Top 5 books set in fictional bad places, chosen by JL George – Big Issue

A hand up, not a handout
The Word author JL George journeys into the darkness as she picks her top 5 books set in fictional bad places

The Word is out now. Image: Rosie Sun / Unsplash
JL George’s The Word is a book that doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of the world, exploring themes of coercive control, disinformation and fundamentalism.
The New Welsh Writing Award winner picks her favourite books set in fictional bad places.
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill 
Baby girls are no longer born – instead, lab-grown ‘eves’ are designed for beauty at all costs. Teenage Freida’s struggle against her world’s cartoonishly strict gender roles meets a tragic end in this dark YA satire. 
Bad IdeasChemicals byLloyd Markham 
Books about nights out gone wrong are two-a-penny, but it’s the bizarroland border town of Goregree, practically a character in its own right, that gives this story of misfit friends out on the town its punch. 
The City & The City byChina Miéville 
The cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma occupy the same geographical space, but interaction between the two is forbidden. Inhabitants must learn not to see each other to avoid breaking the law in a tricky murder mystery that’s also a powerful metaphor for our social blind spots. 
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E Butler 
First published in 1993, Butler’s heart-rending portrait of Lauren, a young empath who maintains hope in a world racked by poverty, inequality, climate change and violence, today feels eerily prescient. 
In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster  
Told in the form of unsent letters home, this is a dreamlike, startlingly beautiful account of a woman’s search for her missing brother and fight for survival in a city that’s collapsing around her.

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