Parallel worlds have a distinct call to my imagination. The thought that right now, something magical and fantastical might be happening is a happy daydream that I’ve had since I was a child.
Because of that, I’ve always been impressed when writers create their own worlds. Most of my favorite books have their own worlds, and how these worlds “work” is one of the biggest pulls of a story for me: how they’re connected to ours, if it’s possible to travel between them, the small details that change every day living for the parallel world’s creatures.
Here are five parallel worlds that I think are worth checking out. Traveling to them would be another matter, likely dependent on when I would arrive there ;)
1. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series
I’m not a horror genre fan. I scare very easily, and the after effects are unpleasant: the images stay with me a long time. I avoid horror books and movies, but may, at times, watch or read movies/books with only an undertone or horror to them.
Hence, I’ve never been a Stephen King fan. And I doubt I will ever be.
However, I am a big fan of his Dark Tower saga. It is a series of seven books, each one thicker than the last, and chronicles the last days (uh, years? decades? centuries?) of Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger. As he starts out traveling from In-World to Mid-World and End-World, you discover that his world is connected in some way to our world. He draws people from this world and we travel with them, this last ka-tet, this last group of people: the last gunslingers. Jake Chambers, Eddie Dean, and Odetta Holmes all hail from different whens in this world.
What’s also quite interesting is that he managed to weave multiple threads/characters from his other stories into this series, so much that I almost want to read the rest ;)
2. C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia
By this time, everyone probably knows about Narnia–or has at least heard about Narnia–so there is not much to explain. What most know is that Lucy Pevensie stumbled into Narnia by walking into a wardrobe, and that there are talking animals and fauns and Aslan the lion who has Liam Neeson’s voice.
But my first experience with Narnia was its very beginning, having started with The Magician’s Nephew first: how Aslan sang the world to life, and stewardship of the land given to humans; how evil came into that world, so new and pure.
This was very interesting to me because of the parallels to Bible stories and Christian beliefs. I read this when I was young and it influenced me and my convictions significantly. In the same vein, CS Lewis’s contemporary and friend JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings has parallels with Christian beliefs, just in a different, more obscure manner (case in point: I only realized it when I read The Silmarillon).
3. Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom/Abhorsen series
This is a “different sort” of parallel universe. The Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre live exactly side by side, on the same piece of land: Old Kingdom to the south, and Ancelstierre to the north. Each country–if you will–knows of the existence of the other, and crossing to the other “country” is permitted with proper credentials and permits.
However, that border–where the Wall stands–is the only thing they have in common. Ancelstierre is just like our reality, if set a bit further back; but The Old Kingdom is ruled by kings and queens, where the dead walk, where the Charter and Free Magic exist. The Charter can be felt at the border, and a little further into Ancelstierre if there is wind from the south.
In the same way that charter mages cannot wield the Charter when further into Ancelstierre, Ancelstierran technology breaks down when in the Old Kingdom. Paper disintegrates. Mechanical equipment like guns refuse to work. No communication lines. And the way the Northerners talk, it’s really as if The Old Kingdom was a completely separate reality. They scoff at its ways, its methods. Like any sane human, they think the existence of magic mumbo-jumbo is a load of bull. They may give respect to its King, but magic? Are you serious?
3.5 Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom
I felt like I needed to give a nod to Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom series. It operates under a more “traditional” parallel universe structure, and would really garner a place in this list by itself, but I felt it a bit like cheating to include two worlds from one author ;)
4. Jasper Fforde’s Tuesday Next series
Book lovers, you must know this book. There are no ifs and buts. Thursday Next is a literary detective: her day job requires her to look for forgeries and manage literature and its effects in a world where literature is pervasive.
Yes, that’s right, that’s her day job. Thursday is moonlighting as a Jurisfiction agent: as she can jump into books and novels, she has become part of the literary police force–literally. And this is the meat of that world: a world where book characters come to life, where being in books is their “day job”, where characters sometimes commit petty crimes. Like trying to become the protagonist when they’re only a supporting character. It’s a world where Jane Eyre originally ended sadly, but Thursday Next engineered it so that we have the much better ending we now know.
The “real world” is not entirely our world, being a lot more technologically advanced and yet retaining some “artifacts” of times long past. But the thought that the characters in the books we read are alive–that they are aware, and have their own thoughts and opinions–well, it’s such a heady feeling.
5. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
A list dealing with parallel worlds can’t be complete without the Harry Potter books. To be sure, the massive popularity of the books kind of turn me off (blame it on the last remnants of the need to rebel!) but this doesn’t detract from the fact that the books are vastly enjoyable and present a very vibrant, interesting world that runs right along with our Muggle existence.
The mixing of time in the “real world” (as necessitated by Harry’s living with his relatives) and “their world” I felt was done really well: an interesting meld of the mundane and the magical. It made me appreciate the fact that modern technology makes our lives a lot easier in ways we take for granted: nothing is more marked in reminding us of this everyday magic that we already have than Mr. Weasley’s attempts at understanding and replicating “real world technology”. The apparent fascination he has with our “magic” is not only charming, but a reminder that sometimes, we really don’t need to imagine so much to experience magic–or to be wary and vigilant about the Dark Arts in the form of guns and other similar modern objects.
With our thoughts, we make the world
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”
Did I miss any of your favorite parallel worlds?