more commonly used by protagonists, even in worlds where hovercrafts and other advanced war technologies dominate battlefields which is the case in Under the Never Sky. In this novel, the post-apocalyptic world outside of the pods in which the Dwellers live is ruined by war and Aether storms that set the ground ablaze. Savages and cannibals roam the lands unclaimed by tribes, and extreme mutations are not uncommon, yet the reader still gets the sense that this natural way of life is better than the artificial one in the Realms. To emphasize this, mutations in the novel often amplify human senses to superhuman levels, giving the author an excuse to explain how sensuously rich the real world is compared to any artificial one. I wonder why authors so often write stories that seem to suggest that primitive lifestyles are better than the lifestyles permeated with technology that we’re headed towards, rather than stories that show how we can fight to keep our rights as technology inevitably develops further which I believe Doctorow does very well in Little Brother.

Works Cited:

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2008.

Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tom Doherty Associates, 2008.

Rossi, Veronica. Under the Never Sky. Harper Collins, 2012.

In my experience, the media and propaganda almost always serve the same function in dystopian societies, that is to keep the common citizens ignorant. This is likely because technology often plays an important role in dystopias, and as a result, most dystopias include societies with either primitive or incredibly advanced technology. Primitive dystopian societies aren’t able to use propaganda on a scale large enough to be interesting, but for more advanced dystopian societies, propaganda offers a peaceful way to control people while also allowing the author to introduce relevant themes regarding the control of media. In the case of my independent reading novel, Under the Never Sky, both types of societies exist. There are the “Savages” who live in the post-apocalyptic wilderness and are mostly concerned with staying alive and protecting their tribes, and those who live in the Pods and spend most of their time in a type of augmented reality known as the Realms using a device called a Smarteye.

The Smarteye does more than augment vision. It tricks the nervous system, allowing users to truly feel as if they’re in the virtual world.

As one can imagine, the Realms allow the government to control the information available to its citizens to a great degree, even for a dystopia, since they are able to virtually shape reality as they see fit. Even familial interactions take place in the Realms. People are raised to believe the outside world, known simply as the Real, is a terrible place filled with pain, suffering, disease, and cannibals. Even worse, the Real is boring. You have to actually walk places, and one’s appearance can’t be changed instantaneously. This is perhaps one of the most effective uses of propaganda by a dystopian government I have ever seen. The government does not need to force its citizens to obey. Instead, it only needs to convince them that obeying is an enjoyable experience. Different Realms are created to cater to people of various interests, and because it’s all virtual, the government does not actually have to divert resources to keep its citizens happy. As long as the government keeps its darker actions secret, which isn’t hard when it has so much control over reality, who in their right mind would rebel in what is seemingly paradise?


Works Cited:

Rossi, Veronica. Under the Never Sky. HarperCollins, 2012.

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