… and a few I wouldn’t mind.
Between the whole Franzenfreude debacle and recent Bookrageous and Fuzzy Typewriter podcasts, I’ve been thinking a lot about “genre” fiction, literary fiction, and what draws me to certain stories. I think that one of the reasons I tend toward the fantastic in a lot of my reading is that I love world-building.
Sure, all fiction involves building environs for the reader. My favorite books involve a bit more than that, though. I love when an author creates a whole new world with new rules. Sometimes it’s subtle – “urban fantasy” comes to mind – and sometimes, like in sci-fi or high fantasy, it’s wholly created by the author. There’s something about the feel of inhabiting a brand new world that I can’t get from any medium but books.
Strange that I enjoy it so much, since a lot of books are set in worlds that are depressing as hell.
Despite my love of reading stories set in these alternate realities, here’s five literary landscapes I’d suggest avoiding at all costs.
1. The Rocky Mountains in The Passage
Ground Zero for Subject Zero, the Girl from Nowhere, the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only. We don’t really get a feel for what’s happening in other parts of the world after a vampire plague breaks out in the first part of The Passage, but we know that stuff is bad in the Rockies. Best-case scenario is that I end up somewhere relatively safe, like the colony that dominates the middle third of the book, and things are still pretty bleak. Maybe if I had a bit of vamp blood in me I’d be OK, but what kinda life is that?
Possible upsides; If society ever recovers, the virals ensure that no one will write something like Twilight for a long, long time.
2. The Jorgmund Pipeline in The Gone-Away World
Though the gone-away world of Gone-Away World can count ninjas (cool) and mimes (neat) among it’s pluses, the mojo is mostly pretty terrible. After the “go-away” war (bad) reduced most matter to “stuff” (badder), things hit the fan. The roaming clouds of stuff take on the form of whatever they contact is thinking, which leads to some pretty messed up… um … stuff. No thanks.
Possible upsides; Did I mention the ninjas and mimes?
3. The Southeast United States in The Walking Dead
Zombies. Waaaay too many zombies. The Walking Dead is exhausting – basically a zombie movie that never ends, with the main characters dying off one by one. The zombies are firmly in the old-school Romero camp, slow moving and none too bright. However, their oppressive numbers and untiring pursuit of flesh mean they are still a force to be reckoned with. Oh, and the survivors aren’t much friendlier.
Possible upsides; Abundant parking.
Wait, this one is real? Holy shit.
5. Panem in The Hunger Games trilogy
Now, my lot in the world of The Hunger Games would be a bit better at age 25 than, say, 16. Even if I was an adult and in a pretty well-off district or the Capitol, life would still revolve around watching children slaughter each other every year. The future tech in a world that still revolves mostly around hunting and mining would be pretty cool, but it wouldn’t make up for the whole slaughter-of-minor-miners thing. And hell, I don’t love most real-world politicians, but they’re all better than Coin and Snow.
Possible upsides; Buttercup.
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There’s a reason that dystopias are so popular – if there isn’t any conflict, there isn’t much of a story to read. Still, there are a couple books that, despite the dire straits of the main characters, have a world that I would love to live in … or at least visit.
Basically, these are our worlds, just with magic really real. Wicked cool, right? I’d even be cool with not being a student at Brakebills. Just a rad little knack would be enough for me.
The Marvel and DC Universes
I don’t want to be bit by a radioactive spider, or get nearly blown up by a gamma bomb, or find an alien wishing ring. And I definitely don’t want to live in Central City, Gotham or New York City. But a world where you see the Avengers or Superman (not Dean Cain) on TV? Where there are Fantastic Four toys endorsed by the real Fantastic Four? Sign me up.
The World War I era in Leviathan
In the world of Westerfeld’s Leviathan, I can’t say I’d be brave enough to want to live in Europe on the front lines. America would still be the place for me. So far, we’ve seen the awesome mechs and evolved airships of the Clankers and Darwinists in the first book. If these are the only forces with steampunk super-tech, sign me up. If there’s a third new type of yet-to-be-revealed awesomeness in North America, even better.
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What’ve I missed? What fictional world would you never visit in a million years? Where would you like to go tomorrow?