John D Rutter is a short story writer whose work has been published in anthologies and journals. His first novel, Approval, won the Northbound Book Award 2020. Here he lists his 5 best books on Faceless Bureaucracies.
1) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Created by one of the greatest living authors, Gilead is a dystopian version of America; women are subjugated in a patriarchy with religious connotations. Written in the 1980s, the novel reflects on the attitudes of the time as much as it imagines another.
2) 1984 by George Orwell
The archetype of the novel about a controlling bureaucracy, and as relevant today as when it was first published in 1949. It has given us Big Brother and double talk. Never have media control and the idea that “ignorance is strength” been more dangerous.
3) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Set during World War II and written in the 1960s, Catch-22 is now the phrase for any rule that contradicts itself; in this, the number of bombing missions required changes each time the number is reached. The language contradictions expose the stupidity of war and any form of absolute authority.
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4) The Trial of Franz Kafka
This century-old influential novel follows Josef K as he is arrested and tried for undeclared crimes. From start to finish, the character and the reader are bewildered by the lack of reason or logic of authority.
5) The machine stops by EM Forster
Imagine a world where each person lives alone in a standard box and speaks to others only through a screen and instant messaging under the control of an Omniscient Machine. Life is all about recycling old ideas. Seems familiar? Surprisingly, this long story was first published in 1909.