BooksApril 10, 2020

The Unity Books chart for the strange week ending 10 April: Other worlds


Week three of our lockdown Top 10s – books about elsewhere, brought to you by the good humans of Unity Books.

A reminder that these lists are completely unshackled from space and time and what’s happening in the world of books right now. Take no notice of the numbers, either – we just like the familiarity of the 1-10 format.


1. Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin (1968-)

The Earthsea Quartet is a magical adventure set in a complex world peopled by wizards, dragons and ordinary people. Wise and wonderful writing, a battle between good and evil, language as power – it’s all here! The greatest fantasy novel of the century and one you’ll return to again and again. / Caro Alexander

2. The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer (2014-)

Look, I know that this trilogy was published in 2014 but I’m still not over it. Some of the best weird fiction ever written: an upside-down tower, moss that writes, a slug with a human face, dolphins and a psychologist. Better than the Netflix film. / Toyah Webb

3. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (2014)

Fever Dream can be described as a literary emulation of sleep paralysis, which is the horrifying feeling of not being able to move at either the onset of falling asleep or upon awakening. Your awareness is intact but something is sitting on your chest, or whispering into your ear, perhaps even in another language. In Fever Dream something ominous and viral hangs in the air, the water, and among the words. Schweblin’s prose is short and creepy, just like a bad bout of sleep paralysis. / Demi Cox

4. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (2015)

A devoted couple set off in search of their long-lost son. Along the way they encounter Sir Gawain, elderly and on a quest. Plus there are pixies, a dragon, and a shapeshifting boatman, all drawing the couple towards the truth. Part western, part historical fiction, this fantasy novel is the one I’m always happy to reread. / Melanie O’Loughlin

5. Exhalation by Ted Chiang (2019)

Ted Chiang is utterly enamoured by the moral and philosophical questions of the human condition. Miraculously skirting the dystopian, the nine science-fiction short stories in Exhalation are no exception to his infatuation. / Lara Lindsay Parker

6. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey (1968-)

The first fantasy book I ever picked up and it immediately captivated me – an immersive start to a beautiful and thrilling series. Written in the 60s, Dragonflight has some dated social narratives, yet the magical quality of McCaffrey’s characters, the dynamism of her plotting and pure world building will envelop the reader in the world of Pern, with its extraordinary dragons and their riders. / Niki Ward

7. At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft (1931)

Appalling and terrifying life-forms are discovered on an expedition to the Antarctic. Lovecraft’s knowledge of the polar expeditions of the time and his obsession with anatomy provide an illusion of realism that will deeply disturb. / Jo McColl

8. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002)

Chiang’s most well known short story ‘Story of Your Life’ provided the basis for the 2016 movie Arrival. ‘Linguist’ as hero is pure Chiang – his fiction seamlessly blends science, theology and philosophy. Smart, meticulous, spare and utterly original – “he makes me very happy”. / Jo McColl

9. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)

It’s Margaret Atwood’s world and we just live here. Let’s not forget, though, that Our Lady Of Speculative Fiction has also dabbled in offworld science fiction – in the story within story within story that is Booker winner The Blind Assassin. Depression-era Ontario? Planet Zycron? Atwood’s literary prowess? You know you want to. / Briar Lawry

10. Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

One of the key seedlings of what we now read as Cyberpunk, this novel explores the feasibility of a humanity designing, writing, and existing in a digital realm alongside the physical. Neuromancer merges punk and hacker subcultures into a detective story like no other. / Matt Bialostocki


1. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards (1974)

Using the power of imagination, Professor Savant and three wanderers Lindy, Tom and Ben, search for the wisest, kindest creature in the world: the Whangdoodle. A story woven of whimsy and wonder for adventure-seeking young readers. / Annie Keig

2. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002)

Coraline, a clever but somewhat foolhardy young girl, must grapple with sinister forces that inhabit a mirrored reality adjacent to her own. For those chill-seeking youngsters who are after a masterfully spooky fantasy, Gaiman delivers like no other. / Becky Popham

3. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin (1969)

An incredible piece of feminist science fiction, Le Guin explores how the fluidity of sex and gender influences culture and society, as well as political and religious divides. A hugely compelling and thought-provoking read. / George Banach-Salas

4. The Old Lie by Claire Coleman (2019)

Combines genuinely exciting space-battle action with meditations on indigeneity, gender and militarism. If you like the idea of travelling alongside a bunch of women and enbies as they pilot rescue missions and blast enemy ships, this is for you. / Karen McLeod

5. Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist (2008)

Years after the loss of a young daughter, Anders returns to his island home where he is confronted with a past that is literally haunting him. The Smiths have never been more terrifying to listen to. / Luke Finnigan

6. The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson (1992, 1993 and 1996)

A SF landmark, Robinson’s trilogy follows the colonisation and evolution of Mars over two centuries – exploring the social, political, personal and technological evolution of humanity. As stunning and relevant now as twenty-five years ago – manifested genius by a master. / Marcus Greville

7. Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1912)

Confederate soldier John Carter is mysteriously transported to Mars, discovers he has anti-gravity super-powers and gets entangled in the politics of a dying planet fighting for resources. A fantastic novel that’s part sci-fi action romp, planetary romance and western. / Rachel Pilois

8. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991-)

A British WWII nurse, honeymooning in the Scottish Highlands, wakes up in 1743 embroiled in the Jacobite rising. Decidedly a binge-worthy fantasy series, the ninth book, ‘Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone’, is currently in the works. / Dani Henke

9. The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson (2007)

New worlds are explored, old worlds abandoned and forgotten, but who can tell which is which? Philosophical, witty, and outlandish, The Stone Gods is about people — and robots — striking out for a distant something, hovering just out of reach. / Clara van Wel

10. La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust: Volume One) by Phillip Pullman (2017)

Malcolm Polstead is pulled from his uneventful life and taken on a journey to reunite family. Set in a world similar to our own, with magical twists that will still let you escape your bedroom. / Alex Hickford

Keep going!