George Orwell, 1984: This classic tragedy is the reason why I love dystopian stories. I aim for a drab view of humanity, for a great antagonist and a compassionate protagonist, but my book has the beauty of nature to balance the bloody, cruel plot. The way Orwell depicts the near future: it doesn’t gleam with metal and white like many dystopias do. The future is like the past. It is filled with old stuff and poverty. The rule of the strong over the weak…
What has stood against the test of time (Orwell wrote his book 1948-1949), is his view on the totalitarian rule through surveillance. It’s amazing how vivid his picture is. He wrote before the rise of digital technology. Cameras existed and the TV was around the corner. George Orwell shows us how to rule through a device called the telescreen. The telescreen broadcasts government propaganda into every home and observes each individual every second of their lifetime. How scary is that?
1984 lives on and continues to be a bestseller like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s tale– which is a female’ view on the same themes, plus rape (to save the mankind). Actually, 1984 depicts a theme of procreation as service to the government.
I don’t intend to explain the concise rise of totalitarianism like Orwell did, but my book’s world has its roots in today’s political situation: the born-again threat of nuclear war, constant conflict and the rise of strong Russia. I’m familiar with WWII history and my world-building counts on history repeating itself. My future- set in 2048- feels and tastes like WWII. I believe that the future is like the past.
Cormac McCarthy, The Road: I love his simple and blunt way with language. Again, his blank dusty world without hope appeals to me. The atmosphere of The Road is unique. Some parts of my plot include roaming the wild post-apocalyptic lands.
Hugh Howey, The Silo: I love how his people build strange societies and survive against impossible odds. The Silo encases the idea that the battle for control continues despite the low number of survivors. Old things get new meanings, and people behave like they have always done. I love the slow building of suspense Howey uses, but I aim for entertainment and The Unholy Warrior is fast-paced.
TV–series: The Walking Dead: Vivid description of the rules of survival and the workings of different post-apocalyptic societies. The sense of Justice in Rick Grimes and the haunted beauty of empty dwellings and the constant presence of danger. I yearn to describe the untamed sceneries, the world which has changed because humans don’t get to destroy and roam like they used to.
Also, the Denzel Washington movie Book of Eli might feel somewhat familiar despite the frozen, snow-covered setting of my world. When I started writing Rebane, Maqqie Q in Nikita tv-series was a distant inspiration. Rebane has since begun to live and talk, and she ended up very different.
Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon: I love the immediacy of war and totalitarianism in books which were written during WWII or right after it. The usage of third-person omniscient is vivid and remains close to the pov character in Koestler’s and Orwell’s texts. A man of the same caliber is Graham Greene (The Tenth Man).
John LeCarre made cold war entertaining. His other novels are massive, but The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is tight-packed and gripping. My book’s first act is set in the world of Military Intelligence, and I do meticulous research for believability. John LeCarre is the grand master of believability. Even his terms like lamplighters and babysitters have taken a new life in the real world.
Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum are my action writer idols, and in the writer’s workshop, I’ve been compared to both gentlemen. The feeling of urgency in combat description is important to make the reader tense, live within the skin of the main character.
John Keegan, Intelligence in War and his other works on Military Intelligence and history. Keegan is a household name.
Svetlana Alexievich, The Unwomanly Face of War. I highly recommend this Russian writer and a Nobel prize winner! The Unwomanly Face of War is a collection of interviews with Russian women who fought at the frontlines of World War II. Their memories recollect the evil horror but also the beauty of being a human female. I cried many times during reading this book. The reality and truth of their experiences are heartfelt among the words. This book had a great effect on my point-of-view character, Rebane Nordstrom.
David Livingstone Smith, The Most Dangerous Animal, Human Nature and the Origins of War. You might not share Livingstone Smith’s evolutionary views on human violence, but this book is an eye-opener. The writer digs deep into the history of philosophy and explains difficult theories with easy language (as easy as possible anyway). For me, the biological perspective was the most interesting. I don’t believe that humans can exist without war. Aggression has made us the top of the food chain. Unfortunately, we rip our own species and the earth apart while we are true to our nature.