7 Satirical Novels

As followers of this blog know I am an avid fan of satire. My second novel, Necropolis, is a satirical black comedy about a psychopath who works for the burials and cemeteries department in his local council.

In addition to my writing efforts I have read numerous books that could be described as satirical. This week’s post is dedicated to 7 of them.

Satire definition: the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly...


Candide by Voltaire (1759)


Candide is an eighteenth-century satirical classic that evaluates optimism; the prevailing philosophical ideology during The Enlightenment. Voltaire adroitly sought to dispel the belief that all is for the best when it is not.

My Review: Brought up in the household of a German baron, cheerful protagonist Candide has been instilled with the philosophy of Leibniz, notably – That all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds…(more)

My Opinion: Amusing


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)

Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a satire of American southern antebellum society that parodies religion, morality, literature and above all the practice of slavery.

My Review: 13-year-old Huckleberry Finn is living in Missouri with a widow who plans to ‘sivilize’ him. That is until his alcoholic father relocates him to an isolated cabin in the woods. Huck fakes his own death and escapes…(more)

My Opinion: Okay but turgid.


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Brave New World

Brave New World utilises erudite social commentary to explore mankind’s inherent nature. Huxley’s portentous vision has proven to be prescient in its prediction of a science-controlled, consumer culture.

My Review: Brave New World is set in a society where everything is controlled. The parentless, manufactured, free-loving population are dependent on a state-endorsed hallucinogenic, happiness drug called Soma…(more)

My Opinion: Very good


Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)


Catch-22 is a satire whose central theme is the futility of war. The book employs a distinctive writing style, an innovative out of sequence narration of events, imaginative descriptions, paradox and grandiloquent language.

My Review: Set on the Mediterranean island of Pianosa during WWII, Catch-22 is about the exploits of the fictitious 256th Squadron. We follow protagonist Yossarian and his comrades’ farcical attempts to…(more)

My Opinion: A rambling text 


High-Rise by J.G. Ballard (1975)


Replete with similes and occurrences of the word ‘percolate’, High-Rise is a tense, bleak and satirical book about conflict that explores the connection between technology and the human condition.

My Review: Set in an apartment tower block in London, High-Rise is a dystopian tale about the intense animosity that develops between the building’s various floors. The story centres around three main characters…(more)

My Opinion: Quite good


Death And The Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (1996)

Death And The Penguin

Set in the post-Soviet Ukraine of the 1990s, Death And The Penguin is a bizarre, bleak, surreal and at times darkly humorous crime novel and tragicomedy that combines political and social commentary.

My Review: Kiev resident and journalist Viktor lives in a small flat with Misha, his pet Emperor Penguin, purchased from the near destitute city zoo. Viktor has ambitions of becoming a novelist or short story writer…(more)

My Opinion: Okay


Rant by Chuck Palahniuk (2007)


Rant challenges our own traditions by demonstrating how we contort our recollection of events in accordance with our desires, motives and beliefs. There are obvious parallels with  the gospels.

My Review: Rant is the oral history of Buster ‘Rant’ Casey, recounted by an array of people including his relations, friends, enemies and lovers. Rant’s childhood companions from the small rural town where…(more)

My Opinion: Thought-provoking but convoluted.




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Leave a comment
  • Hi Guy,

    Nice list, I’ll add Rent and High-Rise to my must-read list (I’m also a huge fan of satirical novels).

    The Sellout by Paul Beatty is one recent addition to the genre that’s getting a lot of rave reviews (though personally I couldn’t get into it). Penguin Island by Anatole France from 1908 is also worth a mention – meanders a little like Catch-22 but some really sharp writing and it leaps straight into the absurd (clergy attempting to baptise penguins), which I like.


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