This week’s Top Ten Tuesday from the folks at the Broke and the Bookish asks us to list our top ten vivid worlds or settings from literature. I’m glad I actually re-read the topic before bashing out my list as I had mistakenly read it as my top ten favourite settings which would have given me a much different list!
Anyway, without further ado, let the list begin:
1. Middle Earth. Come on! If it’s not on your list, then you can’t have read the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. And if not, then why not? After all, this is a world that essentially created the template for almost all modern fantasy novels. Even the ones that are consciously non-Tolkienish often define themselves by their attempt not to be Tolkienish. This is a world with immensely detailed geography, an obsessive attention to detail and several properly constructed languages. There is even an argument to say that the novels and the world were created merely so the languages would have some place in which to be rooted. I humbly submit that Middle Earth is the quintessence of vivid literary setting.
2. The Multiverse. I truly believe that Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion cycle is one of the most underrated pieces of literature of the 20th Century. Although a mixture of fantasy and steampunk novels, the underlying themes, thought and style go way beyond the pure “genre”. The base concept of a warrior doomed to be endlessly reincarnated to fight for the maintenance of the cosmic balance between law and chaos (not good and evil!) is genius and the varied worlds he created stand comparison with almost any others in fantasy literature.
3. Neverland. Despite being darker than its Disneyfied cartoon representation, who amongst us would not like to fly off to Neverland and enjoy eternal childhood with Peter, the Lost Boys and Tinkerbell whilst battling Captain Hook and his sidekicks?
4. Narnia. Come, walk with me. Let’s see what’s at the back of this wardrobe. Oh look, a door. Whither does it lead? To a new world full of wonders – and Turkish delight! Loved the Narnia books as a child.
5. Airstrip One. Orwell’s Oceanian
province of Airstrip One (an avatar of ) is not somewhere I’d like to live or even visit but is an iconic dystopian setting. Chilling and in many subtle ways prophetic, it’s a classic setting. London
6. Bookworld. Jasper Fforde’s fictional book world is clever, fun and ever so slightly insane. I could equally have included his alternative
Swindon, Thursday Next’s other home but settled on Bookworld as its true “otherness” makes it a little more vivid for me.
7. Discworld. Oh yes, indeed. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld has grown and deepened over the course of the 39 novels set here and it is now one of the most richly drawn worlds in fantasy literature.
8. Lankhmar. The main city setting for Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser fantasy series, this fictional setting brings back good childhood memories of reading his books. Classic swords and sorcery pulp they may be but they were fun to read as a 12 year old.
9. Callahan’s Place. This is the bar I’d love to fall into, inhabited by friendly locals who are always willing to lend an ear to sort out the problems of other visitors even if they are vampires, aliens, time travellers or even mythological figures. Spider Robinson’s quirky stories are really good fun and I’d recommend them as a light read.
10. The Nightside. In Simon Green’s fictional world, it’s always 3 o’clock in the morning. The Nightside is a place where anything goes - as John Taylor, the main character ion the series says, it’s "a place where dreams come true and nightmares come alive. Where one can buy anything, often at the price of your soul... or someone else's. Where the music never stops and the fun never ends". The Nightside novels are a dark blend of PI fiction, fantasy and science fiction and are highly entertaining. I wouldn’t want to go there but the Nightside makes for great light reading.