Adventure stories aren’t just for kids, you know. While tales of deserted islands and giant sea monsters might seem like the preserves of the imaginations of children, it’s not the trip itself that turns an adventure novel into a great book. That’s because adventure isn’t just about finding new horizons, it’s also about finding parts of yourself that you never knew existed. And there’s nothing childish about that.
Although modern times have seemingly shrunk our world, maybe you should put aside your jadedness for a little while and reacquaint yourself with three of the greatest adventure novels ever written. Shipwrecks, sled dogs, clandestine submarine adventures and just a little bit of self-discovery – all available right now on Paperight:
Defoe’s fictional diary of a shipwrecked Spaniard in the Caribbean is the template for all great original adventure novels. It throws together all of the necessary ingredients for dangerous escapades: cannibals, pirates, mutineers, a lost fortune and – somewhat unexpectedly – packs of starving wild wolves.
Inspired by the story of Scottish castaway and real-life Ultimate Survivor Andrew Selkirk, Robinson Crusoe is about friendship across cultural lines, loyalty, discipline and personal development in difficult and alien environments. Intricately-written and surprisingly deep, Crusoe is a celebration of survival at all costs. (Although it isn’t exactly a thoughtful testament to careful seafaring and not murdering people.)
A pampered pup is stolen from his comfortable Californian home, and sold into the life of a sled dog in the brutal and frigid Yukon. Beaten by his new owners and targeted by other dogs, he scraps and fights his way to become the leader of his pack and come to know the comforts of human partnership.
Although usually classified under children’s literature because of its animal protagonist, the legendary Buck, The Call of the Wild deals with many difficult adult themes. For Buck and his canine colleagues, every day is a struggle for survival as they fight starvation, bitterly cold nights and regular abuse from their handlers. Detailing the cruelty of humans and hounds alike, London’s masterpiece asks us: which is more brutal, civilisation or nature? Reading it, the answer seems unclear.
A giant narwhal is spotted by the ships of several great nations on a path of destruction, so, naturally, a motley group of biologists, harpooners and sailors set out to find it. They track it down, fight it and then – a twist! – the whale turns out to be the Nautilus, the ridiculously advanced submarine of one Captain Nemo. Riveted by Nemo’s electric submersible, and mindful of the secrecy of the mission, the expedition stays on board, to fight giant squid and unearth the jewels of the deep blue.
The backbone of a classic sci-fi odyssey, Nemo’s wandering of the world’s oceans is not just a foray into the unknown, but also an exploration of the world’s exiled and downtrodden – it turns out that even the Captain is an exile of his homeland. Ahead of its time in terms of politics and not-yet-invented submarine technology, yet staying wonderfully fantastical with sea monsters and a journey to the sunken city of Atlantis, Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues remains a sparkling sapphire of adventure brilliance.