Guest Article: The Social Critiques of Philosophical Fiction

Hello! A very Happy New Year to everyone – I hope you all had a lovely break over the holidays, and got lots of reading in!!

What a way to start the New Year! Greg Hickey, the author of The Friar’s Lantern, has kindly agreed to help me kick off 2019, and wrote a guest post on Philosophical Fiction. He gives a brief overview of six classic novels, from this perspective. Enjoy!!

The Social Critiques of Philosophical Fiction

Philosophical novels use fictional stories to explore thought-provoking questions that often deal with society, politics and the roles of the individual and the collective. The six philosophical novels listed below include a healthy dose of science fiction and dystopian fiction and directly attack some aspect of popular society, such as criminal justice, drug control, political ideology, religion, racism and sexism.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A brutal teenage criminal is brainwashed by the state in this novel that made Time magazine’s list of the 100 best novels from 1923 to 2005 and both the editors’ and readers’ lists of Modern Library’s best English-language novels of the twentieth century. It was adapted into the 1971 Academy Award-nominated film by Stanley Kubrick.

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

A law enforcement agent hunts a drug dealer through a dystopian Orange County, California, but both men turn out to be the same person whose mind has been split by the psychoactive drug Substance D. This novel won the 1978 British Science Fiction Association award for best novel and was adapted into a 2006 rotoscope animated film by Richard Linklater.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Overworked, mistreated farm animals organize and revolt in this political satire that won a Retrospective Hugo Award in 1996, ranked thirty-first on Modern Library’s list of best twentieth-century novels and was chosen by Time as one of the 100 best novels from 1923 to 2005.

Dune by Frank Herbert

This tale of a young man leading a political and spiritual revolution to avenge the traitorous plot against his family tied with Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal for the 1966 Hugo Award and won the inaugural Nebula Award for best novel in the same year.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Conrad’s narrator Christopher Marlow pilots a ferry-boat up the Congo River, where he witnesses the terrors of racism and imperialism and the depths of human depravity in the person of the rogue ivory trader Kurtz. Modern Library ranked Heart of Darkness sixty-seventh on their list of the 100 best twentieth-century novels, and Francis Ford Coppola adapted it into the Academy Award-nominated Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

This novel about a society devoid of sexual prejudices won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel in 1970. It was ranked the third-best science fiction novel behind Frank Herbert’s Dune and Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End in a 1975 poll in Locus magazine and second behind only Dune in a 1987 Locus poll.


Greg Hickey is the author of the accessible, philosophical, grown-up choose-your-own-adventure novel The Friar’s Lantern and the curator of The 105 Best Philosophical Novels.

Thanks Greg for providing my very first Guest Post!!!!



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