Thursday, November 17, 2011

Top Ten Other Worlds

In fantasy, and really in all of speculative fiction, the setting is the foundation of the story. What kinds of people are there? What can they do? What do they want? What does the world look like? The best of SF conveys complex and unique worlds that linger in their readers' imaginations. Here's mine:

10. The Hollows
Kim Harrison

While nothing in The Hollows is precisely original - there are witches, vampires, werewolves, demons, elves, fairies, pixies, etc - the way these beings are conceived is absolutely fantastic. The nature of the Ever After, the interactions between living and undead vamps, the relationships between the various supernaturals and between them and humans, just everything is extraordinarily well done. I particularly love the bit about tomatoes - who would have thought of having humans afraid of tomatoes because a virus nearly wiped out the species? Great stuff.

9. Wheel of Time
Robert Jordan

What list of fantasy worlds would be complete without The Wheel of Time? The world of the Wheel is incredibly detailed, filled with everything from magic to religion to local customs to prophecies and translations. Sure, some of the books in the middle were slow, but you can't deny this is one of the most well-thought-out worlds out there.

8. Kate Daniels
Ilona Andrews

After humanity pushed the boundaries of technology too far, magic started to take over. Now magic and tech waves pull the world in different directions, and myths walk the streets. I love how this series integrates different myths and legends from many cultures and adds something all its own. The magic waves and flares are something I never would have thought of, but make so much sense it almost seems silly no one ever came up with it before. A brilliant, highly recommended series.

7. Dune
Frank Herbert

Who comes up with a rare drug that allows pilots to navigate hyperspace or the deep, generations long machinations and genetic matching to produce some kind of mental super-human? Frank Herbert, that's who. Everything about this book is creative and excellent. I'm just going to pretend the rest of the series didn't happen, though.

6. Young Wizards
Diane Duane

The Young Wizards series combines magic and science in an incredible way. This series and A Wrinkle in Time explain my fascination with cosmology and relativity, which is otherwise weird for a liberal arts chick. Great for all ages, Young Wizards is about doing the right thing, no matter how difficult, and the magic system reflects that - just take a look at the wizards' Oath.

5. Tide Lords
Jennifer Fallon

When I say "immortal," I'm guessing you think of either Greek gods or vampires, depending on what you're reading now. But what if there were people who, for whatever reason, really couldn't die, ever? That's the question Jennifer Fallon explores in the Tide Lords, and to back it up, she's come up with a politically fascinating world filled with intrigue and secrets.

4. Codex Alera
Jim Butcher

With elemental Furies, scary bug alien things, wolf-people, barbarian tribes, byzantine politics, and absolutely wonderful characters, Codex Alera has a little bit of everything that makes fantasy great, always with a unique twist. Not only is the writing in this series excellent, the world Butcher created makes me want to go back and "visit" again and again.

3. The Kingkiller Chronicles
Patrick Rothfuss

Sympathy is one of the more scientific forms of magic out there, and it's absolutely fascinating. And the many different groups and the academic politics of the story are amazing. I eagerly await the third installment of this trilogy.

2. The Lord of the Rings
JRR Tolkien

You didn't think I was going to skip this one, did you? Middle Earth is easily the most detailed world out there. It has fully formed languages, mythologies, cultures, politics, just about everything. Please don't kill me for saying that it isn't my favorite read (it's a little slow), but credit where credit's due - Tolkien is undeniably the master and founder of modern fantasy.

1. The Stormlight Archive
Brandon Sanderson

I could have filled this list with Sanderson works. (Okay, technically he doesn't have ten different worlds, but you get the point.) He comes up with unbelievably creative and complex systems of magic, with the political, cultural, and even biological details to back them up. The Stormlight Archive is thus far his tour de force, in which he's thought every aspect through to fit in with the world he created. I was so utterly impressed by the world in this book that I almost added a new rating category just so I could give it five cupcakes.

Are you particularly intrigued by any of these? Did I miss one of your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

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