Illustrations by Daryl Mandryk
When’s the last time you read a good adventure novel? I must confess that the only adventure novels I’ve read and enjoyed were from the last century. Why did adventure novels die out and what can be done to bring them back?
The key component to an adventure novel involves a protagonist traveling to a distant land that is still terrestrial. The protagonist is searching for something they can’t find at home and are risking their lives to get it. I suspect that one of the main reasons adventure novels died off is because the world has been mapped out and connected via the internet. There don’t seem to be any more uncharted or mysterious islands.
However, just because an area has been mapped out doesn’t mean it’s understood. There are nations that are so small that we never hear about them. There are also nations, like North Korea, that are so politically volatile that outsiders know virtually nothing about them.
Another essential component of good adventure novels is fighting fantastic beasts that exist, once existed, or could have existed. To quote Grunkle Stan, “Dinosaurs aren’t magic, they’re just big lizards.” Earth’s ecosystem houses many fantastic animals. The adventure hero can encounter a real animal like a python, a strange breed of a real animal like the black furred lions from Tarzan, an extinct creature like dinosaurs, or cryptids that might exist like the Yeti.
Why bring back adventure novels? As video games like Tomb Raider and Uncharted have proven, there will always be an audience that wants to travel to a distant land and unearth amazing treasures. The world has changed a lot since the 19th century. We may have mapped out most of the earth but we are still far from understanding all of the different cultures and peoples that inhabit the planet. Adventure novels are important because they give the opportunity for cross-cultural interaction and political drama. And at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to go on an adventure?