Let’s face it, everything is pretty terrible at the moment. The planet is on fire, various governments are in meltdown, the far right is on the rise and certain people with access to nukes are flirting with the idea of World War Three. Sometimes you just wish you could get away from it all.
But where to go? Fiction offers a world of alternative…well, worlds for you to choose from. Pick carefully, though. It’s all fun and games reading about the Red Wedding, but I can’t say I’m desperate for a seat at that particular table. Luckily for you guys, I’ve scouted ahead, so that when the time comes to jump ship into another reality, you’ll at least know which ones to avoid.
I now present to you, dear reader, the absolutely definitive and final ranking of fictional universes to escape to, from best to worst. Bear this in mind if you ever find a wormhole.
Let’s be real, I wasn’t going to put anything else in the top spot. Discworld would be the perfect place to live. It’s got the right balance of narrative causality and personal freedom, which means that it’d be convenient enough to stumble across relevant backstories but you wouldn’t get stuck as a trope for the rest of time. It evolves, it’s funny, it has a warmth to it that is never saccharine. Also, there’s a chance that I might end up as a wizard, where it would be my job to sit around, eat loads of really good food and never do any actual magic and/or work. The dream.
- The Invisible Library
For those of you that haven’t read this series: oh my God, what are you doing. The Invisible Library is great – it’s a series about Librarians working for an organisation that straddles multiple different universes and it really does have everything. Dragons, Fae, armour-plated alligators, books, and an unreasonably large amount of fancy parties. A decent knowledge of how stories work and an awareness of what you promise is really all you need to prosper, and if you don’t like the world you’re in you can always visit another one. There’s only two reasons why it didn’t get the top spot: a) there is a very real risk that as a puny human, I would get crushed by the Fae or the dragons and b) my skin might get stolen and I’m not up for that, I need it. Other than that, sign me up.
- His Dark Materials
Give me my delightful animal friend. I’ve done the quizzes, I know my daemon would be a cat, now give it to me so I can sit about in Jordan College drinking tea.
Once upon a time, this would’ve been the top spot. However, it’s important to remember that while I would absolutely clean up at the Hogwarts feasts, there is no power on Earth that could drag me back to high school. I want to do magic, don’t get me wrong, but I also don’t want to have to lie to all of my non-magical friends. Also, don’t tell me wizards can’t fix climate change, I know they can.
All the good bits of the Medieval period with none of the plague, dismemberment and raw sewage in the streets, although I maintain that the most interesting bit is the Wood Between the Worlds. Not my first choice, but there’s something appealing about the idea that if you went to Narnia and were basically just a decent person, it’d all turn out okay for you in the end. Marked down for religious moralising and the very unfortunate racial implications, though.
- Sherlock Holmes’s London
I’m being a bit cheeky by putting this on the list as it’s so close to the real world, but it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to. I think living in Sherlock Holmes’s London is about the closest I’ll get to being named the sole recipient of large and somehow sinister bequests, or being a famous jewel thief, so that’s mainly why it’s on here. Also, as I live in London I would at least know my way around. Major downside is that I would either have to commit crimes or have crimes committed against me. I’d definitely choose the former, as all of Holmes’s deductions seem to rely on making wild assumptions, so I reckon if I left behind deliberately confusing clues (a single peacock feather, a Russian dictionary, or a single bloodstained glove) I’d be able to give myself a decent headstart while he puzzled those out.
- Middle Earth
All of the good bits of the Medieval period, plus several marauding hordes of orcs, goblins, and the MASSIVE SPIDERS in Mirkwood forest. Only the hobbits seem to have a good time, and not once the plot really gets going. I’d visit but I wouldn’t want to stay there, mainly because I wouldn’t get to do any magic and you know those elves are really patronising.
- The Hunger Games
The only things that saved this from the bottom of the list is the food in the Capitol, which sounded really nice, and the cool outfits. Blood sports are not my thing and if I ever came up against Katniss, she’d snap me in half.
All the good bits of the Medieval period, plus all the bad bits, plus all the worst bits, and then with some added modern horrors just to give it that extra edge. I would get maimed within about five minutes.
- Lovecraft Country
About as bad as Westeros, but marginally more up-to-date and with more tentacles. Very racist, very gross, and laden with crushing despair. I’ll pass, thanks.
And there you have it! These are ten fictional universes which I have arbitrarily ranked from best to worst, based on how likely I’d be to survive and/or thrive. I’ve missed many out, and I have Opinions on many, many more. If anyone’s curious, feel free to ask, and if anyone thinks I’m wrong, feel free to make your case. I’ll be here, trying to work out whether I look good in a pointy hat. I’ve got to start packing eventually.