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The Life List: Escape into the fantastical worlds conjured up in these 10 books

(From top left, clockwise) The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, Neverwhere, Sofia And The Utopia  Machine and His Dark Materials.
(From top left, clockwise) The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, Neverwhere, Sofia And The Utopia Machine and His Dark Materials.PHOTOS: HARPERCOLLINS, HEADLINE, EPIGRAM BOOKS, EVERYMAN

SINGAPORE - Unable to leave home due to circuit breaker measures, or even set foot outside your room due to a home quarantine order? Escape your physical confines through the "uniquely portable magic" of books, as author Stephen King puts it. Here are 10 works of fiction that contain worlds within worlds for you to go wandering in.

1. The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (1950)

By C. S. Lewis

Available at this website.

In this children's classic that kicks off the beloved Chronicles Of Narnia series, the four Pevensie children are evacuated during World War II to a house in the English countryside, where the youngest, Lucy, enters a wardrobe and discovers a magical land called Narnia.

Though her siblings are sceptical, all eventually make their way to Narnia, which is populated by talking animals and mythical beings such as fauns. Its ruler, the White Witch, keeps it in the grip of a perpetual winter and can only be overthrown if the children join the great lion Aslan against her.

2. Neverwhere (1996)

By Neil Gaiman

Available at this website.

When corporate drone Richard stops to help a bleeding girl in a London street, his act of kindness costs him his house, job and fiancee and renders him invisible and ignored by the rest of society.

To survive, he has to make his way in London Below, a fascinating but dangerous otherworld of floating markets, court politics aboard underground trains and an ancient labyrinth in which lurks a terrible beast.

3. Sofia And The Utopia Machine (2018)

By Judith Huang

Available at Local Books' website.

 
 

In a dystopian Singapore that has been literally stratified by class, 15-year-old Sofia accidentally creates a new world using a top-secret machine in her mother's Biopolis laboratory.

The good news is that she has become the goddess of her own universe. The bad news is that she must go on the run from the government and flee to the no-man's-land of Pulau Ubin.

4. His Dark Materials (1995 to 2000)

By Philip Pullman

Available at this website.

In this epic trilogy, lavishly adapted for television by HBO last year (2019), the irrepressible 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua journeys to the frozen north in search of her kidnapped friend Roger and winds up in a war of divine proportions.

Lyra is from a world parallel to this one, where humans all have their own daemons, animal manifestations of people's souls. She crosses paths with Will Parry, a teenager on the run who becomes the wielder of the Subtle Knife, an instrument that can cut windows into multiple worlds.

5. Howl's Moving Castle (1986)

By Diana Wynne Jones


Book cover for Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. PHOTO: GREENWILLOW

Available at this website.

Sensible Sophie Hatter's life as a small-town milliner is upended when she is transformed by a vindictive witch into an elderly woman. Seeking to get her curse reversed, she starts keeping house for Howl, a melodramatic and allegedly heartless wizard who lives in a moving castle that opens onto four locations at once and is powered by a fire demon.

This novel was turned into an acclaimed film by animation great Hayao Miyazaki. Even so, the book still manages to be better.

6. The Star-Touched Queen (2016)

By Roshani Chokshi


Book cover for The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. PHOTO: ST MARTIN'S GRIFFIN

Available at this website.

In this lush tale spun from Indian mythology, Mayavati, a princess of the Bharata kingdom, has been shunned by the rest of the court because of her terrible horoscope.

About to be sacrificed at her wedding as a political pawn, she is given the chance to escape by becoming queen of the mysterious kingdom of Akaran, a dark, empty land of jewelled trees, sinister whispers and thousands of locked doors.

7. The Night Circus (2011)

By Erin Morgenstern


Book cover for The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. PHOTO: VINTAGE

Available at this website.

Two star-crossed magicians, Celia and Marco, are locked in a duel to the death that neither of them chose to enter.

The stage of their contest is Le Cirque des Reves, a phantasmagorical travelling circus that arrives without warning and draws a devoted following for its panoply of wonders - a garden made entirely of ice, a hall of mirrors, a vertical cloud maze and more. But the circus grows increasingly unstable and unmoored from time as their rivalry comes to a head.

8. The Eyre Affair (2001)

By Jasper Fforde


Book cover for The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. PHOTO: HODDER

Available at this website.

In Fforde's metafictional series, people can actually escape into the worlds of books. In this opening instalment, literary detective Thursday Next pursues a criminal mastermind through the original manuscript of Charlotte Bronte's 1847 novel Jane Eyre, attempting to apprehend her mark without derailing Bronte's plot too much.

9. The Infinite Library And Other Stories (2017)

By Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

Available at this website.

This fantastical collection of 17 stories alludes to Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges's idea of an infinite library that contains every book that could possibly be written.

The stories flit from world to world, from an enigmatic map shop, to an uprising on a space ship, to a Bukit Batok housing block where the inhabitants are being slowly but relentlessly transformed into living mathematical equations.

10. The Neverending Story (1979, translated 1983)

By Michael Ende, translated by Ralph Manheim


Book cover for The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. PHOTO: PUFFIN

Available at this website.

In this exquisite novel, written originally in German, Bastian Balthazar Bux, a shy, bullied boy, becomes drawn into the story of a book he stole. It is set in Fantastica, a kingdom that will be destroyed by an entity called the Nothing unless the land's ailing leader, the Childlike Empress, is given a name by a human.

When Bastian names the Empress, he is pulled into Fantastica as a hero, but as he explores the world and begins to abuse his new powers, every wish he makes costs him a memory of his human life.

VIEW IT/ JUDITH HUANG AT FLIGHTS OF FOUNDRY

WHAT: Huang will be reading from Sofia And The Utopia Machine at virtual speculative fiction convention Flights Of Foundry

WHEN: May 17, 11am

ADMISSION: Free, register online 

INFO: Judith Huang's website

LISTEN TO BOOKMARK THIS PODCAST

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