Nature has long inspired artists of all kinds, from Wordsworth, to Van Gogh, from O’Keeffe, to Miyazaki. Mother Nature has touched the lives of creatives in every field, so we’ve assembled a list of amazing fantasy novels that are inspired by the natural world.
The Prophet of the termite god by Clark Thomas Carlton
Clark T. Carlton explores the intricate world of insects in his amazing fantasy series. The Prophet of the Termite God is the sequel to The Prophets of the Ghost Ants, celebrated as “exciting, visionary” and “a tour de force” by Lawrence Bender, producer of Inglorious Basterds, Pulp Fiction, Good Willing Hunting and Al Gore’s climate change awareness documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Carlton’s series is a thrilling look at the possibility of worlds within our world, and what nature is truly capable of, as well as a smashing feat of world building.
According to his FantasticFiction profile, Carlton was “inspired to begin writing the series during a trip to the Yucatan when he witnessed a battle for a Spanish peanut between two different kinds of ants. That night he dreamed of armies of tiny men on the backs of red and black ants. After doing years of research on insects and human social systems, Carlton says that “the plot was revealed to me like a streaming, technicolor prophecy on the sixth night of Burning Man when the effigy goes up in flames.”
Carlton’s latest novel tells the story of Pleckoo, once an outcast, who has risen to Prophet-Commander of the Hulkrish army. But a million warriors and their ghost ants were not enough to defeat his cousin, Anand the Roach Boy, the tamer of night wasps and founder of Bee-Jor. Now Pleckoo is hunted by the army that once revered him. Yet in all his despair, Pleckoo receives prophecies from his termite god, assuring him he will kill Anand to rule the Sand, and establish the One True Religion. Can Anand, the roach boy who worked in the dung heap, rise above the turmoil, survive his assassins, and prevent the massacre of millions?
The Prophet of the Termite God is published by Harper Voyager Impulse; Paperback; June 2019; $7.99 & e-book; $2.99).)
Check out more about him here!
Wonderblood by Julia Whicker
Julia Whicker’s debut novel imagines a post-apocalyptic America, in which a plague wiped out most of the population and laid waste to the land. The book is a timely warning of what could happen if society fails to acknowledge climate change.
Set five hundred years in the future, Wonderblood is Julia Whicker’s fascinating literary debut, set in a barren United States, an apocalyptic wasteland where warring factions compete for control of the land in strange and dangerous carnivals. A mad cow-like disease called “Bent Head” has killed off millions. Those who remain worship the ruins of NASA’s space shuttles, and Cape Canaveral is their Mecca. Medicine and science have been rejected in favour of magic, prophecy, and blood sacrifice.
When travelling marauders led by the blood-thirsty Mr. Capulatio invade her camp, a young girl named Aurora is taken captive as his bride and forced to join his band on their journey to Cape Canaveral. As war nears, she must decide if she is willing to become her captor’s queen. But then other queens emerge, some grotesque and others aggrieved, and not all are pleased with the girl’s ascent. Politics and survival are at the centre of this ravishing novel that will delight fans of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance.
The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
Recently made into a blockbuster film starring Natalie Portman, Jeff VanderMeer’s epic trilogy explores a world reclaimed by nature. Dubbed ‘creepy and fascinating’ by none other than Stephen King, VanderMeer’s books are ‘shot through with echoes of Lovecraft, Orwell, and Kafka’ and are ‘compulsively readable’, according to Tina Jordan for Entertainment Weekly and are a brilliant examination of a world over which humans have no control.
Annihilation is the first volume in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Authority is the second, and Acceptance is the third.
Area X-a remote and lush terrain-has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.
This is the twelfth expedition.
Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers-they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding-but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.
After the disastrous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the Southern Reach-the secret agency that monitors these expeditions-is in disarray. In Authority, John Rodriguez, aka “Control,” is the team’s newly appointed head. From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves-and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he’s promised to serve. And the consequences will spread much further than that.
It is winter in Area X in Acceptance. A new team embarks across the border on a mission to find a member of a previous expedition who may have been left behind. As they press deeper into the unknown-navigating new terrain and new challenges-the threat to the outside world becomes more daunting. The mysteries of Area X may have been solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound-or terrifying.
MIDWORLD BY ALAN DEAN FOSTER
Brian M. Stableford listed Midworld as a “notable example” of the “elaborate and ingenious” Earth-like worlds of late-20th-century sci-fi, and we agree! This novel explores a world inspired by our Earth’s (rapidly diminishing) jungles and follows its inhabitants as they face a threat greater than any they have ever known… Timely.
Born was a child of the rain forest that covered Midworld, part of the primitive society that the peaceful jungle planet had sustained for hundreds of years. He was wise in the ways of his world, and he knew well the precarious natural balance that governed all things.
Then one day the aliens came. Giants. They knew nothing of the Upper or Lower Hell — and they cared less. Born had risked his life to save them, to guide them through the myriad tangled boughs, past unseen, unsuspected dangers lurking in the underbrush. But worse than their ignorance of how to survive, the aliens had plans for Midworld, plans that could utterly destroy the globe-spanning forest that his people called home.
As the days passed, Born realized his mistake. And as he had once hunted only to live, he knew now that he would be forced to live only to kill…
The Color of Distance by Amy Thomson
Another amazing book inspired by the idea of a post-apocalyptic Earth, Thomson’s novel is a classic of its genre, and a definite must-read for any sci-fi fans who love the world of nature too!
Juna is the sole survivor of a team of surveyors marooned in the dense and isolated Tendu rain forest, an uninhabitable world for humans. Her only hope for survival is total transformation–and terrifying assimilation–into the amphibian Tendu species. Juna will learn more about her own human nature than ever before.