Road trip!

Sorry for the late post — I’ve been traveling today (up at 3:30 AM for an early flight, and then straight from the airport to work, and then on from there…).  And, unfortunately, because of this I haven’t had time to compose something in-depth and interesting for today’s post.

So I’m going to make this a cop-out post and ask a question instead: What kind of travel stories do you like?  By that I mean stories (particularly fantasy, since this seems to be a popular mode for quests) that involve traveling all over an imaginary world as a major part of the plot?  The Lord of the Rings is the obvious one that comes to mind, since a good chunk of it is the story of one long journey.  The Farthest Shore is another good example.  I know there are science fiction examples — colony ships, for example — but right now I’m blanking on them (probably because in order to stay awake, I managed to consume a latte as big as my head, and so have a brain marinated in caffeeeeeine).

Looking at settings that parallel our own, there’s American Gods, which could be called a road novel, though I have trouble thinking of it that way.  The Armageddon Rag has similar elements, particularly when the tour begins.  And for some reason, I always think of The Stress of Her Regard as a voyage across Europe — with stops at all the dangerous, haunted places.  It’s much more than that, but the travel is such an integral part of the story that it stays with me.

So.  Fantasy and science fiction that’s centered on travel?  Rambling quests?  Plot coupons scattered to the four corners of the world?

7 Responses to “Road trip!”

  1. April 23, 2009 at 12:00 am

    At first thought any novel by Tom Robbins comes to mind. And of course the obvious Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

    Another one that is more science fiction in nature is Tau Zero by Poul Anderson.

    Great question.

  2. 2 PHil.
    April 23, 2009 at 2:09 am

    If I’m going on a road trip in fantasy, I want to be shown something new. It’s ok to travel and not show me something new in a story, but if I get a travelogue of a trip I’ve already taken, it’s not going to hold my interest. One of my favorite series in Sci Fi is Brian Daley’s very pulpy “Adventures of Hobart Floyt and Alacrity Fitzhugh” which have a lot of travel to new vistas. The third book gets a bit bogged down in the traveloguing, though (I generally recommend the first two to people, they hold together quite well and you don’t need the loose ends tied up in the third book neatly handled to enjoy them.)

    On the fantasy side, another trilogy I’ve enjoyed which had a lot of trave and gets the balance of detail pretty close to spot on is Martha Wells’ Fall of Ille-Rien. The starting world for her characters is basically WWI Europe + magic (she’s messed with the geography and the players a bit, but that’s the flavor, and it follows from the books set in Ille-Rien before, which, to my eye, reads as Vienna) but moves on from there fairly quickly and when she gets to the truly different parts of the journey they get detailed, but the rest is sketched quickly so the story can continue.

  3. April 23, 2009 at 2:50 am

    Travel stories are probably my favorite kind, and I’ve been reading (and re-reading) them since I was a kid.

    I can’t let this topic go by without mentioning a few of the best classics: “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

  4. April 23, 2009 at 5:00 am

    Some of my favorite travel stories:

    All the John Carter of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
    Star Trek.
    A Door into Ocean bu Joan Slonczewski.
    Hawkmistress by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
    The Odyssey by Homer.

    Great question; so many great stories.

  5. 5 mlronald
    April 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    a cameron, I can’t believe I forgot The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! I was even listening to “Marvin, I Love You” just before writing the post, too.

    PHiL, yes, a travelogue showing the familiar isn’t nearly as interesting (unless, of course, it turns over the familiar to reveal something strange). I remember being kind of ticked at a big fantasy series that not only decided to hit every single place the author had put on the map (to the point where I could tell where the Big Climactic Finish would be just because we hadn’t been there yet) but managed to make the entire world seem like one I’d read before.

    I may have to try “Adventures of Hobart Floyt and Alacrity Fitzhugh” just for the title.

    taerin, yes! I think part of the reason I kept reading the Oz books was how they showed different parts of the land. I can still trace some of the paths from the books on the map.

    Tanith, great choices. I’d never read the Slonczewski; now I think I’ll have to find a copy.

  6. 6 mentatjack
    April 24, 2009 at 1:05 am

    Two recent sci-fi examples:

    Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell … voyage through a system of chained wormholes.

    The Entire and the Rose by Kay Kenyon … most of this story is ABOUT travel. From wormholes in our universe to exploring the Entire via pack animal, boat, foot, intelligent energy ships,very strange trains, a race of intelligent mounts and a blimp creature.

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