Fans of the Halo series know this sacred ring is doomed from the start. Most of the book takes place on the ring, and as the crash-landed UNSC Marines struggle to survive on this strange new world, face off against their Covenant enemies and try to maintain a sense of order amongst their shattered crew, something far greater than man or machine lurks deep within the core of the structure. Once the Flood breakout of containment, everything falls on the Master Chief to destroy the ring and end the threat of the Flood once and for all. Installation 05, like all Haloes, is an artificial world designed to house a superweapon built to cleanse all life in the galaxy. When that revelation is realized, the full weight of the danger shatters everything into pieces. It’s one of my favourite settings in one of my favourite books, and videogames, and it remains as a monument to a terrifying battle. Dust and Echoes, Spartan.
The Woods (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon)
The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted. Dark words spoken by the man himself, Stephen King. This is a beautiful opening line, and haunting all the same. The basic premise of the book revolves around a 10-year old girl, Trisha McFarland who gets lost in the woods. Her saving grace is her Walkman her portal into the baseball games she listens to. It seems apparent right away that the world’s teeth are taking a bite out of Trisha as soon as she strays from the path. Mosquitoes harass her. River water poisons her, and the damned Yankee’s torment her. Something is out there and it’s watching, waiting for her to make a move, to make one fatal decision before consuming her altogether. Although I thought the ending was a little weak, the woods remain a haunting place, and an endless reminder to stay on the path, and should you get lost, find solace in the little things. For Trisha, it’s her Walkman and Tom Gordon.
The World State (Brave New World)
Happiness is the drug on offer, and misery is banished from this utopian world. For everybody in the World State, they are happy wherever they are. As soon as they are uncapped from the bottle, they are taught to avoid books, and whatever social circle the system places you in, such as Delta, Epsilon, that is where you stay. If your job is to man the lift doors, that’s your world and you love it. Sometimes it sounds great, chronic happiness and all, but at the same time it’s a controlled world. Creativity seems to be obsolete. Your entire life focus is to be happy and waste your time chasing sex and entertainment. For Bernard Marx, happiness is not the answer. Life is. Absorbing it, watching the wonder of human intimacy at the Savage Reservation. The old world had it right. However, the full horror of this world comes from John the Savage, and especially when he tries to live alone. That ending paints the darkest picture I can think of. It hurts.
Soviet Russia (Child 44)
Every single word is under scrutiny. Every single action is under surveillance, and every single question must be answered by one name: Stalin. The setting, although not entirely fictional, resonates in my head because of how terrifying it must have been. I’m sure, despite how authentic the book might be, it can’t properly recreate Stalin’s reign of terror. This is the sort of thing George Orwell had in mind with 1984 and it’s not on my list because of Child 44. Nobody can be trusted here. It’s so scary to think that after the Second World War, Russia fell into a pit of paranoia and a terror of its own. With the Nazi War Machine gone, all that’s left is to either thrive as a harmonious country, or create a revolution and destroy its own people as traitors. I don’t know enough of Russia’s history to say otherwise, I can only go by this book and its two sequels. But when you’ve got the Gulags on one side, and denouncing a friend on the other, it’s easy to see why so many betray one another. Labour camps will kill you. If you squeal on someone else, you buy yourself another day to live. I don’t ever want to make that choice in any context.
There are so many more settings to talk about, like 1984 and Bioshock: Rapture, but these came to mind first and were the most striking. Dark settings are great, no doubt, but scary, and in some books, somewhat prophetic. The world is a dark place anyway, and it’s always great to escape into the light of great books like John Green’s worlds, but when the banshees call my name, I always answer. The world has teeth, and it will bite you with them, as the man says.