RA Roundtable Notes: Adventure
January 25, 2011, Beebe Library, Wakefield
Eileen suggested that we email each other when we find RA websites that we’ve found helpful.
Leane noted that the point of the roundtable is to help us to layer our knowledge. When we push our boundaries we become aware of what we don’t know and then we can figure it out and put it with other RA knowledge we have.
Discussion of our Benchmark book: Sahara by Clive Cussler
Not everyone finished the book for a variety of reasons, but mostly centering around the “over-the-top” hero and not being able to suspend disbelief about him and his adventures. There was some discussion about the revision of history that took place about the Texas—some could see how it made sense within the context of the story, others were turned off by it.
General comments about the book included:
- Much action
- Fast paced
- Invincible hero who must vanquish the enemy by his own wits and ability
- Exotic location(s)
- Happy/Satisfying ending in two ways: 1) through the lens of what men may believe about what women want (to be protected, take care of, rescued) and 2) the guy gets the car (toy, gadget, machine…)
- Interesting plot twists keep our attention (“how is he going to get out of this situation?!”)
- Plot pieces come together like a puzzle
- Plot may be irrelevant as long as there are good vs. bad characters, lots of action and adventure
- Detailed info about cars, gadgets, weapons can serve as breaks from the fast-pace and are appealing to some readers
- This is a “guy book”
- Not a lot of depth of characterization
- Brave, brilliant, macho, infallible
- Ethics and morals make sense in his world and on his own terms
- Always calm when others are panicked
- His pals and colleagues are stereotypes which works well to add to the thematic content, provide some humor and move the plot forward
- Language they speak isn’t available to others—old boy network—but the job gets done throughout this network
- Eva, scientist, is a general stereotype of women. Her character seems to be written to appeal to a male ideal of the woman who has little choice over what happens in the story and who needs rescue.
Conclusions: Adventure novels are part of the “self-identification” genre. The books are plot based, but if readers don’t identify with the character, they’re unlikely to like the book.
Discussion about the differences between Adventure novels and Thriller novels.
Adventure: Has a positive ending—all is again right with the world
Characters must succeed based on their own wits and guts
Plot points are resolved
Thriller: If there isn’t a happy ending, the ending is not a surprise because the menace is still out there
Hero can be hurt/damaged and is never really over the trauma, but moves on to fight (another) menace
Adventure, suspense and thrillers are all characterized by Joyce Saricks as Adrenaline reads.
Cover art: In general, if there are planes, helicopters, cars, boats, military vehicles on the cover, assume that the book is adventure. If you see faces or a person on the cover the adventure novel will be more about character than plot.
Diane Being by Kevin Brooks (YA)
Robert is on the run from the government because he’s not what he seems to be.
- Fast paced
- Action with justifiable violence
- Protagonist needs to go it alone and save himself
- Clear good vs. bad characters
- Happy ending
Sarah Prometheus Deception by Robert Ludlum
- Cold war espionage (more of a suspense, thriller—definitely an “Adrenaline” read)
- Protagonist relies on self to save the world from terrorists and always comes through OK
- Action, adventure and explosions
- Hero survives when others wouldn’t
Michelle Rogue Angels: Destiny by Alex Archer (first in a series)
- Mix of adventure, history, fantasy
- Female hero with all the characteristics of male adventure heroes—can do everything and survives although her life is in constant jeopardy.
- Non-stop action
- Fast paced
- Exotic locale
Tricia Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
- Dystopian science fiction novel with adventure elements
- Fast paced
- Good character development, including secondary characters
- Strong world building
- Happy ending and ready to embark on a new adventure
Tatiana Labyrinth by Kate Moss
- Historical adventure for women
- Fast paced, jumping between time periods in the parallel stories helps move the plot forward
- Puzzle elements
- Good for Da Vinci Code readers
Donna Blackout by John J. Nance
- FBI Agent Cat Bronsky investigates the strange flash that preceded a plane crash
- Fast paced
- Rescue of survivors
- Female hero
- Happy ending
- Definitely an “Adrenaline” read
- Nance’s specialty is aeronautics
Eileen The Devil’s Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
- Cold war politics, spies & counterspies
- Hero is a lone wolf with connections
- Fast paced
- Satisfying ending
- More cerebral than action based
Leane By Order of the President by W.E.B. Griffin
- Charlie must investigate the country’s intelligence agencies to determine who knew about a terrorist plot before it happened.
- Good characterization with protagonist—still archetypal but more developed than most adventure heroes
- Relationships with family and colleagues more developed and shows camaraderie and humor
- Lots of technical detail
- Straightforward writing
- Authentic military service shown—not romanticized but shows honor, pride and glory of armed forces
Becky Shadow of the Wind by Carlo Luiz Zafon
- More of a literary mystery than adventure
- Slower pacing
- Exotic setting (Barcelona, 1950’s; Cemetery of Forgotten Books)
- Puzzles to work through
By the Order of the President – W.E.B. Griffin
Appeal Factors:: CH/Pace/Plot
1st in Charlie Castillo series–he is a very compelling hero. When a leased Boeing 727 mysteriously vanishes after two passengers murder the pilot, Army intelligence officer Major Carlos Guillermo Castillo, a veteran of the Special Forces, is called in by the president of the United States to uncover the truth and embarks on an undercover investigation into a case with frightening implications. There is humor and great guy bonding going on…I agree with NoveList on the appeal:
- Storyline: Character-driven; Intricately plotted
- Pace: Fast-paced
- Tone: Dramatic; Suspenseful
- Writing Style: Compelling; Jargon-filled; Richly-detailed
Rogue Angel: Destiny – Alex Archer
Appeal Factors: Pace/Character/Setting
Annja Creed, archaeologist and part-time television show host of Chasing History’s Monsters, finds herself in France in pursuit of the Beast of Gevaudan, a creature purported to be both supernatural and responsible for the deaths of close to 100 people in the mid-1700’s. What was supposed to be an uneventful fact finding trip turns into a complicated, bloody race to uncover not only the origins of the Beast’s legend, but also that of Joan of Arc’s sword and the history behind a secret sect of battle-ready monks.
Destiny‘s pace never lets up; Annja finds herself tossed from one dangerous situation to the next. Luckily, Annja is adept at just about everything and handles herself in every difficult situation with aplomb. Readers will enjoy Annja – in spite of her Mary Sue characterization – as well as several other players who take moral ambiguity and off the wall lunacy to a whole new level. An added bonus is a sure to be important in future installments supernatural element and the lovely, vibrant French setting.
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Appeal Factors: Setting, Characters, Plot
When he is a small boy, Daniel Sempere’s widowed father takes his only child to a mysterious “cemetery of forgotten books,” located behind a storefront in 1950s Barcelona. Daniel is instructed to choose a title from the voluminous stacks. The title he chooses will stay with him for the rest of his life, Daniel’s father tells him. And it does…in an unexpected way.
Soon, Daniel’s life is consumed by his chosen book, called The Shadow of the Wind, and by its mysterious author, a man called Julian Carax. Daniel makes it one of his life’s missions to track down more work by Carax, but he finds the titles being systematically destroyed, by an individual who has named himself after the villain in Carax’s own book.
What follows is a delicious journey into the heart of Carax’s novel. Accompanied by a new love and a boisterous sidekick, the reader follows Daniel as he comes of age in mid-century Barcelona, and explores the mystery of Julian Carax. The Shadow of the Wind benefits most from Ruiz’s ability to invoke a strong sense of place in the sultry, misty Spanish streets, memorable characters, and at its core, a deep love of the printed word. Slower in pace than genre Adventure novels, The Shadow of the Wind is a mystery that combines romance, adventure and literary fiction.
Altar of Eden – James Rollins
Appeal Factors: Story – plot-driven; Pace – fast with a few twists and turns; Tone – suspenseful, adventure movie
After a hurricane passes near the Louisiana delta, the Border Patrol sends a helicopter to pick up Dr. Lorna Polk, veterinarian/biologist for ACRES , the Audubon Center for Research on Endangered Species. A trawler has washed up carrying a load of extremely exotic/genetically modified animals and a trail of blood up the gangway. Lorna and Border Patrol Agent Jack Menard are in a race to capture an escaped saber-toothed jaguar before it reaches the mainland and to find who has developed and enhanced several extinct animal species as terrorist weapons.
Alter of Eden is one of Rollins’ standalone thrillers. For fans of Michael Crichton, Steve Berry, Ian Fleming or other stories where the protagonists tangle with extra-evil bad guys.
Cabinet of Curiosities – Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Appeal Factors: Story – riveting and complex; Pace – accelerating; Tone – dark and menacing; Language/style – vivid word pictures of place and plot. It makes the reader forget that the story is set in current day and slides him/her back to the end of the 19th century
To extend a life, in this story, you must take a life. A construction project uncovers the mutilated remains of 36 entombed bodies. The foundation opened up was that of a Cabinet of Curiosities (natural history artifacts and curiosities collected by an educated traveler to which members of the public were admitted for a fee.) New bodies begin to accumulate with the exact same mutilations. Is it possible that a more than 130 year old killer is still at work? Is there a copycat? What will happen to society if the secret of immortality becomes public? Will the rich and powerful control even life and death?
FBI Agent Prendergast has a personal motive in solving this case and destroying the secret. Anthropologist Dr. Nora Kelly and ambitious reporter Bill Smithback become involved in the hunt for the killer and are at risk of becoming ‘resources’ for the immortality formula. The tension grows as the story progresses; who will survive? Is there one killer or more? Will Agent Prendergast be able to rescue the others in time? The final chase occurs in a dark, subterranean laboratory where odd smells permeate and terrors appear in the shaking glow of a flashlight.
The Cabinet of Curiosities is Book 3 of the FBI Agent Pendergast series which deals with unusual crimes and bizarre, driven criminals who put cities, at the least, or society as a whole, at risk. For fans of Michael Crichton or other stories where the world needs saving.
Ship Breaker – Paolo Bacigalupi
Appeal Factors: World Building – Great post-global warming world. Story; Character reluctant hero, nasty bad guys; Pace – quick read
Nailer lives in a shanty town on the Gulf Coast in a world in which not only New Orleans but New Orleans II are underwater. Global warming is no longer an issue it’s a reality. The polar ice caps have melted, natural resources are scarce and cars are a thing of the past. Nailer is a ship breaker and works as part of crew that disassembles abandoned oil tankers for the merchants who work in salvage. After a “City Killer” hurricane, Nailer and his friend find a clipper ship that was washed up on the beach. The ship and it’s luxurious contents are beyond Nailer’s wildest dreams. The crew is dead and Nailer and his friend are trying to cut a ring off a dead girl only to realize that she is alive. Any other person living on that beach, would have killed her and taken the rings, but Nailer thinks she’s his ticket off the beach and decides to let her live. But “Lucky Girl” may be more than he bargained for.
The Prometheus Deception – Robert Ludlum
Appeal Factors: Pacing (relentlessly action-packed, suspenseful); Character
The Prometheus Deception, by Robert Ludlum, is a spy thriller/adventure. Nick Bryson is on assignment to prevent a terrorist organization from gaining control in Tunisia when he is almost fatally wounded as the assignment goes bad. He survives and we learn that he works for a top secret spy agency called the Directorate. Ludlum provides many twists and turns, along with non-stop action involving the seemingly indestructible Bryson, and soon all the reader is certain of is that nothing is as it appears.
I would recommend this to the reader who enjoys larger-than-life Bond-type characters who survive explosions, gun fire, and far-fetched chases, all while being duped into believing they are working for the good guys.