Tough Traveling is a weekly feature, created and hosted by Nathan at the Fantasy Review Barn, in which participants come up with a list of books that follow the fantasy tropes that can be found in Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Each week, Nathan picks a new subject. It’s been a while since I’ve participated in Tough Traveling, but I just had to this week because the topic is pretty cool:
UNIQUE FLORA: Self-explanatory. If you know of a plant that is either not on earth, or doesn’t act the same way in fantasyland as it does on earth, then you can consider it unique. Have fun.
I thought it might be tough to come up with examples for this, but really, I could have come up with even more. Here are seven books or series that use flora in completely unique ways:
The Ruins by Scott Smith. This is an obvious one, but how could I not include it? Smith’s terrifying story of a bunch of young campers who run into killer vines is quite disgusting at times, and scared me to death. It was made into a bad movie—shocking, right?—and I say skip it and read the book instead. Just watch out for those vines that are creeping across your house…
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I’ve only read the first book in this series, but wow, was it amazing! VanderMeer gives us an extremely creepy setting full of odd natural wonders, including a fungus that is able to communicate by using written language. I know that sounds ridiculous, but you have to read it to see the brilliance of the author’s imagination.
The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley. Here’s another example of the use of fantasy fungus! In The Beauty, women are mysteriously changing into strange mushroom-like creatures. It begins when mushrooms start growing out of their dead bodies. This was one strange book indeed, and although not my favorite, I just had to include it because, mushrooms that take over your body!
Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig. Wendig’s YA series features unique flora in the form of corn—sentient corn, to be exact, that seems to not only have a mind of its own, but can infect people in a very unsettling way. These books will make you think twice about going through that Halloween corn maze!
The Lotus War series by Jay Kristoff. Kristoff’s beautiful but violent saga revolves around the blood lotus, a flower that is used to make fuel, but is also used to make a powerful drug that is quite addicting. The blood lotus flowers are nurtured with a very special ingredient…
The Lost Level by Brian Keene. Keene’s homage to the golden age of pulp fiction masters like Edgar Rice Burroughs is about parallel worlds that are filled with dangers, but the scariest one for me was razor grass, sentient grass that will cut you to ribbons and then absorb your blood. Yikes!
Maze by J.M. McDermott. I’ve saved the strangest example of unique flora until last! In this odd but engaging story, there lives a life form called the rose deer, a deer that grows up from the ground and has roses coming out of its antlers. I imagine Maze will end up being one of the all time strangest books I’ve ever read, and the rose deer has a lot to do with that:-D
Big thanks to Nathan for hosting Tough Traveling! I know there are tons more great examples of “unique flora” out there. Let me know if I’ve missed some!