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Young Adult dystopian trilogies seem to be all the rage now, but what is the earliest novel trilogy that fits this formula?

I'm thinking along the lines of the Hunger Games (2008 -2010), Divergent Trilogy (2011-2013) (though there is a fourth book I would accept this) and the Maze Runner (2009-2011) (while this has five books, two are novellas, so I would also accept this).

The constraints I would put on this would be:

  • post apocalyptic/future after an apocalypse
  • young adult protagonists
  • can be male or female
  • the protagonist does not need to be "special" in some way.
  • A trilogy of books (additional novellas, etc. won't exclude the series, if the trilogy itself is "self-contained")

The earliest I've found so far is Jean Ure's Plague Trilogy (Plague 99 (1989), Come Lucky April (1992) and Watchers at the Shrine (1994)).

Those were first published around 20 to 14 years before the Hunger Games. Is there anything known to be earlier?

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  • 1
    Technically, there's more to the YA genre than having a YA protagonist (namely, certain themes are usually addressed). But I'm not sure how objective or well-defined it is.
    – Laurel
    Jul 8, 2022 at 11:59
  • The obvious one is Gulliver's Travels published in 1726. Oh, then again, that is a quadrilogy, not a trilogy.
    – Chenmunka
    Jul 8, 2022 at 12:40
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    @Chenmunka I always thought of Gulliver as an Adult, rather than a Young Adult. Also, it wasn't a post-apocalyptic world. Jul 8, 2022 at 19:47
  • By "young adults" you mean what, persons aged 21-35, something like that?
    – user14111
    Jul 9, 2022 at 7:17
  • 1
    Do you mean dystopia, or do you mean post-apocalyptic? The two genres tend to be paired but are in no way the same. (Eg 1984 is dystopia, but not post-apocalyptic) Jul 9, 2022 at 17:33

5 Answers 5

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There were two trilogies written by UK author John Christopher that may count.

These are The Tripods Trilogy first published in 1967 and The Sword of The Spirits trilogy first published in 1970.

Each is set about 100 years after an apocalypse (alien invasion, natural disaster), feature early/mid teen protagonists and there are 3 books in the main sequence although the Tripods has a prequel.

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  • Nice answer, although I got the impression it was quite a bit more than 100 years in both cases.
    – Pete
    Jul 8, 2022 at 13:12
  • That bio you've linked says "author of ... a stream of novels in the genre he pioneered, young adult dystopian fiction". Jul 8, 2022 at 21:41
  • Yes, these sprang instantly to mind. +1. I still read them occasionally.
    – MPW
    Jul 9, 2022 at 12:07
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    "Tripods" is a great series-- highly recommend even for adult readers. Jul 10, 2022 at 0:23
22

There are surely quite a few.

The first that comes to mind is John Christopher's Tripods series, published in 1967-8. (There was also a prequel, but this was published much later in 1988 so the original trilogy should fit your criteria.)

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Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy is set in a crumbling moribund society, and the protagonist of the first book, published in 1946, is seventeen years old. There is also a side story published as a novella, but you said that is allowable.

Jane Gaskell’s Atlan series, from 1963, is set in a collapsing dystopia and has a teenage girl as its protagonist. Its themes are far more mature than the “Young Adult” genre of today (which it never was intended to be part of). It could be considered a trilogy, insofar as some editions print The Dragon as the second part of The Serpent, there are two other books starring the original protagonist, and then there is one more book about her daughter.

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  • Ghormenghast is about a stone fortress too big and timeworn to fathom and the weird humans that inhabit it. The civilians are remote villages of distrustful poor souls that scratch around to survive. Jul 9, 2022 at 4:18
  • Gormenghast wasn't intended as a trilogy though. Three books were just all Peake managed before he was unable to keep writing. Supposedly, he envisioned as many as ten books total.
    – Buzz
    Jul 9, 2022 at 5:42
  • @Buzz Our loss, but—still counts.
    – Davislor
    Jul 9, 2022 at 5:43
  • Yeah, I agree (and upvoted), but I thought it was worth mentioning.
    – Buzz
    Jul 9, 2022 at 5:44
  • I would not call Gormenghast YA, though.
    – Lexible
    Jul 10, 2022 at 19:18
2

Charles R. Tanner's Tumithak stories (the first one is from 1932) immediately come to mind.

I don't think they're technically novels (although nobody can prove that they're not, I suppose), and there was a fourth story released in 2005, long after Tanner's death. Other than that, they meet your criteria.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Please explain how they do, and in what ways they do not, match the requirements of the question.
    – DavidW
    Jul 9, 2022 at 14:33
1

I enjoyed Peter Dickinson's "The Changes" trilogy (1968-70) as a child and found it reasonably good as an adult a few years ago. It seems to fit your question in terms of being both post-apocalyptic and dystopian:

https://www.peterdickinson.com/books/weathermonger/

In a Britain returned to a medieval way of life following the “Changes”, which turned people against machines and electricity, Geoffrey, the local Weathermonger (chosen for his ability to summon rain when the farmers need it) and his sister are about to be drowned as “witches” for breaking the rules and maintaining an outboard engine. Following a thrilling escape to France (which has been unaffected by the Changes which have gripped Britain), Geoffrey and Sally return on a mission to discover the source of The Changes. This was Peter’s first children’s book.

It was adapted into a TV series

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