‘Bone Season’ author suggests 5 other books of dark futures

Samantha Shannon
Samantha Shannon, 21, shares some of the books that have influenced her writing. Today

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By Vidya Rao

Samantha Shannon’s “The Bone Season” is the first pick for the new TODAY Book Club. Read an exclusive excerpt and RSVP to join a Google Hangout with Shannon and Natalie Morales on Sept. 16. Keep up with the TODAY Book Club by subscribing to our newsletter and follow @TODAYsBooks for book club conversation starters and special free giveaways. Tweet your insights and favorite quotes using the hashtag #TODAYBookClub.

Samantha Shannon is a devoted fan of stories set in dystopian futures — which is why her debut novel is just that. The 21-year-old phenom, whose book, “The Bone Season,” came out Tuesday, cites a variety of classics among her biggest influences. Characters like Lucy Snowe from Charlotte Bronte’s “Villette” helped her forge a path for Paige Mahoney, the female protagonist of “The Bone Season.”

“Lucy is a fascinating character,” said Shannon. “She's very enigmatic and somewhat passive on the surface, but she faces a great deal of psychological pain. The way Bronte handles Lucy, wrapping the character in a kind of emotional façade, is something I'd like to emulate with Paige.”

Hear an excerpt from the audiobook of Samantha Shannon's 'The Bone Season'

Shannon doesn’t necessarily agree with comparisons made between her and author J.K. Rowling, which began before "The Bone Season" was even released. She says her book is much darker than the Harry Potter series, but adds that Rowling’s character Dolores Umbridge is “possibly the best female villain in literature… the detention scene with Harry writing ‘I must not tell lies’ was so chilling; it's always stuck with me.” 

We asked Shannon to share more about the books she loves and that have, one way or another, informed her writing. So if you fall in love with “The Bone Season,” here are her recommended readings while you await the book’s sequel:

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‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess

“Burgess creates a fictional argot called Nadsat, influenced by Russian, which teenagers use to communicate in a bleak and violent future. I'm not a linguist and I knew I couldn't sustain a dense argot for the whole of ‘The Bone Season,’ but ‘A Clockwork Orange’ did inspire me to introduce a criminal slang, giving the novel some linguistic color.”

‘Daughter of Smoke & Bone’ by Laini Taylor

“The first in a trilogy, this is a wildly inventive, dark fairy tale about angels and chimaera, mostly set in Prague. It has a bit of ‘Pan's Labyrinth’ about it. Laini Taylor has a writing style I really envy: lyrical, sensual and evocative without ever being pretentious. The novel reads a little like a poem, a love-song to the mysteries of the world.”

‘The Handmaid's Tale’ by Margaret Atwood

“This is the book that introduced me to the dystopian genre. The narrator, Offred, has a voice that teeters between passivity and agitation, and the world Atwood creates is truly frightening: ritualistic, brutal and misogynistic — with uncomfortable echoes of reality.”

‘I, Robot’ by Isaac Asimov

“I'm a huge fan of all of Asimov's robot stories. This collection is particularly thought-provoking and sometimes disturbing. His robot characters are often more 'human' than the scientists that work with them. Asimov tackles the timeless question of what humanity is, what it means and who has it, which is a subject I look at through the Rephaim in ‘The Bone Season.’

‘1984’ by George Orwell

“This is classic dystopia. The last sentence haunted me for weeks after I finished it. Orwell's characters demonstrate why I like writing dystopia: they break, they turn on each other, they fear and weep and feel terrible pain. Dystopia forces characters to their limits, allowing you to see sides of them you might never otherwise have seen.”