Genres 101: Today’s Lesson – The Adventure Novel

Filed in Genres 101 , The Quirky Lover Posted on September 28, 2011 @ 1:48 pm 4 comments

I turned on the TV one day and found the film The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus was playing. Unfortunately, it was more than halfway through already but as I was discussing The Night Circus with Mel at He Followed Me Home, I was mentioning that the premise of the book reminded me of the movie. When I started looking in Adventure literature, the subgenre of Imaginary Voyage, set today’s post in motion.

While adventure novels could be included in SciFi or Paranormal or many other genres with their content, they have a certain aspect that defines them in this category: action. For me, when I think adventure, I think pirates and the high seas. But this is only one type of adventure novel among a few variations. Let’s take a look:

The Epic adventure is a long, narrative type of poetry. Try as I might, I could not find any decent examples to offer here, though I’m sure I’ve read some. Can anyone name an epic poem?

Imaginary voyage novels have history as far back as ancient Greece, in Iambulus’ Islands of the Sun. A more modern example would be Gulliver’s Travel by Daniel Defoe. This is the type of story that I mentioned earlier that I have seen more in the context of drug induced dreams, from Cheech and Chong to William S. Burroughs, a surreal imagining from the point of view of the character telling the tale.

In Lost World adventures, there is a discovery of new worlds that are out of time and/or place as compared to the current setting.  Jurassic Park is a popular movie example but in books, you can find this theme in H. Rider Huggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (aptly named, right?)

The Milesian story seemed to me the most interesting of the bunch by its reputed content: “short storyfable, or folktale featuring love and adventure, usually being erotic and titillating.” The name is derived from Milesiaka from just before the common era began. He “was a writer of shameless and amusing tales with some salacious content and unexpected plot twists.” They sound like fun, for sure. Also attributed in this category is The Miller’s Tale by Chaucer.

There is another type of book tagged as Robinsonade, getting its name from Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (it appears Mr. Defoe was fond of the adventure novel.) They have also been known to be labelled as “desert island stories”. There are further variations of this theme, with apocalyptic of science fiction elements, were the stranding is done either post-apocalypse or in a futuristic setting (Lost in Space, anyone?)

Finally, it’s the Sea Story.This type of novel would contain those pirates I spoke about, but also whales, mutiny, shipwrecks, and “bawdy liaisons with bar-girls in exotic locales” (I kid you not.) There are big names here, like Moby Dick by Herman Melville, The Sea Wolf by Jack London, and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

These books have lots of fun, adventure, action, terror within their pages. But they have another facet in common: they all present well on the big screen (though I’m sure that’s not what many of these classic authors had in mind when they were writing them!) Which takes me into an excellent segue…I have used many classic examples of novels designated as Adventure, but what are some recent books that could put placed in any of these categories? Are authors still delivering with traditional elements of the adventure novel or have we mutated these to more tech-filled books? Do any of you out there read adventure novels?

About Jackie

Jackie is a quirky mom, living in Ontario, Canada. She's a bookkeeper by day and a book lover by night. She also blogs at The Novel Nation and writes occasionally for Heroes and Heartbreakers.

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  • Adam September 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Epic poems? Oh, yes!

    Homer's The Illiad and The Odyssey.
    The Epic of Gilgamesh.
    The Aeneid of Virgil.
    Spenser's Faerie Queene.

    And there are many more, but that's a start!

  • Keri September 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    I agree that adventure novels can be any and all genres. I was in the Young Adult section in Barnes & Noble the other day and there was the "Adventure" shelf. On it, I saw two new releases, one of which was a paranormal romance (which was the shelf right next to adventure…awk-ward) and the other was a dystopian science fiction novel. I have to say that when I think "adventure", swashbuckling and epic quests do come to mind…but I suppose it's more than that. Adventure can be found anywhere!

  • Alisha September 29, 2011 at 1:13 am

    Adam, you took the words right out of my mouth (or fingers?)! 🙂 So I'll add the next biggie that comes to my mind when I think of epic poems… Faust by Goethe

  • Jackie September 29, 2011 at 8:30 am

    @Adam – Gilgamesh and Beowulf! I knew there were some big titles but was drawing a blank as I posted. It's funny how these are published now, though. I have a copy of the Odyssey and it seems more in line with a novel form than an epic poem. Yet, it was probably its original formatting that makes fit the true description. Thanks for naming names 🙂

    @Keri – Not to mention those "chose your own ending" adventures that I personally loved as a kid, lol. As for shelf organization in book stores, I would love to get inside the head of those that do it and find out WHY they put certain books where they put them :-p

    @Alisha – Faust too? I need to seriously brush up on my classics. Thanks for the input!

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