Ten Alternate Universe Books
I’m not quite ready for the next review, which means it’s time for a list! So, apropos of nothing whatsoever, here is a list of books about alternate universes. I’ve left off classics like The Wizard of Oz, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Chronicles of Narnia, so most of these are less well-known.
1. The Everworld series by K.A. Applegate – A twelve-book series about four teenagers trapped in a universe where all the ancient gods and goddesses, myths and legends went when people stopped believing in them. When they fall asleep in Everworld, however, they wake up back in the real world and have to reconcile their rapidly diverging double lives. The concept is fascinating and the story is full of tension and danger. This is the series that spurred my interest in Norse mythology (seriously, the Vikings are the best part), and made me unable to remember the correct words to “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.”
2. The Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville – A fantastic four-book series about a girl on the run from danger who finds refuge in Luster, a magical world populated by unicorns, among other creatures. She soon discovers that her own history and her destiny are intertwined with that of the unicorns, and she begins a journey to unlock the secrets of her past and save Luster from destruction.
3. Stardust by Neil Gaiman – The book that inspired the movie. It’s been awhile since I read it, but I recall it being both strange and wonderful. Ordinary Tristan decides to leave the town of Wall and venture into the world of Stormhold to catch a fallen star to bring back to his beloved Victoria and win her love. He doesn’t count on the star being a person, however, and she is not too keen on being given away as a gift. There are evil witches and sky pirates and feuding princes and it’s all very swashbuckling and magical.
4. The Stravaganza series by Mary Hoffman – I’ve reviewed a couple of these previously. There are currently five books, with the potential for more, and they all stand alone fairly well, although the backstory does get increasingly complex, so perhaps it’s better to read them in order. In each book, a teenager in modern-day England discovers a talisman of some kind and is transported to an alternate universe version of Renaissance Italy, where the villainous diChimici family is trying to gain power by persecuting the Stravaganti (those who cross between worlds).
5. Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones – One of Jones’ lesser-known novels, but a favorite of mine, this one is about Rupert, a junior Magid in charge of a section of the Multiverse that includes Earth and the Empire of Korfyros where the emperor has just been killed, leaving Rupert in charge of locating his heir. On top of that, his mentor has just died and Rupert has to choose a replacement. He tries to make his job easier by gathering all the candidates in one place, but his problems quickly become intertwined and grow more and more complicated. It’s very bizarre and a bit wacky, in true Diana Wynne Jones style, and includes a bit of romance in the bargain.
6. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – This is a bit of a stretch, as the journey to another universe is only a short segment of the story, but it was also one of the most surprising and intriguing parts for me. Sophie is transformed into an elderly woman by an evil witch, so she sets out to find a way to break the curse and in the process meets the wizard Howl, who is also under a curse. If Sophie can figure out what that curse is, maybe she has a chance of breaking both of them and setting herself and Howl free.
7. The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi – This is a great graphic novel series about a girl who inherits a magical amulet from her great-grandfather, which leads her to another world where her help is desperately needed to stop the evil Elf King. The first priority for Emily and her brother, however, is rescuing their mother from the evil creature that has abducted her. I was instantly captivated by the engaging story and the gorgeous artwork. There are currently four books, with more to come.
8. Epic by Conor Kostick – This is the first in a trilogy revolving around virtual worlds which were created as video games but have grown into much more. Erik’s society is dependent on the video game world of Epic. Conflicts are resolved there and your status in the game affects your status in real life and that of your community. Erik believes the system is unjust and he comes to the realization that there is only one way to stop the government’s tyranny: by winning the game.
9. The Withern Rise Trilogy by Michael Lawrence – These books are basically the reason I would even think to make a list like this. If the concept of alternate universes interests you, you will definitely want to read these. The premise here is that every choice or event with a 50/50 chance of playing out one way or the other results in the creation of separate universes – one for each potential outcome. Alaric’s world has been a dark one since his mother was killed in an accident, but when he inadvertently travels to a parallel universe, he discovers another version of himself with a very different life. For one thing, she’s female, and for another, her mother is still alive. His presence in Naia’s world could have terrible consequences, but how can he stay away? The second and third books get increasingly complex with the addition of more and more universes.
10. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman – A popular trilogy of epic proportions beginning in an alternate universe version of our world where people’s souls exist in animal form, separate yet inseparable. As children, their dæmons change form at will, but when they reach puberty they settle on one particular animal. Lyra has spent her childhood in Oxford, but she dreams of adventure and when her Uncle Asriel visits with tales of his travels and his search for information about a mysterious substance called Dust and a potential gateway to another world, she longs to follow him on his journey. She is soon thrown into a greater adventure than she bargained for, full of conspiracies and dangerous experiments.